School Daze…School Daze…

Thank you for your continued understanding and support.  Latest idiocy from the district – we are going to be giving up over a month of critical ELA instruction to test the kids.  There will be 7 unit tests – including giving the end-of-the-year test the 2nd week of school, as well as at the end of the year.  Then there are computer tests 3 times a year.  Then there are dibels testing 3 times a year.  Then there is prep for the state test, and finally 3 days of state tests themselves.   As I’ve said before, it’s like my continuous diets.  Let’s just keep on getting on the scale, but don’t change eating habits at all.

God help us all!
The quote above is from an email from a colleague who teaches 2nd grade in advance of this new school year in a mid-sized urban school district. This teacher is closing in on retirement eligibility within the next couple of years. This teacher reflects the plight of teachers all over the country, teachers who have dedicated their lives to educating our children. Passionate teachers who are now facing retirement have seen countless reform initiatives and never have those initiatives stood in the way of the care teachers have for children. But the current state of education is definitely impeding teacher passion for their work because of the unreasonable and often unfounded choices they must comply with any given school year.
I have seen fabulous teachers planning their exit strategy who fully know not only how to teach but how to properly and thoroughly assess the learning evident in their students. It is not because they are lousy teachers or they do not love kids. It is because the business of education is as broken as much of the rest of our system in this nation. It is because of the dehumanizing of the national climate of education. It may be that the media and the current wave of reformers are placing the greatest weight of the failures of our schools on the shoulders of teachers. 

In a recent conversation on Book TV’s program Afterwords, between Diane Ravitch and Steven Brill, Brill cites a teacher in New York City barking at students as he shouts inane questions at his students, feet up on his desk. I find it very difficult to believe that this was a firsthand observation, rather than a reflection of someone else’s story. I cannot imagine any teacher being so lax while being observed by outsiders.

This rant in the nation about the impact of bad teachers is a filmy argument. There are inept practitioners in any field and they are always the minority. The current demonization of both the unions, Randi Weingarten (president of the American Teachers Union) in particular, and teachers in general offends my intelligence.
I have seen Michelle Rhee and members of the press gang up on Ms. Weingarten over and over in panel discussions. It seems the charter school reformists are the newest teacher’s pets of Washington. I hear Ms. Weingarten stating over and over that teachers should be evaluated, as should students, but the playing field has to be equal and teachers need to be afforded all the needs and resources possible to insure their success, much less provided a healthy and vital workplace. This includes validation as to their own level of expertise. This includes a viable income. It includes quality and consistent professional development.
But it also includes access to the supplies necessary to serve the students well. This playing field must allow for students to be well-nourished, rested, clothed appropriately for their climates, and to have support in dealing with and healing from outside influences that impact learning. Few of these new reformists seem to be even the least bit willing to address this issue, much less our legislators.
On the other hand, reformer Geoffrey Canada proposed that the best teachers be recruited for and retained in poverty-ridden schools by offering considerable signing bonuses and significantly higher salaries. His logic was that the less able teachers would be less of an obstacle in districts where the income supported higher school taxes, thus more resources, not to mention the benefits affordable outside of school, such as tutoring, private lessons, extra-curricular sports, etc.
We have got to look through a clear lens here. We have to pay attention to the plight of what teaching to these assessment tests only does to the quality of daily instruction. I took tests in school but they were in relation to my teacher’s curriculum. Then I carted home my green report card with the gauge of my success as a student several times a year. Once a year, I took the famous Iowa Test along with everyone in my school district. I was extremely intimidated. I later realized that I am not a good test-taker. I panic. I am much like many people and certainly many students. But we took the test with our #2 pencils poised to fill in the bubbles. Then, the next day, we got back to learning. 
Thanks again for following my blog. I appreciate your consideration of my words and thoughts.

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