A Teacher Speaks

From the thread, Drawing Lines in the Sand, below is this heartfelt plea from a teacher.   I sometimes give these teacher thoughts their own thread, not so much for comments, but so we can all hear what it is like from the front lines.   (I have teased it out, line by line, to maximize the impact and realities of what teachers face.) 

I have been teaching for 6 years. Last year and this year have been the toughest years of my short career by far. I have bigger classes, less support, and more district bull to deal with. 

I spent countless hours last year battling badly designed alignment plans. 

This year I have been told to raise my expectations to close the achievement gap as if I have not had high expectations for my students to begin with. As if raising my expectations more will make my students magically rise to that expectation. A mentality that conveniently disregards the need for boots on the ground support in schools.

I can raise my expectations as high as the moon, but without resources for students with learning, language, home, and personal challenges my high expectations will not be enough. 

I need resources to close the gap. 

I need instructional IA's in the classroom, counselors who are not managing 500 students, and a career center than can help them find a career path after they graduate. 

I need a truancy specialist who can track down students who don't come to school. 

I need a library that can stay open past 4pm so students can study after school.

If the district was serious about the gap they would put their money where their mouths are.

I'm hoping for a superintendent who walks the talk. Someone who has a plan that actually is a plan and not an acronym.


Anonymous said…
Pleas like this Teachers' are why I have little patience with those who disdain my failure to "play nice" while Rome burns.

Enfield may have cleaned some house, but obviously too many people remain at JSCEE whose time to GTFO and be gone has long passed. Including some local "donors" who are causing a net-negtive impact on our schools and teacher morale.

The Ed Reformers don't play nice at all, so neither will I. I will not act like a "good democrat" and bring a knife to a gunfight. The stakes are too high, and we don't have the luxury of enduring another 3 to 4 year cycle of destructive, ill-conceived plans and decisions.

West Seattle has more actively involved parents and families than its had in decades, and perhaps ever. Yet, the district continues to twiddle its thumbs while schools burst at the seams and parental effort and resources go unharnessed and underutilized. It's a tragedy, and a largely avoidable one at that.

And nothing a STEM option elementary is going to fix. Pathetic SPS. Another anemic, controversial response where leadership is so badly needed. WSDWG
Anonymous said…
I have been thinking about one of the justifications for the WPTA supporting charters. The claim is that they will "drive innovation."

I teach at an public school that offers, among other programs, a full International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma program. The person who came up with the idea was a teacher, who about ten years ago convinced staff to support the start-up of the program. A decade later, the program continues successfully, building on past accomplishments and expanding into new areas. What we've seen at our school is not just innovation--it's sustained innovation.

Keep in mind we've pulled this off at a public school. My wife taught at an IB school overseas, and she's told me for a long time that IB schools really ought to have class sizes of about 15-20. Last summer, when I attended IB training in New Mexico, many of my fellow teachers at private international schools shared that they had class sizes of this size. My teacher, a Theory of Knowledge (TOK) instructor at an elite private school in Mexico, could simply not understand the reality of teaching at a public school. She had a full two years to prepare her students for the TOK assessments; we have two semesters. She also had class sizes that were 1/3 of what I had second semester last year.

Yet, for all of that, my students have scored a full grade point above the world average in TOK. There was one TOK teacher at the training who taught at an IB charter school. He had some great ideas for teaching TOK, but I am not sure that his school is more innovative than my school. But one thing I do know is that his class sizes were smaller than mine. Last year he had a dozen TOK students. Second semester last year I had 47 in one class.

I really think the WPTA should find something better to do than peddle charter schools. I would like to see that organization lobby for full funding of education in this state. I would like to see the WPTA be as innovative in their advocacy of public schools as we public school teachers have been in teaching our students.

Anonymous said…
I'd love to see ideas for the classroom, or for the building, modeled in flow charts with all the proposed steps to execute the idea. I'd love to see time estimates attached to each step, and, I'd love to see that time paid for.

EVERY organization struggles with the fight between increasing efficiency by standardizing as much routine work as possible, and, the inevitable creativity killing tyranny of paper pushers justifying their empires. There isn't an easy answer.

I do know that the Ed "Reform" crowd hasn't put any extra resources into my classes of 37, 34, 32, 30 and 30 this year, or into my building this year, or into any classes in any of the 7 years I've taught. I did look some of their 990's up on www.guidestar.org a year of two ago and saw a bunch of six figure a year salaries, which is at least double my pay.

Rueters had story about Romney's Bain outfit destroying a company of 750, and lining their pockets, from '93 to '01. This rip off companies by consultant stuff really kicked off when Reagan was elected - and who was President during the '93 - '01 time frame?

I think we need a multi party system - a few huge parties for those of us at the bottom, and a couple of parties for the robber barons at the top. Arne Duncans buddies aren't on my side, they're on the side of the people pulling Romney's strings, and pretending otherwise is somewhere between naive and silly.

Anonymous said…
Yo, WSDWG - speaking of Rome and playing nice with your enemies ...

"Shame on the age and on its principles! The senate is aware of these things; the consul sees them; and yet this man lives. Lives! aye, he comes even into the senate. He takes a part in the public deliberations; he is watching and marking down and checking off for slaughter every individual among us. And we, gallant men that we are, think that we are doing our duty to the republic if we keep out of the way of his frenzied attacks.
You ought, O Catiline, long ago to have been led to execution by command of the consul. That destruction which you have been long plotting against us ought to have already fallen on your own head."

The First Oration Against Catiline
Cicero (106 B.C.–43 B.C.)
(63 B.C.)

Anonymous said…
Students can learn effectively in a large classroom (even 30-60 students) if there are ZERO (and I mean zero) behavioral problems disrupting the classroom. This teacher's plea is very clear: more aides and support staff in the classroom and in the school to assist students whose problems transcend school. This is a very simple plan. And it assists struggling students in making effective use of the educational materials already at hand. No revised curricula, no charter schools, no expensive feasibility studies, no educational "reforms", and fancy expensive materials that benefit publishers and the business community more than students are needed.
Anonymous said…
I'm also a teacher, and I've worked in schools where most children are students of color and/or living in poverty for almost two decades. Part of what "A Teacher Speaks" says rings true: resources to battle the achievement gap are desperately needed. However, I am not comfortable with the dismissive tone taken on the issue of expectations for students. I have talked with, and more importantly, listened to, thousands of students and parents in schools that are chronically underserved and underperforming. Though they, too, talk about resources, almost all of them have much to say on this topic of teacher expectations.

Parents (particularly parents of color) worry constantly that teachers who are from outside of their communities are underestimating what their children can do. Many parents have confided that this is the primary thing they are listening/looking for when working with teachers. Students have taught me much on this topic as well. Once, I heard high school students speaking on a panel about their experience of their education, and the cynicism they had about teacher expectations was shocking and disturbing. Student after student shared stories of teachers who, through words or actions, made it clear that they did not really believe the students could do work that would be standard for their grade, let alone advanced. One student shared how irritating it was when such teachers would try to "talk the talk" of high expectations, then provide tasks for students that were completely undemanding (worksheets, i.e.).

It is easy for me as a white, middle-class teacher to believe that I am projecting high expectations to my students and their families, but this is in fact an ongoing challenge. Race, class, and quite often my own clumsiness in dealing with these issues can undermine the messages I want to send. It has been the most important work of my career to constantly check myself on the question of what message my teaching is sending to students about their own capabilities. Other things matter, too, but I don't think this is an issue to be swept aside.

--Expectations Matter
peonypower said…
Expectations matter said

"I agree that Race, class, and quite often my own clumsiness in dealing with these issues can undermine the messages I want to send. It has been the most important work of my career to constantly check myself on the question of what message my teaching is sending to students about their own capabilities. Other things matter, too, but I don't think this is an issue to be swept aside"

My intention is not to sweep aside the issue of high expectations. I agree that what is expected of students is an issue, and this is especially true at high school. On our latest school survey indicated that students believe that teachers often don't know when something is too easy for them and when they don't understand something. I agree with you that being vigilant about how students perceive what is expected of them is a hugely important aspect of teaching. I work on my own practice as well as in my building to address how expectations impact the learning environment.

My comments in this post are aimed at how the solution proposed by the administration of SPS to the close the achievement gap is to simply "raise my expectations." My message is that support in classroom is lacking, and that support is dramatically less now than 3 years ago. I am frustrated that tools that I know help students have been cut. I know that having a truancy specialst helps, I know having bilingual IA's in the classroom help, and I know having access to the school library helps because I have the data that shows the impact of these services. My plea is for these essential services to come back. I don't dismiss that expectations are important because they are. My frustration is knowing what would help my students and being told that "we just don't have the money" for fill in the blank service. I want access for students to services that they need. To not provide resources that are proven to raise student performance reinforces a culture of low expectations of those same students. It sends the message that those students do not matter in the system, and for me that is philosophically in opposition to what I am trying to achieve as a teacher. I want all my students to be successful, and I want the tools necessary to get them there. I'm asking for administration to put their money where their mouths are and provide resources that directly improve student performance.
Anonymous said…
In our elementary climate survey from last year, students also said that school was too easy. Interesting.

Raising the bar engages students until they experience frustration. Then you need help. I use a lot of parents but often they don't have good teaching skills. It's not as easy as many parents believe. Esp. at elementary.

A teacher must reach students before they disengage because they give up. With twenty-eight or twenty-nine students in our primary classrooms, and given the amount of information/curricula we are now teaching, that is not always easy or possible.

It is unreasonable to have high expectations for students if students are unsupported; it is unreasonable to have high expectations for teachers if teachers are unsupported.

Pare administration and bring money back to the schools.

dan dempsey said…
PeonyPower has hit the nail on the head. There is a misguided belief that students will rise to meet increased expectations - regardless of other factors. This is complete BS, if students are not provided with the support they need to meet those increased expectations.

The Math achievement gaps in Seattle indicate a chronic failure to support educationally disadvantaged learners. This latest nonsense about raising expectations in a situation when less support is available is typical Central Admin nonsense.

What a leadership vacuum.

One need look no further than grades 3 & 4 math achievement in recent years to confirm what a disaster EDM has been .... and yet Enfield is all warm and fuzzy over some new emphasis on preK to grade 3 learning. .... Message !!! Read results from Project Follow Though ... and do something as in the PFT recommended actions.

What a continual pile of BS is pushed by leadership.

GK Chesterton said: Christianity has not been tieid and found wanting. Christianity has been found difficult and left untried.

As for PFT recommended practices...
PFT recommendations have not been tried and found wanting. The Ed Elites prefer to try want is either untried or been tried an shown not to work. .... Rather than do what is known to work.
Anonymous said…
As to Dan's #3, the PD teachers get is comical. It is as if we are slow learners ourselves.

I'm sorry. I've been saying this for years: I get more PD staying in my room and truly analyzing what I'm doing right there. DMI was excellent. Looking at research and pedagogy is fine. But the silly PD we get - often from other teachers - is a waste of time.

One thing I'll give MAP, it does stress content. You either know it or you don't. There is some guidance in that piece of work. But it has to be taught the way the test measures it.

I"m writing as I'm reading! Process really is important for primary as well as content because we are trying to teach thinking along with content and neither exists in isolationi. Every elementary teacher understands that "activating prior knowledge" is key.

I hope I don't sound as if I'm contradicting myself. Really, teaching is complex and we are trying to teach too much in too short a time and with too many restrictions. Education has become a top-down bureaucratic highly-paid-at-the-admin-level institution. Thus, like all bureaucracies eventually do, it is out of touch and failing. Just as microsoft (in its heyday) galvanized change to IBM, we need to galvanize change in the existing structure of our educational system.
to be continued...

Anonymous said…
I hope this doesn't sound self-serving but I have to say it: we need to pay teachers better. Teachers who have been around and are experienced and who have become craftspeople. Our union leader once said that poor teachers should be helped and not terminated. I disagree. Do I don't want a second-tier accountant doing my taxes; I don't want a second-tier surgeon removing my appendica. We need better teachers. We need teachers across the board who are curious learners themselves and can provide content along with process simultaneously. Experts in math may never be good teachers. But good teachers who may not be experts in math will be curious enough and caring enough to get the expertise they need. I was one of those. Turns out I'm pretty good at it. Esp. in elementary where we teach everything. And the high school teacher or middle school teacher who specialized in history is now teaching math or vice verse? Is that still happening?

ducation: so complex. And certainly you can't leave out the social safety net which is simply disappearing as we post.

Anonymous said…
If you raise the expectations and really push the kids, my kids can handle the criticisms. As a parent, I rather they make a C grade than an A for doing just OK work. Kids know the difference! Kids know even in the primary grades when doing "ok", "well" and "good job" mean something vs. nothing when they apply little or no effort.

It is in the primary grades, K-4th that you have some real chance at engaging kids to learn, loving it, and wanting more their whole life. I think many good teachers out there could do it if they have more IAs, more support and some flexibility to flesh things out as they are teaching. Take the NSF science kits, as old and limited as they are, the kids can be engaged because science lets them explore, move around, make mistakes that is not counted as a wrong, throw out their ideas/guesses as they go on abou their "experiments". With good teachers who understand the science and know how to engage the kids, kids get excited to learn. That excitement is infectious. Their imagination and curiosity is fertile and their minds are so open and willing to take risk academically. IF you can continue that into middle school where the years are harder because of peer influence, biology, curriculum shortfall (math and LAs), class size, etc., the kids will stay with you and in school.

So set a high expectations. Tell the kids that. Tell the parents that. Tell the school administrators that. It must be so difficult for a teacher to balance the needs of individual kid vs. classroom, helicopter parents to non-existing parents, administrators, and peers with dimishing suppport in the classrooms.

To those teachers out there who struggle to set the high standard, apply it, and work toward it, my kids know who you are and you are the ones they still talk about to other kids, other teachers, and grown-ups.

-from a parent of thankful kids
Anonymous said…
Peonypower, thanks for the clarity. I think we have a lot of common ground on this issue.

Anonymous @12:09 said:
"It is unreasonable to have high expectations for students if students are unsupported; it is unreasonable to have high expectations for teachers if teachers are unsupported."

Dan Dempsey said:
"PeonyPower has hit the nail on the head. There is a misguided belief that students will rise to meet increased expectations - regardless of other factors. This is complete BS, if students are not provided with the support they need to meet those increased expectations."

Both these statements leave me wondering . . . are you each saying that we should suspend our high expectations of students until we are given the resources/supports to enact those expectations? If so, can you imagine how this would sound to parents and students who have NEVER IN AMERICAN HISTORY been given the educational resources they need? I'm all for vigorous advocacy to change that reality, but I'm also not going to wait around for that change to start maintaining high expectations of my students. It's important to recognize that making a way out of no way has been the reality for low-income people of color for a long, long, time. We are right to clamor--loudly--for more resources for our classrooms, but I would have a hard time looking in the eyes of, for example, a homeless grandmother raising three grandchildren, who is managing to get all these children to school each day in clean clothes and with basic school supplies, and telling her I just don't have the resources to educate her child as well as I should.

And here's the thing--I'm sure most teachers would never imagine saying so. Most teachers roll up their sleeves and do their best with what they have. Some teachers organize and advocate for more resources--I have, many others have, and it's good work to do. But every now and then, I have encountered teachers whose expectations and beliefs about their students are far too low. I have heard a teacher say these words in reference to students: "They give me hamburger and expect me to make steak." So I reiterate--in my opinion, the issue of expectations is not a small one.

If someone is saying to a teacher "stop asking for resources because all you have to do is have high expectations," obviously they are being asinine. I personally have not heard this kind of talk from district staff or leadership. But I think it would be equally specious to say it is unreasonable to have high expectations for students in the absence of adequate support.

--Expectations Matter
Anonymous said…
No, every teacher should have high expectations. That is a given. But to leave it there is leaving out half the equation. As Dan said, peonypower hit the nail on the head.

My point is thinking that high expectations will do it alone is unreasonable. It's simply a sound bite. One of many that seem to drive the conversation. And Peony said it better than I did. I think it is unreasonable to think that high expections alone is the key to success for either students or teachers. Those are empty words if not followed up with support and a whole lotta work from a teacher.

If I have any peeve with peonypower, it would be "esp. at high school." Challenge, engagement, effort, high expectations - whatever you want to call them - are critical at every level.

I think in context Dan explained himself well. For me, I hope this clarifies my opinion.

Anonymous said…
All of you teachers should find ST's piece on funding ed stimulating as it takes on WEA front and center.


Evidently unionized teachers are the barrier that block EVERY reform to make education "more efficient and responsible." And ST proposed on line education for efficiency.

Ooooh and "the courts are watching." Man, what did you all do or did not do to earn such attention? 'Cause you got them pissing in their twisted knickers at ST's editorial desk. Must have been quite a New Year's wish list and you guys came up on top for a takedown.

Talk about drawing a line in the sand.

Anonymous said…
With all due respect, how does your comment correlate with the posts above?

Perhaps the moderators of the blog will start a new thread on the editorial.

looking for answers
NLM said…
Expectations Matter...can you pls. teach *my* child? Every school year, I find myself guarding against the possibility that a teacher thinks my kid is hamburger just because of what she looks like or what her father and I do for a living. I could give specific anecdotes but that's not particularly useful. Suffice it to say the I don't know a single middle-class family with children of color that feels expectations are near high enough and it's a constant battle to ensure that your child is not being underestimated. By way of example, please correct my elementary child's subject-verb agreement problems. I do it at home but she needs to know that you hear the errors too and care enough to correct it. Ebonics is not her first language. Please make her fill in her first and last names on worksheets. I do it but if she thinks you don't care, she won't bother with those details at school. Please don't read the math word problems for her every time she comes to your desk. She is a strong reader and can do it herself, she just knows that she can get an adult to do it if she asks nicely so why exert the effort to do something she dislikes. I have seen her work this magic on her Dad too many times to count. LOL. I know there are kids who struggle and more resources are surely needed. At the same time, I want the highest standards applied to my child, not just those that seems also able given circumstances x,y,and z.
NLM said…
Err seem reasonable. Darn auto correct!!
dan dempsey said…
I would like to clarify about expectations. NCLB, RttT, and all the other programs seemed to be aimed at preparing 100% of the student population to be able to do something on some time schedule. This is ridiculous.

When a student enters a course they should have a reasonable chance of success if they apply themselves during the course..... but this is often not the case when success is defined as being somewhere in the ball park of grade level expectations at year end if they entered the grade 3+ years below grade level.

One of the ideas behind walk to math is to provide instruction and expectations that are appropriate for each student.

The height of district lunacy was having no high school math classes offered below Algebra I. This plan is still alive but hardly well.

In the spring of 2008, I provided Linda Host, Rosalind Wise, Harium, and Sherry Carr with a teachers set of instructional materials from the Mind Research Institute ... the Algebra Readiness System ... A Blueprint for the Foundations of Algebra was the 3 volume book ( A one year intervention to teach kids all the math they missed from grades 2 through 7) ...... Instead of deciding to remediate and repair ... the SPS plan went to NO classes below Algebra in high school.

It has been shown that this does not work well .... unless it is fake Algebra.

So it goes with the faking of high expectations being met. Spin, Spin, Spin ......

Each child needs appropriate expectations and a learning environment in which the expectations can be met. ..... Try really hard and fail is not much of an option ...

On the really ridiculous side comes this ... for high expectations .... The Legislature was investigating making Algebra II a graduation requirement. A Senator asked the math teacher from Chief Leschi HS, if algebra II was a reasonable graduation requirement she assured him that it was ..... BINGO BINGO winner ... she got a job with OSPI for giving the answer that OSPI and SBE wanted to be heard....

Here are the annual WASL Grade 10 math scores from Chief Leschi pass rates from 2003 to 2010:
13.00% "<== 2009"

In Spring 2009 72% of students placed at level 1 = Well below Standard.

Here are the Chief Leschi Algebra EoC results:

These are for 19 kids that took algebra and for 13 kids beyond Geometry. 32 students on 2011 EoC Algebra exam

Level 4 => 6.3%
Level 3 => 18.8%
Level 2 => 12.5%
Level 1 => 50.0%
No Score => 12.5%


To advance your career in education .... seems to require helping to spin spin spin .... deception of the public is a normal practice and no longer considered abnormal. It seems to be a requirement for promotion.

So how did those high expectations for all 9th grade students taking Algebra in the SPS go ?

EoC Algebra results ...
1726 took algebra in 9th grade and 48.8% passed the EoC .... and 515 students scored Well Below Standard --- that was 3 in 10 folks that took the course at well below standard.

So Dr. Enfield was that 51.2% failure rate with 3 in 10 algebra clueless caused by low expectations????
NLM said…
One last thought...it sounds like what Kate said and what others have said is not all that different and it boils down to "don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining" ( in the immortal words of judge Judy). The expectations should be high and the resources should be increased but neither is completely dependent on the other. We should be leveling with kids and families when their performance is not up to par rather than passing the ones with good behavior right along. We sould be advocating for more classroom aids and family resources for those who need them. But lets not assume that all of those struggling high-schoolers got that way simply by virtue of their socioeconomic status.

Ok, I can't resist one anecdote...my neighbor's child is an ESL student and she entered kindy behind the native speakers in class. What did the teacher say at conference time...oh, everything will be fine, dont worry. Your child is low average but that's ok. My neighbor came to me for suggestions because she wanted to do something and was horrified at what she heard. She didn't want her kid to be in the bottom because the child is capable of more. The child plays with my "walk to" kid all the time and they are of similar intelligence. Again, this was not an uninvolved, uncaring parent of limited means and yet she got no advice from the teacher other than don't worry and move your pre-k kid to another program. WTH is that? As a fellow ethnic minority, she came to me for help. Compound that tragedy over multiple years and multiple kids and see how many successful EOC exam results you get.

Expecting kids to meet standard in 9th when they haven't all along is silly. But let's not pretend that expectations played no role in them falling 3yrs behind to begin with.
Charlie Mas said…
This is what I keep hearing.

We need to set and maintain high expectations for all students and we need to provide students with the support they need to meet those expectations.

Schools that have a high pass rates on the standardized tests tend to be schools where a lot of the students are well-supported at home. This generally correlates to affluence. The school generally doesn't need to do very much (other than be located in a affluent neighborhood) to be regarded as a "good" school. Actually there isn't anything particularly good about the school, just about the students and families. We have no idea how good the school really is. Many of those students should probably be getting a more challenge than they are seeing.

A lot of schools may set those high expectations, but then not maintain them. They make excuses for the children. They accept performance below the standard and say it's because of this or that. This is the notorious soft racism of low expectations.

It masquerades as compassion for the student, but I think it is just laziness by the adults.

Then there is the other are places that go the other way. They think that "tough love" is the compassionate course. They maintain the high expectations, but when those expectations are not met, their only response is to punish the students. That's not helpful either.

Again, it masquerades as some kind of caring for the students but is just another form of laziness by the adults.

Look at the schools that academically out-perform the pass rates predicted by the affluence of their student population. Look at Maple. Look at Mercer. What do they do that makes them different? They set high expectations, then they maintain those high expectations. But they do the hard work: they identify the students who are struggling to meet the expectations and they provide those students with the support they need.

What do we do when students do not meet the grade level expectations by the end of the year? I hear people who say that holding them back doesn't help them so we should promote them. I don't see that promoting them helps the students either. We need a third way. We need a way to address the individual needs of struggling students and provide them with the support they need to be successful.
Eric M said…
Gosh, folks. I assume you all have jobs. Isn't there more to the success of your company/business/department/whatever than just your own expectations?

What the teacher is saying is that we NEED RESOURCES. You can't expect results without resources.

Blaming teachers for insufficient expectations is like blaming soldiers for losing a battle because they ran out of bullets.

If they had really wanted win, they could have thrown sticks and stones. But they didn't have the right mindset.

Attitude is important in teaching, very, very important, but without resources, we're just whistling in the dark.

If we're going to improve public education, we're going to need more resources on the ground. Not at JSCEE, but on the ground.

I myself have 12% more students than a year ago, more than the contract allows, and it's heavy. I have students in my room before school, at break, at lunch, on my prep, and after school nearly every day. I don't have time to eat lunch.

I could use some help.
Charlie Mas said…
The reason that we do not have a better response for struggling students is closely tied to the industrial model for education: thirty students in a class all getting the same instruction at the same time in the same way. And two more sets of thirty students in another classroom in the same school also getting the same instruction at the same time in the same way. And more schools all around the district all with similar classrooms all delivering the same instruction at the same time in the same way.

That's just absurd. The model worked reasonably well when we didn't allow disabled kids in the class, or poor kids, or immigrant kids, or minority kids. Even then, a lot of the students didn't do well but they could at least find blue-collar jobs in a manufacturing or agricultural economy and they could still earn a family wage. Up until about 40 years ago, women were stuck in pink-collar ghettos with the limited professional futures of teacher, secretary or nurse.

Not any more.

We are starting to live up to our ideals of universal education. But our old methods don't work for the changed student population. More than that, the faults in the mediocre job it did for the population it used to serve are starting to show. We have a post-industrial economy that demands not only education but innovation. Women are free to pursue any career and need an education to match. Blue-collar jobs in manufacturing and agricultural have either dried up or they do not pay family wages anymore.

The industrial model of education, which never worked all that well anyway, is revealed as completely inadequate for today's world.

The set structure needs to be broken for students to get the individualized attention they need to address their individual needs for support and challenge. It simply cannot be done in the industrial model. Don't blame the teacher - the teacher didn't set the model. The teacher is constrained by it.

We live in a post-industrial age. We live in a time of mass-produced custom-made goods and services. That revolution needs to come to education.

I'm not in the Education Reform camp, but I sure as hell don't support the status-quo.

I see a lot of promise in things like flipped classrooms in which students get the "lecture" outside of class and get individualized attention and support as they work through the "homework" inside the class.

I see a lot of promise in computer-based instruction for those things like skill building that can be taught well that way. This would allow each student to work at the frontier of his or her knowledge and skills. But it cannot stand alone. It needs to be partnered with higher cognitive skill work and collaborative work in the classroom setting.

Even without technological supports schools can break students into small groups for instruction.

Teachers need to see their roles differently. They are not needed as information dispensers. They are needed as motivators. They are needed as coaches. They are needed as professionals on the front line trained and trusted to identify and address the specific barriers for each child.
Sahila said…
children ranked and shamed in public "art" display: test score data displayed in hallways
Anonymous said…
I am a high school teacher. This year there there was not enough money for ELL students. All the ELL students that had a separate class for a required subject are now in my classes with the special education students, the behavior disabled students the 504 students, the Asbergers students, etc. This is a shallenge and I love the diversity. The priciple (who has never even taught one class) drops in frequently to observe my class. Then he gives me all kinds of feedback about the the Danielsen ideal says I should be teaching these classes. Never once has he acknowledged all the hours I have spent coming up with three different levels of readings and lessons. Instead he continues to criticize everything I do.
All principals should step up and teach a class for struglling learners one hour per day. Consultants should return to the classroom. Class size is soaring. I hear the fiddles playing ever louder while Rome burns.

HS Teacher
Anonymous said…
The reality in the ES, is pretty much how Charlie describes it. These days it's standard education for all regardless of learning needs. The teachers that ES parents jockey for are ones that work at standard, but add a little extra oomph in content, tone, and depth. All in all, it is pretty amazing how much one teacher can accomplish given a class size of 32 or more kids and more time spent teaching kids for standardized testing which now includes keyboard skills necessary for computer work. And that is in the elementary schools. It is common in middle schools to have class size of 32, 34, 38 where teachers don't always know the name of kids they are teaching.

Perhaps it doesn't matter if a teacher knows your kid's name anymore. Perhaps it is about the content that kids are supposed to be learning or the test scores that count. The assumption is the weakest ones will stand out for attention because of their lower scores or their behavior. Successful teachers must triage needs these days efficiently and timely just as we do in our hospital ER. Now what happens when one does ID the needs (correctly) is another story. Should this frustrate the hell out of parents and students who feel that bright or just average kids can use some attention too is understandable. But that is the real world kids learn in these days. Some families like ours cope by working extra to pay for coursework elsewhere and for (dyslexia) reading tutors to fill in the gap.

As long as schools don't have enough resources (to some- they have enough), don't use what resources they have wisely, and have various educational camps battling for THE way to do it all, this is what we will continue to see in the classrooms. Even for students who graduate onward to college, the struggle for affordable, quality education continues.

-will it ever end?
Anonymous said…
This teacher's plea is very clear: more aides and support staff in the classroom []. It assists struggling students in making effective use of the educational materials already at hand. No revised curricula, no charter schools, no expensive feasibility studies,

An aide costs $45,000. That's expensive - just like studies, curricula etc. Not saying it isn't worth it, but that is the reality. You might ask why we pay top dollar for aides? Or why schools don't get to choose them? They're in the union too - so, they've got tenure and pecking order - LIFO system - and you might not get the quality you're looking for. There's no free lunch.

Anonymous said…
$45,000 for an IA? Wow. Times have changed. I imagine that includes benefits. About eleven-twelve years ago, I met an old friend for lunch. She worked as an IA for Northshore SD. She made $18,000 a year after eleven years. Of course, short hours, short working year, and NO RESPONSIBILITY. She had reached the top of her ladder. At that time, I had an IA who was making $26,000 a year. He was making more than I was at the time.o
In NOrthshore, teachers were paid more. I've always thought teachers should have their own union. We really do exist pretty low on the totem pole in a lot of ways. Esp. elementary teachers.


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