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Sunday, July 17, 2011

This is What is REALLY Wrong in Public Education

 Update:   I originally thought this was from a teacher but it is from a parent.  My apologies

Below is a post from a parent, "No Confidence," from another thread but I read it and said bingo!  (Emphasis mine.)

I think that the first change that could make some difference would be for teacher & administrators to understand the limits of their abilities to assess. At least the teacher could say, Sally is learning differently than many other kids I see and we don't know why. Johnny is refusing to do writing assignments and we don't know why.

Next I think that PD should include training about learning & developmental differences, with case studies, to the extent that at least teacher are familiar with the possibilities. (I have spoken with so many SPS teachers & administrators who believe that twice exceptional kids don't exist.) There are signs to look for.

I also think that there should be some staff members who develop expertise and can act as advisers in their buildings as teachers discuss the different kinds of minds they teach every day.

SIT teams should have staff that is well trained & up to date. (I have been through many meetings where SIT teams fill the time citing out of date research and misinformed legal opinions.) They should recommend assessment more often.

Finally I think that teachers need to have the freedom to offer different materials and approaches to kids. One day I saw a teacher in tears because she had a student with processing difficulties and she had materials that would work for that child in that math lesson. But she was told by the principal that she had to use EDM exactly the same way for every child who did not have an IEP saying differently.


Simply put, we have stopped putting faith in what our teachers see on the ground and given our principals so many "duties,"  there is little time to guide teachers and build collaborative work among teachers.

I'm sending this to the Board, Dr. Thompson, Marni Campbell, Bob Vaughn and Dr. Enfield.

31 comments:

CH said...

Send them this, too:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/18/education/18oneducation.html?_r=1&hp

"The taking of Venetian Hills became the prototype for an investigation that found cheating at nearly half the Atlanta schools. A total of 178 principals and teachers — including 82 who confessed — had fraudulently raised test scores so their schools would meet targets set by the district, according to the report, released June 30...It is now clear that for years Dr. Hall headed a school system rife with cheating and either didn’t notice, as she maintains, or covered it up, as investigators suspect. During that time, she was named superintendent of the year by two national organizations, and praised by the secretary of education himself — for her rigorous use of test data as an evaluation tool. "

Dorothy Neville said...

Actually, that was a parent who had no confidence in teachers to accurately, objectively assess students for learning issues.

Anonymous said...

One main reason so many administrators never ask the opinions of teachers is because (increasingly)administrators couldn't wait to get out of the classroom (if they were ever in it).

If you think it's such a dud job then you likely don't place much value in those doing the job.

--schools are great places except for the students???

Anonymous said...

Just as it's easier to tell somebody to dig a hole than to dig the actual hole it seems that there are quite a lot of folks around (foundations, "grassroots" organizations, administrators) who find it easier to tell somebody to teach (or how to teach) than to do the actual teaching.

WV says "uncest". Perhaps the foundations and the "grassroots" organizations have an "uncest"ual relationship...

Oompah

JC said...

Four legs good, two legs bad.
Us and them.
I was just following orders.
The administrator made me do it.

This is really getting silly.

JC

StepJ said...

Who in the schools would be able to make this type of assessment? The school psychologist, counselor, or, ?

Or, in our current circumstances does it rely on the exceptional, politically savvy principal that can both diagnose and navigate the education and the politics?

StepJ said...

I think the impossibility of the current system has been nailed.

You have to rely on having a wonderful principal that can look out for the best educational outcome for each student, who can navigate the politics of the day emanating from JSCEEE, and also hope/fingers crossed/karma from the goodwill spirits that your/the principal that can accomplish ALL OF THIS, will not be reassigned on a whim/finger snap of downtown to a different school.

That Passionate Teacher said...

Alternately....

Sometimes when a school has just that kind of a wonderful principal that you describe...the kind that the entire community is willing to rally around...the "head-shed" downtown decides to fire them for apparently no reason whatsoever.

See exhibit A: Martin Floe.

Grousefinder said...

I am not buying "No Confidence's" points. He/She says:

"I think that the first change that could make some difference would be for teacher [SIC] & administrators to understand the limits of their abilities to assess."

The "change" (verb) suggested is to "understand the limits of their abilities to assess." Teacher[s] have no limits as to how they assess. Nor are there gaps in their "understanding." They do have to use mandated assessments (MAP, MSP), but beyond those it's our job to assess how we see fit. We don't need to "understand our limits..." We need more time, and smaller classes, so we can adequately assess every student.

Further, "No Confidence" says:

"Next I think that PD should include training about learning & developmental differences, with case studies, to the extent that at least teacher [SIC] are familiar with the possibilities."

Teacher[s] are extensively trained in "learning and developmental" differences in college. In fact, they have entire courses on this topic. How did "No Confidence" miss these courses unless he/she was trained in a truncated program (TfA?). My bookshelves are full of textbooks from coursework on learning and developmental theory and practice. This suggestion would merely add more useless professional development to our already overloaded schedules.

This sounds apocryphal: "But she was told by the principal that she had to use EDM exactly the same way for every child who did not have an IEP saying differently."

While we all can agree the EDM is a very poor choice for the elementary math curriculum, any principal that would not allow deviation from the proscribed curriculum to address a special need (what professionals call differentiation) is, in fact, the problem at that school - more so than the EDM curriculum (which is horrendous).

To summarize No Confidence's arguments:

1. Teachers need to understand that they are not trained in effective assessment methods.

2. Teachers need MORE training because they are not educated well-enough on developmental issues.

3. Teachers need more training to handle SIT cases.

4. Principals are too rigid.

The first three are the district party line. The last is a building problem...the principal needs more training and coursework in differentiation.

Melissa, I would not forward these suggestions to the Board, Dr. Thompson, Marni Campbell, Bob Vaughn and Dr. Enfield. Stay focused on the big picture (i.e smaller class size, better curriculum, teacher academic independence, etc.)

Dorothy Neville said...

Grousefinder, if you go back to the other thread where No Confidence first wrote, you will see that NC is a parent whose child was undiagnosed for years because teachers, one after another, claimed the child was simply lazy. So it is not No Confidence who slept through those classes on learning disabilities, it was the 8 teachers in a row that his/her child was assigned.

Unfortunately, I see a lot of truth to the No Confidence position. Teachers are not immune to human flaws, such as taking things personally and laying blame to personality or character defects instead of digging for an objective diagnosis. By taking things personally, I mean that a child is not performing well, perhaps acts up, perhaps ignores the teacher, seems to purposefully disobey the instructions and the teacher labels the child as lazy or stupid or belligerent (ie, choosing to annoy teacher) when really the child has undiagnosed hearing loss or dyslexia or vision impairment.

No Confidence is not confident in teachers' abilities to be objective, professional and knowledgeable about the variety of issues kids can have, especially bright kids who do relatively well because they can compensate to some extent for their disability.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I corrected that it was a parent speaking and not a teacher.

I can only say that while I believe teachers may have received training in different learning abilities/development, it doesn't always play out that way in the classroom. I think the idea of PD refreshing that knowledge (with case studies as the parent says) would be good.

My question would be, why not? Is it time? Is it too much work off task?

As for the rigid principal, what's a teacher to do?

anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Grousefinder said...

Dorothy:

The post by Melissa starts: "Below is a post from a teacher, "No Confidence," from another thread but I read it and said bingo! (Emphasis mine.)"

The writer is a teacher, expressing a teacher's view about her colleagues. To suggest that "8 teachers in a row that his/her child was assigned" slept through their college classes on learning disabilities and development is disingenuous at best, cynical at worst. While I don't doubt that this person had some teachers asleep at the wheel, eight in a row is an institutional indictment that few teachers I know would be willing to make. That's how the Reformers talk. 'Most teachers are guilty of sloth.' Not true, never has been...

And...teachers do not "[dig] for an objective diagnosis..." Teachers do not diagnose; physicians diagnose. I can't believe how easily teachers (and parents) play the classroom physician. Student "X" has ADHD, etc. Teachers teach, parents and physicians diagnose together. Counselors and SIT teams intervene. Teachers provide information to the former so the latter can do their jobs (emphasis on "information"). Teachers fill out questionnaires about students for physicians and psychologists at the behest of a concerned parent. But, diagnose...nope.

Back to my original point. We do not need to be retrained en masse because No Confidence had some teachers asleep at the wheel.

Grousefinder said...

Well that changes some...but not all of what I said.

anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous said...

Teachers may be trained to recognize learning disorders, and work with the students who have them, but they are not qualified to diagnose or assess for a learning disorder. Not even close. In many cases even a pediatrician can't diagnose a disorder, they refer to specialists (Spectrum disorder specialist, auditory processing specialist, psychologist, psychiatrist). And sometimes it takes a multi disciplinary team of doctors to diagnose, for instance an MD, psychologist and speech therapist may all collaborate together to assess and diagnose an auditory processing disorder. A teacher just doesn't have the training or qualification to even attempt this. A teacher can certainly alert parents to differences they see in the classroom, and get the ball rolling by recommending further evaluation. But that should be the extent of what a teacher offers in the way of diagnosis.

Grousefinder said...

Now that Melissa has provided the clarification that this was a parent (not a teacher), let me comment on the last point:

It reads: "One day I saw a teacher in tears because she had a student with processing difficulties and she had materials that would work for that child in that math lesson. But she was told by the principal that she had to use EDM exactly the same way for every child who did not have an IEP saying differently."

First, what teacher cries in front of parents over a disagreement on pedagogy? That is incredibly unprofessional. And, if this teacher told the parent that the principal would not let him/her differentiate the curriculum (thus the tears), well that is even more unprofessional. And, why does this parent know that a student has processing difficulties (unless it is her own child)? That's uber private stuff.

Something is wrong with this whole story...

dj said...

Another facet of ed reform is the insistence that any bad outcome for any student is the teacher's fault and requires systematic reform. "No child left behind" means exactly that. It is an impossible standard. Presumably "no confidence" lives with his/her child. In eight years, it didn't occur to the parent that this child had a learning disability? That's it. Parenting needs reform.

Obviously I do not mean that. But "no confidence" should allow for the possibility that if he/she (as the person who knows that child better than anyone) did not realize there was an underlying issue, teachers might not see it either.

Anonymous said...

Not to give too much details as the teacher still works in our district, but we had a teacher who cried during a T-P conference. The teacher was stressed out as a new SPS teacher, coming from a different state, teaching to a split class, and using very different curriculum that what she was used to. It was a rather uncomfortable experience to listen to this when the tears came unexpectedly. The conference ended quickly and there was no discussion about the student. Everyone got through the year, but it was on eggshell with hope that things got better for the teacher. We had no expectation at that point.

Today the teacher seemed more at ease and appeared to have figured out and develop a support system. So think admin and fellow teachers need to look hard at what they can do to help their new teachers (even ones with experience).

-real life happens

Anonymous said...

dj,
I don't know if we have enough info to judge "no confidence"'s parental responsibility. Even if you suspect and struggle to get your kid tested for dyslexia, apraxia, etc., the testing may not happen or happen fast enough. I know of parents who went outside the district to get their kids tested and paid out of pocket to get their kids the help they needed with private tutors and specialists. This is very true if your kids does not have an obvious "defect" right off the bat. The battle is not just over testing and getting the right diagnosis. Once you have a diagnois, then it is a new battle to getting the right care and support. IF you get the right care and some support, and your child starts to thrive and improved, that improvement may be the justification to change the IEP for next year. So you are back again fighting to maintain the level of support to keep the gains your kid is making. (Often many parents still pay out of pocket to get more time with speech pathologist, reading specialist, etc. outside school.)

-uphill battle

Dorothy Neville said...

I totally agree that teachers should not be diagnosing disorders. No Confidence's point is that year after year, her child WAS diagnosed as lazy, by teacher after teacher. Instead, at least one of those teachers could have and should have suspected something else going on and suggested the parents investigate.

The issue of getting testing is another factor. It is expensive to go private and for 2E kids, sometimes you just have to, because the district will not think testing is justified, kid seems to be doing fine, or kid is actually doing better than peers. And if the teacher labels the child as lazy, well then, what's the district to do?

And, as Uphill Battle states, even with a diagnosis and an IEP, one STILL can run into teachers that don't believe in the disability and still complain that the student is being sloppy or lazy.

MathTeacher42 said...

It would be real nice if someone could detail in a model all the tasks needed to implement an idea, flow chart how those tasks are supposed to work, estimate the time needed per task

AND PAY FOR THE IDEA.

IF the idea works, it can be part of the education process.

Check out table 221 from the Statistical Abstract of the United States -

http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2011/tables/11s0221.pdf

There are appx. 51.2 MILLION kids in public and private k-12 schools! ;)

When I hit the bit lottery and can afford to run for office, all white collar worker / manager / professionals will be REQUIRED to be able to model the processes their in charge of, or,

they'll be fired. Period.

IF you don't like that, THEN don't vote for me.

The current system is disaster, filled with highly credentialed, highly degreed, highly titled and highly paid hand wavers who'd be lucky to run a hot dog stand well.

With all this "education", it seems about all we can accomplish is hordes of paper pushers waving their hands - no wonder the liars in the Ed Deform Astro Turfs are making such "progress" with their fictions.

R. Murphy.

Grousefinder said...

Dorothy, kids are not diagnosed as "lazy." Lazy may be used in the private vernacular of the "teacher's lounge," but the issue you are referring to is "work habits."'

Children are assessed on their work habits or their willingness to participate in various activities. There are even places on report cards for those assessments. Work habits are discussed in conferences as well.

Professionals don't say to parents, "your child is lazy." If you do hear that, then that professional educator is lacking in the proper decorum of parent/teacher communication. I doubt that year-after-year eight teachers told this parent his/her child is "lazy." That just does not happen.

And, poor work habits are not necessarily a "learning disability."

From Crosscut:

"...parents and teachers must address a leviathan cultural phenomenon that has finally come up and bitten us in our collective butts. For younger children we can call it “poor work habits,” and for grades 4-12 let’s view it as the “the lack of self-discipline...R.F. McClure said it best: ‘‘Our society’s emphasis on instant gratification may mean that young students are unable to delay gratification long enough to achieve academic competence.’’ Parents, harried with the business of survival, cannot be blamed. Nor can teachers in over-crowded classrooms. The phenomenon McClure describes is collective. We configured our world this way. Now we must fix it."

There are no easy answers or explanations for the genetic or learned behaviors of children. One thing is clear however, it is rarely the fault of the teacher for whom a class full of kids is an amalgamation of personalities and social differences.

Anonymous said...

There has been a lot of focus on the District math and reading/writing curriculum, but what's going on with social studies? The social studies link on SPS's website states that students engage in "authentic intellectual work."

"Authentic intellectual work," engages students in "construction of knowledge, through the use of disciplined inquiry, to produce discourse, products, or performances that have value beyond school."


Ack. Shouldn't history, of all things, be rich in content? I'm looking at the Classroom Based Assessments (CBAs) and it states:
CBAs are designed to be embedded within existing Social Studies and History units.

Our child had the 5th grade CBA on pit bulls. It had no relation to previous or current Social Studies or History units.

What does your school do for scoial studies? State standards were not covered in my child's class for the past few years. There was actually little social studies to speak of...but this required assessment was thrown in at the end of the year.

Jan said...

DJ: I think that when a kid in the top 1% cognitively goes "undiagnosed" with a major learning disability for years, there is plenty of room for regret all around. But the smarter the kid, the more capable they are of coming up with various compensating strategies, and the more likely that the parent (whose training in identifying learning disabilities may well be ZERO) will NOT pick up on the issue -- especially when listening to seasoned teachers, who have seen thousands of students, "expertly" tell them that the real issue is laziness or lack of motivation.

I thought No Confidence's point was -- how incredibly valuable it would have been if ONE -- just ONE of those teachers, early on, had said -- gee, your child seems bright, but refuses to try (or doesn't turn in work, or quits too easily). Based on what I know, sometimes what appears to us as lack of motivation or laziness is, in fact, the result of learning disabilities that are hard to detect in bright children. You might want to look into having him/her assessed by someone whose expertise lies in this area.

Then -- as others have pointed out -- you might not be able to convince the District to jump in (because the kid is not far enough behind), but at least the parents can look elsewhere. It must be galling to have the "experts" (the teachers) tell you for 6 years that they have your kid figured out -- you have a lazy kid -- only to get them tested, find out that it may be too late for some interventions, and then be told that you should have picked up on it yourself -- since you are the parent.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Schools of Education programs have often done very little to prepare general education teachers in special education--both in terms of recognizing potential disabilites and implementing IEPs in the general education classroom.

At the same time, there are many more potential diagnoses than there were in the past and the medical field has become much more capable in diagnosis (e.g. fMRIs; advances in neuroscience) and treatment of disabilities.

Schools are in way, way over their heads here and way, way behind the science. As a teacher, I often wish we could just refer the parent to UW for a complete work-up for a potential disability diagnosis. Although Seattle has many excellent educational psychologists, I believe learning disabilities should be treated like a medical condition--we don't diagnose and design treatment plans for diabetes at school but we do this for learning disabilities.

Istead, schools should be implementing a learning plan that was done in colaboration with a team of medical professionals, parents, and school instructional teams.

I think the parent is very correct is recognizing this gaping hole in the educational system--and I mean most school systems (although some are less bad than others). However, it is very much a systemic problem and the teachers were the face of the systemic deficiency and not the cause.

The child, of course, was the victim of the negligence of schools and medical professionals who have failed to work to design integrated services. This is way too painful to keep happening.

--Melissa, please raise the issue but look at the whole picture

Anonymous said...

that was supposed to say "instead"
and "collaboration"!

--sorry!

MathTeacher42 said...

Ooops - darn old eyes - I used to have those progressive tri-focal things & I was always tripping over my own feet - now I'm back to 1 lense & squinting - I goofed in my post -

"When I hit the big lottery and can afford to run for office, all white collar worker / manager / professionals will be REQUIRED to be able to model the processes they're in charge of, or,

they'll be fired. Period."

When you look at table 701, Statistical Abstract of The United States, 2008 Money Income, persons over 15 -

My great idea for firing bureaucrats will insure that a huge swath of appx. 24,000,000 will never give me a dime and will never vote for me - and that appx. 24,000,000 are the people with 2008 money income over $75,000 a year.

However, there are appx. 216,000,000 of us with money income under $75,000 - and we're the dregs and we're the peeeee-ons stuck implementing the vague hand waving blather of those at the top!

I heard Anne Richards say in a debate with George W - "you can put lipstick on a hog and call it Monique, but it is still a pig."

Those in charge have done a great job, for decades, figuring out how to get in charge and stay in charge. Their accomplishments on "leadership" are laughable.

“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus,”

C'mon lottery!

R. Murphy

Anonymous said...

On a similar note, I heard a call- in program on BBC radio last year where an "embedded" two-week reporter was giving intricate details on what it means to be in combat.

A weathered voice came on in re-sponse --a U.S. Vietnam vet who basically said: Why don't you just shut-up, you have no ideas what you are talking about from your cushioned armchair, and do you have no shame in pretending to know what you're talking about?

These types of people (and the interim superintendent, Susan Enfield, is one of them) have been embedded in education during a euphemistically named "walk throughs" into a few classrooms, read some pathetic reform propaganda (that often fincances their salaries and/or impresses them with their political power), and then tell the actual people in the trenches what they're doing wrong and how to do it better and become perfect. In the meantime, the "walk-throughers" would

--be in the fetal position after a day of teaching in a real classroom

Jan said...

To "Melissa, please raise the issue . . .": I think you are absolutely right. Thanks for a very insightful post.