I’m still trying to understand all the acronyms. I’ve formally studied five languages and can swear in two or three more. Still, I’m having a tough time keeping up. In addition, I have an advanced education. One would think I’d be intelligent enough to comprehend. It appears not. I’m staring at these walls of data and acronyms that were surely created by The Daily Show–come on, what educator wants to hear “SLO” in the same sentence with “student?” I want “quick” at the minimum. And NECAP is what my Irish ancestors did to people they didn’t like during the Troubles. PARCC is where I want to go to drink a beverage until I can wrap my head around some of the elements of ed reform.
At heart is the issue of “rigor.” In the Old Days, I had to take three masters’ classes to prove I was smart and continuing to learn. Learning was the measure of the professionalism we had to exhibit as teachers. I had to have a masters’ degree, then I had to learn more. It was expensive, but I love learning. So, I learned and learned.
But teachers with advanced degrees are expensive, so someone found a study that said that advanced degrees might not correlate with educational success and they found another way to measure me.
It was decided that we should be able to design our own plans, that they should be individualized. The problem was that nobody would commit to what actually counted on that plan when I called for help, so I did twice the amount of hours required and finished a year and a half early. I guess it wasn’t “rigorous” enough. As luck would have it, it was determined that that whole system was, in fact, not “rigorous” and it was defeated like every bad guy who dares to oppose Chuck Norris. Mine didn’t count. It is currently being used as a doorstop because I’m afraid to throw it away.
I asked the question, “So, you’re saying that for exceeding expectations set by my bosses, and by coming in far in advance of the deadline, my work is not going to count? That doesn’t make sense. I should get a reward.” What makes sense doesn’t matter, because once it has been established that rigor is missing, rigor must be found. End of subject.
Now, we have a new system. On the surface, it looks okay–a million evaluations and conferences a year–like a picnic with a rubric. I was looking forward to seeing my evaluator get a new pair of track shoes and run marathons, because that’s the distance that would be mathematically necessary to finish that number of evals. And since the new system barely gives him time to eat Easy Mac, I think the running might do him good. In either case there are so many rubrics and matrices that my mind is exploding.
I’m looking forward to honest feedback from an evaluator I truly trust–that part’s exciting, but I’m still having writer’s block when it comes to translating the 101 paged instructional manual into documentation.
In the mean time, I’m witnessing the following unintended consequences in the field of education:
1. Inconsistencies. On one hand, I have to do a ton to be evaluated and certified, but other pathways like Teach For America can bring educators along a different path with far fewer hours of regulations. It’s creating a lot of hard feelings systemically.
2. Resentment. Good people are leaving the field and taking advantage of other opportunities. Many who have options, because they are good, are taking those options. We are losing good teachers.
3. Difficulty training new teachers. Student teachers report teacher reluctant to accept them because teachers are afraid a student teacher will ruin “their numbers.” This is a real fear–the numbers effect evaluations. “Reluctantly” is no way to train the next generation of teachers.
4. People deciding against teaching. One new teacher reported to me that four of her original cohort of a dozen or so decided not to teach because they “didn’t like the bureaucracy.” Again–we are losing good teachers. These people had other options.
5. Out of touch programs. An excellent potential teacher was released from a teacher prep program for his essay response to “What is your philosophy of teaching?” He said that his philosophy was not important until the basic needs of the student were met. It was a brilliant, albeit political essay about meeting the needs of the underserved in society first. Once that is done, we can teach. I wished I had written that essay myself. He’ll be a rock star IF he can get through the red tape. And certainly once he learns to write SLOs.
6. Gaming the system and grade inflation. People are choosing easier goals. They are inflating tests for SLOs, saying. There are all sorts of tricks.
These are scary trends. I love teaching, but I don’t like the constant reinforcement of my friends saying, “Why are YOU teaching? You could be so successful.” Because by the definition of society, I must not be successful, since I teach. Heck, I had one person ask me if I had proper university credentials and another say I probably taught at some charter school teaching my students to march in lock step and pass rote tests because I dared to refer to my kids as my “scholars.” No wonder we can’t reform education. We have a bunch of SLO people NECAPing each other.
So, I’ll go PARCC myself on the couch for a bit longer and see if I can come up with something I can spend the year measuring. This will determine whether I will be asking all of you if you want fries with that. Follow me on Twitter, and I’ll be able to tell you which register I’ll be on when the time comes. Maybe I’ll supersize that for you.