Wanda Longoria, a 32-year veteran teacher currently at the Northside Independent School District in San Antonio Texas, is using an innovative social networking platform to ensure children who are at risk successfully grasp academic standards and graduate on time – something crucial for Latinos who have a 40 percent high school drop out rate.
As a reading specialist in a predominantly Latino school district, Longoria takes on the most challenging middle school students who have ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, and other conditions. This is not difficult for Longoria who says she has always had a knack for “making things easily understood.” Her impassioned voice speaks with authority about how she always felt the need to back the Latino community with a strong female role model.
“I felt education can close the gap with poverty. My father used to say people can take anything away from you, but they can’t take away your mind,” Longoria said.
Since Longoria began teaching, she has been named teacher of the year in every school district she has worked for. Her achievements are due to her hard work and dedication, often arriving home at 8pm just to continue working. So when the American Federation of Teachers and TES Connect (one of the largest network of teachers in the world) were developing a digital platform to give teachers high quality resources, they sought the help of Longoria and other talented and tenured teachers across the country to review lessons and give feedback.
“Share My Lesson” was launched in July of 2012, and Longoria says it has made an impact in her teaching. In the past, Longoria would spend countless hours going through books and searching the internet in order to develop her curriculum, but now she can invest her time more wisely.
“Share My Lesson is free. I can get lesson plans, I can get power point presentations, actual scripted lessons, videos, worksheets… .” said Longoria.
The digital platform has become a place where teachers can share their best resources, and it provides an on-line community for teachers to collaborate and inspire each other. The majority of these lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards – an initiative that sets a uniform standard for grades K-12 so children throughout the country reach the same minimum learning requirement.
Those opposed to the Common Core think it is too rigorous and fear school districts will develop curriculum based on students’ performance on national exams focusing on basic geometry and algebra while ignoring literature classics.
But supporters of the Common Core feel something has to be done immediately to put students on track to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in life. Two out of three 8th graders can’t read proficiently and scored below proficient in math, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Over one million students in the US drop out of school each year – many Latino. In addition, only 11 percent of Latino students finish high school ready for college in their core subjects.
This is a long way from where the US stood after World War I, when it ranked number one in the world in high school graduation rate. Currently, the US is number 22 among industrialized nations, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Proponents of the Common Core are trying to change this by providing an educational standard for all students to succeed in college and careers.
Longoria said “I believe if Common Core is looked at as the skeleton to get a student to succeed, that’s fine. But beyond the skeleton you need the muscle and that requires training, great teacher mentoring, and it requires parent education.”
Although the internet is giving teachers more access to tools like “Share My Lesson,” Longoria feels part of the solution to today’s educational problems is addressing the gap among low-income children. Teachers need more rigorous training, she explains.
“We want a quick band-aid to our problems in education. Nobody knows the students like the teachers. No one knows like the tenured teachers. The mind frame in America has to shift,” Longoria concluded.