Are There NCLB-Induced Illnesses?

Did you hear about the teachers who became ill because of the superintendent in their district?

Apparently, teachers literally got sick of the superintendent and his policies:

Bersin went into San Diego with a sweeping plan to force change in a top-down approach, telling teachers how to teach reading and ordering the programs they had to use. He stifled dissent and made a point of keeping teachers outside of his decision-making circle. Getting buy-in from teachers was not important to him. They would just have to follow.

The pressure was so great that teachers began to get sick. Ravitch discovered this when she interviewed San Diego educators, who kept telling her “about stress-related illnesses among teachers, which they called ‘Bersinitis.’”

For over six years teachers visited the local clinic with depression and anxiety. When the superintendent left, the clinic visits halted. The author of the article states:

This story makes me wonder if policymakers think or care enough about the effect they are having on the people charged with carrying out the reforms. I also wonder when they will understand that keeping teachers out of major decision-making is a mistake.

Teachers understand that buy-in is necessary, but they don’t always get to have any.

In my building I frequently note that many of our educational leaders do not understand the difference between “input” and “feedback.” A recent “proposal” was presented the other day for a new schedule (about which I may post later) for next year, and we were asked to provide input. I asked if the schedule was happening regardless of what we say, and I was told it was.

I then asked why it was called a proposal. Next, I mentioned that we were being asked for feedback, not input. (Just so you know I wasn’t trying to start a public battle, I did ask these questions after the meeting.)

To me, input implies having an impact on a decision. Feedback is for after-the-fact reactions.

Still, I haven’t become ill because of the presentation, but I also don’t feel my buy-in has been gained or truly desired. It felt like window dressing, a box to check. I’m sure when the “proposal” is implemented, it will be presented to the superintendents as having the staff’s input and approval despite every piece of information coming to us after all was said and done.


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