From the New York Times (By the Script by Sewell Chan):
In many New York City public schools, children sit cross-legged on rugs. Desks must be arranged into clusters of students with varying abilities, not in rows. A ''word wall'' serves as a vocabulary reference. Lessons last five minutes.
All of the above are elements of the city's ''balanced literacy'' curriculum, and it has newly minted college graduates, bursting with ideas about shaping young lives, complaining about a disconnect.
''It's not up to you what to teach every day,'' says Christian A. Ledesma, 25, who has taught for three years at Public School 9 in the Bronx, in second and fourth grades. He joined Teach for America in 2002, a year before the introduction of the curriculum, and earned his master's degree in elementary education through evening classes at Pace University. There, he learned about backward design, which emphasizes teaching with the end result -- knowledge of state reading or math standards -- in mind.
But in his classroom, he was not designing anything; instead, he was following the balanced literacy script. In a 90-minute period, actual imparting of knowledge was restricted to a lesson as short as five minutes. Then pupils broke into small groups for independent guided work, and reconvened to share their efforts. School administrators made unannounced visits to ensure that teachers were using their rugs and abiding by the ''flow of the day'' schedule posted in each classroom.
To avoid being caught if they did not follow the schedules, some teachers began ''actually training their kids to switch subjects on command,'' Mr. Ledesma says. ''They can be doing a reading lesson, and if somebody walks through the door, all of a sudden they're doing the writing lesson.''