Friday, November 26, 2010

Radar Teachers

What are you doing?

What is the reaction from your bosses? Your colleagues?

Do you have activist parents at your school?

What are the MAP/MSP results? What do you think the reaction at your school would be to a testing boycott? (Now that I think of it, a testing boycott could be a parents' vote of no confidence in the Superintendent.)

Teachers sound off.

11 comments:

mirmac1 said...

We have boycotted MAP. I've wondered what the other parents are thinking

peonypower said...

As a parent also boycotting MAP.

Have had my administrator in my room "casually observing" 4 times already this year. Makes me nervous.

Colleagues- great, supportive, and active. Some just still don't want to fight much- but others are activists extraordinaire.

Organizing with parents, union members, and community members, going to coffee chats, board meetings, district meetings, PTSA meetings, and any other place to inform and educate.

Hoping I do not lose my job over this, but willing to risk it to keep education public.

Eric M said...

Another parent boycotting MAP. When I asked to have my kid exempted at his middle school, they gave me a lot of hoo-hah about not being eligible for advanced programs, etc, etc. Then they made sure to provide absolutely nothing for him except a super-boring seat in the office. He got so bored, he went and took the 2nd half!

As far as teacher colleagues, many, many of them are ready to explode. They're really unhappy with the Superintendent, shocked and disappointed at the School Board, and really frustrated and completely underwhelmed with SEA leadership. Most teachers, I dare say, are very, very convinced we're headed down the wrong path.

Zebra (or Zulu) said...

I hope we can get this thread posted again after the holiday. Many teachers I know are not blogging during these four days.

Here is my post:

To insure anonymity, and to avoid the prying eyes of my employers, let me speak in generalities and obfuscatory jargon.

We shall call a certain classroom I know, "Classroom Zebra." In this environment students do no curriculum work prescribed by the district. However, every lesson is carefully aligned to the state standards (or with the standards in mind). Additionally, the classroom culture and decorum looks nothing like those weird photos in the School Beat newsletter of students surrounding a well-groomed teacher talking about his/her multiple visual distractions (illustratives) that might be considered (in some circles) lesson material.

Classroom Zebra is a laboratory for all subjects, where all subjects are interrelated pieces of a giant puzzle. At the end of the year, when the puzzle is completed, every student finds they have built a picture of him or herself.

In Classroom Zebra, there are rarely discrete lessons because everything in the universe is connected in some way or the other. For example, the Ice Age migration of the First Peoples might be a social studies topic until the students begin to consider the ramifications of weather patterns on migration and economics. Now you are into math and science. It doesn't take long before the students are engaged in three or four areas of study at once. This is what intuitive and skilled teachers might refer to as, "The Hook." There is something for everybody in each lesson.

In Classroom Zebra student test scores are so high that nobody comments about them...ever. They are looked upon as a anomaly and explained away as the product of strong teaching (and/or demographics). Yet, Zebra is not alone. There are other "Zebras" at this school and others. Let's call them, Alpha, Tango, Foxtrot, Charlie, etc. District data wonks and academic leaders actually know who these teachers are that run these stealthy classroom (see: Classroom MAP and MSP scores - Oops "Secret Data"). They are never brought to the fore because they are not employing what might be considered (barf!) "Best Practices." This term is a euphemism for conformity to a prescribed curriculum that has been proven a resounding failure. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing off-kilter about a well-articulated and standard curriculum; it just needs to be worth the proverbial "powder to blow it to hell." One only needs to make a small list of critical curriculum components in the Seattle Schools to realize that this ship is off-course and headed for the reef.

I guess what fries my bacon more than anything else about what is happening in SPS is this:

The new labor contract will reward teachers with financial incentives for being "innovators" when all they are doing is towing the District line. The real innovators, who create their own programs, are virtually ignored. In fact, the more successful you are in this district, the less recognition you get. And yet, when a school makes marginal gains, it seems that the "School Beat" newsletter writers are falling all over themselves to highlight some statistical anomaly.

And, think about this...those teachers that have already made tremendous gains in their classrooms will not be eligible for these innovation rewards because they are based on test score growth (MAP), not pinnacle performance.

Parents are the key to getting away with stealth teaching. At conferences a two-way dialogue must be established to inform families about classroom programs. A challenging classroom must be balanced with family priorities. Some parents (very few) are okay with their children getting the status quo from the district. In those cases lower expectations of the student might just be de rigueur.

seattle said...

Zebra your class sounds fascinating and interesting, however, I have to wonder how, when your class is exploring and discovering "math" or "science" when their interests take them there, they get consistent instruction from year to year? How do you assure that the basic required instruction in math, science and LA are covered? And is there enough practice and repetition in this exploratory style of learning, in say math, to fully master the lessons or concepts?

Anonymous said...

Ok...what about in classroom Y, where the teacher just wants to do his/her own thing, despite the district curriculum or state guidelines, and they are simply not learning the basics for their grade level?

This is not ok for me as a parent.

The burden then falls on my shoulders to teach what should have been covered in the classroom. And wonder of wonders, they do well on the MAP because I provide extensive support at home.

If the teachers want to do some extra projects, great. But they still need to cover the basics.

-Worn out parent

Anonymous said...

Hi Worn out parent,
I get it. I am there with you. Guess the flip side is sometime you get these great under the radar teachers who can teach to meet the standards and beyond. The beyond part is the thing that is going to naill these teaching extraordinaires.

These endangered teachers know how to manage the kids and the materials they are teaching. They give out challenging assignments because kids, if you are going to learn something beyond the MSP standards in their class, you are going to have to work....hard. (Some parents grumble about this because they have to work too.) Shiny teachers have to watch their back not just from the newbie, wide eyed principals and downtown administrators, but fellow teachers who may like the easy curriculum standard they have to teach to. With all the standardized tests, it is also easier to drill those babies to perform.

So worn out parent, get some rest. Your kid won't be a widget because of you and if your kid is lucky to experience it, because of one of these great teachers.

Robbie

ABN said...

This sounds like my daughter's sophomore English class at RHS - is there drumming involved?

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

Thank you for posting this and I agree that you should repost after the weekend to get more feedback.

I feel so frustrated as I know so many others do. It seems like there is nothing we can do to stop the steamroller.

At my school, we are flying under the radar too. We teach to the standards, but we do it in innovative and engaging ways. Our parents support us and our administrators try their best to balance the demands of the district with the culture and philosophy of our school. Math is the big exception. We are all roped into EDM with a coach/curriculum cop on site to make sure we are in lock step.

I have been yearning to do something, to speak out, to resist, and to be part of a loud voice of discontent. Most of my colleagues feel the same, but like many other teachers, we are worried about reprisals.

I voted no confidence in MGJ, and nothing seems to have come from that. Her response...that we are just unhappy with the rapid changes in the district, is insulting and another clear example of her hubris.

A test boycott could be a powerful message. Personally, I think we should focus on the MAP test for several reasons.

1. It doesn't impact students.
2. It is a worthless waste of time.
3. It is a MGJ dictate rather than a state requirement and thus a more specific protest.
4. It brings up issues of resource mismanagement, over reliance on testing, ethics violations, standardization, poor use of technology, and lack of Board oversight.
5. It wouldn't have broader negative impacts on schools the way a MSP boycott would.

If this takes off, there will be (hopefully) lots of media coverage and there should be a concurrent teacher action. Perhaps SEA could conduct a very simple survey of teachers that included questions like...

1. Do you agree with the direction the district is going?
2. Does the MAP test help you increase student achievement?
3. Do you support the decision to
allow TFA into Seattle Public Schools?

and so on...

Then the survey results could be
shared with the public to support the parents in their boycott and create a big picture of widespread profound dissatisfaction.

The Sacramento story teaches us that ordinary teachers partnered with parents can take back their schools. We can do it too. I am not sure if this will be enough, but it is a start.

Dismayed Teacher

Zebra (or Zulu) said...

To Seattle...constructivist ("exploratory") teaching is a failed experiment...I don't buy into that group think ideology. I teach, mentor, and laugh all day long...enough said.

To Worn Out Parent...yup, the burden falls on you because the entire system is in disarray. All I can say is re-watch the film, "Network." Then say..."I'm mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore." I am not trying to be flip. The District needs to hear from more angry parents. They do not listen to teachers...period. Creative, high performing teachers are a threat to their paradigm. There are a lot of careers riding on the success of bad curriculum and worse ideas downtown. I wish it wasn't this way, but until we change it we have to fight it. This entire blog is about bringing good ideas to the forefront. We don't always agree, but I rarely read anything really odious here. Thanks troop!

To ABN ...drums...check...fun...check...technology...check...intense rigorous lessons...check and check.

I think there are lessons to derived here from Noam Chomsky's 1988 book, "Manufacturing Consent." While his book was about mass media, its principals apply to how the current SPS Administration is operating the district.

First, by using spurious data they create fear in parents and dissent in teachers. This is a divide and conquer strategy. Parents will rally around the district leaders if they will just rescue the system already. In the meantime, teacher's are distanced from parents by virtue of the District's distrust of teachers.

Next, introduce "flak." Find high-profile citizens that will bash teachers and the structure of the system. Bill Gates comes to mind.

Finally, instill fear in teachers that they will either raise test scores or be replaced by someone who will. The District has even named these replacements. They are called, Teach for America.

This is a textbook case of psyops. I know where they learned it. The Broad Foundation comes to mind. BTW...this is not paranoia speaking. You can actually chart and predict the moves made by the District...but, who has time to do that? Are you listening SEA? I doubt it!

Seattle-Ed2010 said...

I recently wrote a post on the topic of SPS teacher morale, over at Seattle Ed 2010, if anyone's interested. I think it's an extremely serious matter. The current SPS leadership and reforms have utterly poisoned the learning environment in our schools and you can be sure it trickles down to our kids. Another parent activist referred to the central office overlords who pop into classrooms to make sure all teachers are teaching precisely as they are told by HQ, as the Gestapo. I don't think that's much of an exaggeration.

--sue p.

Plummeting teacher morale in Seattle’s Public Schools — a serious issue

Here's the first paragraph:

Here are some concerns I shared in a letter to School Board Director Kay Smith-Blum this week, after her disappointing vote in favor of Teach for America, Inc. I urge all members of the school board to investigate this matter of collapsing teacher morale, which is happening on their watch, largely as a result of the frenetic barrage of dubious “reforms” being imposed upon our teachers, schools and children these past three years under the current district leadership, and with this board’s mostly unquestioning approval.