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Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Teacher's Goodbye (with reasons)

 An update to this thread comes from this op-ed by Allison LaFave, a teacher in a charter school in NYC.  She says:

Last week, Deborah Kenny wrote an op-ed piece (in the NY Times) decrying the heavy influence of test scores on teacher evaluations. Kenny rightfully claimed that the practice “undermines principals and is demeaning to teachers” and leaves little room for innovative teaching and learning. She went on to say that test-based evaluations inhibit the “culture of trust" between principals and teachers and “discourage the smartest, most talented people from entering the profession.”

While I agree that test-based evaluations are inherently flawed (when was the last time our politicians, Democrats or Republicans, truly analyzed a Pearson test?), I am baffled by Kenny’s ultimate argument. It seems that Kenny bashes test-based evaluations because ... wait for it ... they make it harder for her to fire teachers she doesn’t like – specifically a teacher whose students performed “exceptionally well” on the state exam.

Teachers aren’t statistics, but they also aren’t part of some school-wide homecoming court. Administrators shouldn’t cast votes for the teachers they like or dislike. They should work to support all teachers who act in the best interest of students.

As someone who has worked in a non-union school, I can tell Ms. Kenny what violates trust between teachers and administrators. Knowing that you can be fired for your personality.  Knowing that there is a fresh crop of well-intentioned, starry-eyed Teach for America kids who can take your place in the time it takes to make a phone call. Knowing that you will be scorned for using your allotted sick days and guilted into working through lunch, during prep time, and hours after the final school bell rings.

As a society, we need good teachers.  But they cannot all be saviors, counselors, comics, AND able to teach their subjects.  As taxpayers, we are basically paying for teachers to teach the students to the outcomes that the state tests mandate.  

What is it we want from teachers?
 
End of update.

This farewell to teaching comes from a teacher in North Carolina via Diane Ravich's blog.  It is heartbreaking.

This could have been written any time in the last 5 years but that it comes as we face the challenge of I-1240 make it particularly applicable.  Why?

Because there are those who want to lay the blame for everything - everything - that is wrong in public education at the feet of public education.  The principals, the administrators and especially, the teachers.

Not the legislators for not funding schools or allowing poor legislation to be created or stand.

Not lazy politicians looking for a quick-fix or the next gimmick or fad.

And not a society that is willing to overlook two things.

One, 23% of American children live in poverty.  We are the only first-world country to have such a damning and staggering statistic and it is to our shame that we look the other way.

Two, remember the Great Recession?  That has plunged even more families (and their children) into poverty or near-poverty and stripped more resources from school budgets.

The Yes side pays lip service to the underfunding but insists that charters "have cracked the code" and will show the way.  Even though that has not happened in one district in this country with charters.  Not one district with charter schools in the U.S. has closed the achievement gap.  

Poverty does NOT stop at the schoolhouse door.  Also on the ed reformers lips - if you say poverty, they say you are a bigot because "you think poor children can't learn."  Absolutely false.

ALL children can learn but if a child is hungry, that child is not paying attention.  Can't see the board because that child needs glasses, that child can't learn.  Is on the verge of homelessness?  Worried and can't concentrate.

We ignore these issues at our own peril because in 10 years we will be at the same place - wringing our hands and asking why nothing is working.

I'm not going to reprint all what this teacher - Kris Monroe - has to say but here's what troubled and moved me:

Let me cut to the chase: I quit. I am resigning my position as a teacher in the state of North Carolina—permanently. I am quitting without notice (taking advantage of the “at will” employment policies of this state). I am quitting without remorse and without second thoughts. I quit. I quit. I quit!

Why?

Because…
 I refuse to be led by a top-down hierarchy that is completely detached from the classrooms for which it is supposed to be responsible.

I will not spend another day under the expectations that I prepare every student for the increasing numbers of meaningless tests.

I refuse to be an unpaid administrator of field tests that take advantage of children for the sake of profit.

I will not spend another day wishing I had some time to plan my fantastic lessons because administration comes up with new and inventive ways to steal that time, under the guise of PLC meetings or whatever. I’ve seen successful PLC development. It doesn’t look like this.

I will not spend another day wondering what menial, administrative task I will hear that I forgot to do next. I’m far enough behind in my own work.

I will not spend another day wondering how I can have classes that are full inclusion, and where 50% of my students have IEPs, yet I’m given no support.

will not spend another day in a district where my coworkers are both on autopilot and in survival mode. Misery loves company, but I will not be that company.

I refuse to watch my coworkers being treated like untrustworthy slackers through the overbearing policies of this state, although they are the hardest working and most overloaded people I know.

I refuse to watch my district’s leadership tell us about the bad news and horrific changes coming towards us, then watch them shrug incompetently, and then tell us to work harder.

I’m tired of watching my students produce amazing things, which show their true understanding of 21st century skills, only to see their looks of disappointment when they don’t meet the arbitrary expectations of low-level state and district tests that do not assess their skills.

I refuse to hear any more about how important it is to differentiate our instruction as we prepare our kids for tests that are anything but differentiated. This negates our hard work and makes us look bad.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not to in any way dismiss complaints of teachers, but the action verbs in this teacher's statements are wishing, wanting and watching. Did this teacher think her profession was akin to ditch digging? I think teachers need to complain just like all concerned parties should. Complaining is an action.
Not impressed

wow, just wow said...

Early in the comments on that Ravich post was a link to this article. Melissa, this is worthy of it's own post/discussion, but might take some time to gather the basics. People have no idea what's going on with their kids' personal information.

Student Data Mining, How Much Data Is Enough?

A couple brief excerpts:

Consequently, as of January 2012, FERPA regulations were changed. Now, public education institutions do not have to ask parents or students for permission to share personal educational information with a large number of different groups and subgroups, to include the broad category of ‘educational researcher’. In fact, Page 52 of the new FERPA document outlines 11 different ways PII can be sharedwithout consent (Department of Education).

and

With the advent of biometric data collection in schools such as lunch service fingerprinting, true questions surrounding student civil liberties and privacy have been raised. While schools assure parents and students that biometric data cannot be reconstituted and shared, on one hand, parents are also told on the other, they “can look online to see what their children are eating…and…schools can track student allergies” (Vu). Even intuitively this situation seems incongruous

Of course this biometric data can be shared. And of course it WILL be shared.

This article is chock full of quotable quotes, best to just click through and give it a read. Maybe this would have been better on an Open Thread, but this stuff is all tied together with tracking student performance and therefore teacher performance.

Unknown said...

Wow, thanks for putting this in as yes, it is VERY troubling. I'll try to have a separate thread soon but I believe more student info is getting out there than parents know.

Anonymous said...

at least s/he hasn't paid hundreds and hundreds of dollars in annual dues to unions which keep chasing the ball further right, with the disgusting justifications from 'leaders' that the the 'leaders' are being pragmatic and they're collaborating ...

double jeopardy question: Jay Inslee and Barack Obama are in tight elections because:

1. after decades of sell outs called 'pragmatic' and 'collaboration', lots of average people have purposely tuned out the incessant excuses and lies.

2. after decades of sell outs called 'pragmatic' and 'bipartisan', lots of average people will vote for anyone not currently in charge.

3. all of the above.

DoesRealityAffectSchools?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Does, I hear you. I always said "the teachers ARE the union" but frankly, after seeing some of the union leadership, at both the state and city level, I have my doubts.

I see front-line teachers working so hard and yet it seems like their union leadership isn't always listening or supporting them.

Anonymous said...

If someone claims to represent you and your interests you sure as hell better be on their tail and in their face. You had better find out what they're up to. Goes for citizens. Goes for union members. Better not base any assumptions on "trust". And you sure as double hell better watch out for "leaders".

Oompah