Thursday, April 10, 2014

Soliciting the Field to Better Prepare Teachers: What Are We Doing toKids and the Teaching Profession?

For the last three years I've attended a conversation between university professors, administrators, and literacy coaches in K-12 schools so that our programs in higher education can better prepare students to be ready for careers in teaching. These are individuals who have dedicated years to the profession and who assist graduate school programs to be in touch with the pulse of day-to-day schooling. It is a location where university professors can think/rethink their preparation programs and where K-12 employees can share their needs and expectations of teacher.
This year I have many student teachers coming back to the university and saying they've made a terrible mistake. They don't want to go into teaching any longer because they see how miserable it has become for veteran teachers. They see the politics, the angst, the onslaught of test-only instruction, and the frustration in every school. ~ a college professor
I've come to expect some angst about changes in school, but this year it was very different. Yesterday's conversation was beyond alarming. Even administrators reported that the testing is out of control. There used to be tests, but now there are tests giving people data about tests to come, and further tests to pilot new state-mandated tests. Administrators have to oversee teachers putting in data about the tests - time they don't have.

The only positive thing reported from the conversation yesterday was that the State of Connecticut retreated its Teacher Evaluation system.
The evaluation system was another disaster. ~ Literacy coach
What was even more frightening was the way everyone communicated how the new SBACs adopted by Connecticut as a pilot rolled out. Most in the room had a paranoia about discussing what they experienced. They coded language in the best, safest, most optimistic way they could (these are school leaders, after all), but their political correctness soon cracked. They are distraught about what is happening to public school children. They hinted that there were major issues with technology, tasks were ridiculously inappropriate, language was inconsistent and confusing, every school had time issues, and the growing movement of students opting out is causing controversy. Although they believe in the profession, they are angry.

Another concern for this focus group was how student teachers from local universities were given limited time and opportunity to actually teach.
I've been a teacher for almost thirty years. I don't have opportunities to teach either. The bulk of my time is testing. ~ 6th grade teacher
She's right. After the SBACs we have another series of testing, almost through mid-May. It's been a scheduling nightmare. ~Middle school principal
I have a student teacher now and I'm working with her on how to balance out a schedule. She sees the kids only on these days and it is usually for a very short time. We never know if it is going to be an A day or B day and planning is chaotic. Together, we're trying to do what is best, but teaching has been practically impossible all year. It is worse now that the testing season is truly upon us - High school teacher
Everyday, we're getting new information. It changes daily, too. We keep tying up the phone lines to the State department. No one has any answers - Literacy coach.  
I took notes the entire evening, yet the writer in me grew enraged. Actually, it isn't the writer, it is the teacher in me. Who is doing this to the profession?  This truly can't continue - if it does, we'll have a generation of kids who have had very little instruction. Come to think of it, students enrolling in college English classes for the first year have grown less college-ready in the last decade. This is a result of NCLB and Race to the Top, especially when teachers and college professors were virtually excluded from the conversation. This talk of making students competitive is absolute #$@#$#@. We are making kids dumber, not smarter.

All agreed that CCSS objectives aren't bad - it is the assessments and the top-down management of them that restricts teachers from doing what they were professionally trained to do.
There's only one way to truly make money in education. Assessment. ~Me 
Yesterday, I was proud to read that Trumbull High School, a large suburban district less than a mile north of where I live, postponed testing when only 26 of 530 juniors showed up for the first day of the exams. The students reported they are preparing for AP exams and getting ready for college - they don't have time for trial tests from companies looking to turn a profit or the politicians who, like Faust, sell their souls to gain power even when it harms and exploits children. Sadly, it is worse in our city schools. Here, a cohort of powerful, wealthy White individuals are profiting off urban poverty in the name of education reform. The wolf is in sheep clothing, indeed. All one needs to do is see the conference hosted for reform "educators" at Yale's School of Management ('serving' vulnerable populations is their 21st century 'White Man's Burden').

And only time can tell if more will follow.

In the meantime, I'm wondering how to creatively align the voices of so many I hear, not only from this meeting, but in every school I enter. I think the majority need to take a stand against what is currently being done by a minority of ill-informed leaders dead-set on undermining public school professionals. The frustration reported by teaching experts can be directly tied to the prevaricated, inept leadership in the State (who have a disdain for public school education and a bias for corporate reforms). This isn't Connecticut alone and it is NOT a Republican/Tea Party movement, although Occam's razor might hint that it would be. No. These are Democrats doing this to the social well-being of the country...political leaders who have become the monsters they claim they are fighting against (some pigs are more equal than others, right Orwell?).

That is why it is time for more teachers and university professors to unite and be heard. In fact, it's time to empower students by defending them and their educational rights for the stellar education they deserve, yet haven't received since the reform movement de-professionalized the expertise of educators. The policies are ruining schools. The leaders in the State need to be voted out and/or removed soon before they destroy public education beyond repair. 

1 comment:

  1. I am in this unique and very odd space. All my life I've worked for corporations, laser focused on the companies' bottom lines, consumed with the issues of what made the companies tick, how were they organized (strengths and weaknesses), were they aligned with the markets they served, etc, etc... and I enjoyed it. However, It became a very short-term focused job - quarter to quarter, would we continue to be financed, could we pay all of our obligations on time? I left. I said, I'll try teaching, having no idea what that really entailed. Now I am in a middle school in Norwalk, and I can see all of the frustrations you mentioned jumping out of the mouths of the teachers. But I am still between two worlds. I have not yet concerned myself with the politics and dysfunction of our public education system. All I see? The students. I see that they are quickly sized up by the staff - who is the trouble maker, who is compliant, who is smart, who is not. Look, I am not yet burdened with the testing imperatives, the 'you'd better make sure your kids pass the test or else' so this may be easy for me to say. But I am drawn to them. Particularly the 'trouble makers.' Their behavior is telling me something, and I find myself saying "Listen to them!" I shake my head as they are given in school and out of school suspensions, detentions etc... It does them no good. The punishment/discipline allows the teachers to look over their heads. To, in effect, not deal with them.
    The profession is foreign to me, so much different than what I have ever done in my life. But it is easy and plain to see that the what is most important in the classroom, in the schools, are the students. I hope to keep my eye on them, and not be distracted and beaten by the dysfunction.
    Easy to say now. I hope I can keep to it.