If the accusations are true, it will simply prove that there is moronic behavior everywhere. What was he thinking?
My home state, Washington, was often seen as a progressive and enlightened hotbed of education ideas; however, my state is quickly becoming much like the rest of the education world with pseudo-reformers hijacking the conversation and the direction. Even Democrats, who once supported educators, are beginning to move away from protecting and supporting organized labor in general and teachers in particular.
Currently, numerous bad bills are making their way through the political system.
- One bill that moved out of the Senate and into the House would allow principals to arbitrarily place teachers in a “displaced” category and then fire them.
- Another bill out of the Senate and into the House would rate schools on an A-F basis, but is solely determined on standardized tests (further strengthening the testing stranglehold on education).
- One other bill would move everyone’s pension monies (for those under 45 years of age) into 401k plans rather than leave them in the pension system.
Other bad bills are working their way into being potentially wide-sweeping and far-reaching law. Some even attempt to micro-manage how districts use their money–the same money being cut by the state–by requiring some students to have mandatory tutoring or summer school. Another example of this micro-managing is a bill that would force districts to bring back suspended students (even violent ones) into the school setting before their suspensions are up or counseling is completed.
In my state salaries have been frozen or reduced in each of the last three years.
I’m not saying what is happening in my state is different or worse then yours, but what we’re seeing is an education environment with:
- frozen or lowered salaries,
- salaries that do not pace or match other fields,
- more expensive health plans which cover less,
- potentially riskier retirement plans,
- eliminated professional development days,
- more duties and responsibilities, and
- raised expectations of performance with fewer resources.
But, we want the “best and brightest to choose” education as a pathway. Why would they choose education? When my students ask me if being a teacher is a good job to consider in the future, I hesitate and am not sure how to answer that question. If I had kids of my own, I would not advise them to enter the teaching ranks.
If university graduates really are the “best and brightest,” they would never consider education.
The Gates Foundation spent three years and $45 million to determine that multiple measures are needed in teacher evaluations–exactly what teachers have been saying for many years more. Really? Looks like another “Duh” study.
Well, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are here, and my district (and a few department members) see it as the panacea for this generation of students. While I don’t have anywhere near that sort of faith in the new standards, I do like the professional development that could stem from the implementation of the standards.
However, I do see three problems looming: too much commonality, too much reliance on hope, and not enough joint accountability.
Firstly, I see my department being pushed to use exactly the same assignments in every class on the same day, almost as if a scripted curriculum could be imposed. Of course, we’re told “not to worry” because the new standards will help us all become better teachers. But, then the same veteran teachers (me, for one) who were successful using the old standards are then teaching my department members how to use the new standards. While I think teaching people what the new standards mean, how to reach the standards, and why scaffolding is needed are all excellent ideas to learn, nothing really new is happening. We’re taking what we have and adapting that to new skill expectations. Fortunately, the CCSS differ little from my state’s old standards. Still, I’ve never believed lock-step assignments and daily lessons take into account student and class individuality and needs, a teacher’s strengths, or student interest.
Secondly, the notion that people think these standards will be the magic pill to cure all of our students’ ills bothers me. Standards don’t help students pass a test or learn a skill or achieve. Teachers do. Teachers of excellence with the abilities to engage students, to adapt to student needs, and to scaffold lessons for students will be successful no matter what standards are adopted. Teachers who were successful with the old standards will be successful with the new standards. Teachers who struggled previously will continue to struggle without strong, reliable mentors and skillful evaluators.
Lastly, as an English teacher, I continue to hear the maxim that “all teachers are responsible for reading,” but only the English Department is held accountable for reading scores. When my school’s state reading test results came in, literary reading (fiction) far surpassed non-fiction reading scores. Instead of asking the other disciplines–which teach non-fiction almost exclusively–to improve non-fiction teaching approaches and to become more skilled reading instructors, the English Department is again being asked to add something to its already crowded curriculum.
And, the new CCSS backs this up. An expert speaking to my department about the new standards suggested that 70% of a student’s reading load be non-fiction. I responded that this is splendid since only 1/6 of a student’s day is spent in a literature-based class (reading fiction), which means that students currently read non-fiction 83% of the day (80% if we exclude P.E.). I was told “no, this means the English Department should teach much, much more non-fiction.”
Now, I’m not against teaching non-fiction texts. I do this with every unit I teach, generally using non-fiction texts to help set the context for the fictional readings with which students are engaged. Then, my students must integrate the contextual information into their fiction-text responses and writing.
In short, I’d like to see school-wide reading trainings to begin and to hold all disciplines accountable for raising students’ reading levels. The CCSS could help here since all included subject areas have reading standards now, but administrators at the building and district levels must get on-board and help support this philosophy with action and not just talk.
P.S. People want to compare schools, districts, and states across the nation with the new tests, but I think we missed the boat here by not using the SAT or ACT. How helpful would it have been to pay for kids’ tests already required (or expected) by colleges and universities? Plus, we could have already looked at comparisons. Granted, all curricula are not set up with the SAT or ACT as the endgame in mind, but when have we ever done this? And, the kids still take those exams.
P.P.S. The text book companies have strong lobbyists.
My complaint of the week is this: I spent two hours preparing my classroom, acquiring supplies, and writing my lesson plans for my time outside of my classroom because of a training required by my district. Then, the district could not find me a substitute, so my attendance was canceled. Now I have to attend a different session on another day. By the way, I’ve already had this training, but everyone must go this year.
Ok. I’m better now.