Thursday, March 26, 2015
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
In this screwed up educational climate, people who teach ELA and Math are under undue pressure, and in this particular school, all teachers have part of their APPR based on ELA or Math. Thus ELA and Math teachers have the additional burden of not letting down their colleagues.
I wanted to weep because I saw a child's homework. The homework was directly from last year's CC state exam, with the added feature of The answer is ____ because_____ and The answer is not____ because____.
This poor teacher is giving students grades for practicing with questions from ill-conceived and inappropriate tests.
It is to weep.
Sunday, March 8, 2015
Measuring growth is a statistical nightmare on the new CCSS tests.
I believe that student growth is defined as successfully meeting educational requirements from one year to the next. That means, to me, that MY CHILD’S TEACHER WAS SUCCESSFUL if my child has successfully completed the material in grade 4 and then successfully completed new material in grade 5. In the world according to Beth, if my child scores an 81 in 4th grade and an 80 in 5th grade she has still grown because the 5th grade material was new and appropriately harder. Please note, I was comparing her grade to her grade to show the effectiveness of her teacher because THAT MAKES SENSE.
If only that were true, but it is not. According to NYSED growth model, the state compares my child with other children who have similar characteristics (disabilities, socio-economic status, prior test scores). The state then compares how well my child did compared to the other children on the next year’s test. Growth is shown only if my child’s test score is higher than the test scores of a certain percentage of the other cohort student test scores. My daughter was proficient last year in ELA and Math. If she is STILL proficient, but her individual score is not as high as the other cohort students’ scores, THEN HER TEACHER IS SEEN AS NOT EFFECTIVE for my child.
Let’s recap. My child was proficient- met the standards, passed the test; whatever you want to call it- but her teacher supposedly failed her, he was not effective since her score was not higher than the scores of other children who got the same score the year before. My daughter is still on target to be 'college and career ready' but her teacher could be fired.
<Picture me screaming>
Saturday, March 7, 2015
My husband works in the private sector. He sits down with the boss and they talk and sometimes, if the business is doing well, he gets a raise; and sometimes he is told that they wish they could give a raise. His evaluation form is about a page.
Until a couple of years ago, most of my teacher evaluation forms were about a page to 2 pages. It didn't matter if I were in public school or private school or BOCES, the form was pretty similar. The administration may or may not have observed me and may or may not have filled out an observation form on me. To digress for a moment, my favorite observation for stated that I didn't make my room inviting for students because there were no posters on the wall. Nothing about my teaching. I reminded the administrator that the afternoon before the observation she had suspended a student who had vandalized the room, including breaking 2 desks and tearing the posters off the wall. She said that I should have come in the next day with new posters. I told her that the broken desks were still in the room and she should have had custodians remove them. (She is now under investigation at a district for embezzlement and falsifying documents, just saying.)
Back to the topic at hand, evaluations. The game changed with Race To The Top (RTTT) when states had to compete for federal funding (hah! no equitable funding there either) and part of the competition was having the most rigorous (ugh-buzzword) teacher evaluation system. Despite the fact that collective bargaining is a right under the NYS Constitution, and despite the fact that many school districts, like mine, were still under contract with evaluation forms, Governor Cuomo stated that districts that did not redo their evaluations would lose money. Part of a teacher's evaluation would be measured by student growth, another by student achievement and the other 60% by a rigorous evaluation rubric. Districts scrambled to write new evaluation systems.
NYSUT, the teachers' union, stepped up and wrote a rubric by which teachers could be evaluated. NEW YORK STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT approved the rubric. You can find it here NYSUT 2012 Teacher Practice Rubric I am evaluated by that rubric, as are many, many others. IT IS 42 PAGES LONG and has SEVEN STANDARDS not all of which can be seen in an observation or lesson plan. That means that I have to bring to my conference with my administrator proof of my worthiness to teach. Andrew Cuomo praised the new teacher evaluation system in May 2011. HE PRAISED IT. Now, he condemns it because it didn't do what he wanted it to do.
And now I need to state this out loud. All you private sector people who want teachers to be evaluated 'just like everyone else'-- guess what, that would be a step down for us.
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
I couldn't be in Albany today lobbying against your education reforms. Unlike your minions who had coopted the social studies standards to wage war against public schools, using public school money to bus kids to show support for your charter school movement; I spent my day in my classroom. In all fairness, I gave up my lesson plans today too. Instead, I had a guest speaker from the children's wing of a nearby hospital talking to all of my students about their seriously ill teammate. When courageous students asked the question they were all thinking, "is he going to die" I wept. Yep, I cried for him, for them, for innocence, because the answer was "we hope not." I sat through the presentation five times, waiting for that question.dreading that question. And as I type this, the tears are pouring down my face.
You self serving son of a bitch. Do you really want to know #whatallkidsneed? They need teachers who weep, they need classmates who leave my room and go to math class asking if they can talk about how to make their friend's difficult journey just a little easier. They need advocates like that math teacher who threw out her lesson to brainstorm ideas. When you have done your level best to dismantle public education and moved on, we teachers will still be standing strong behind and beside our students.
You ignoramus...it has never been about the money.
Saturday, February 28, 2015
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
So while I was staying silent I was honestly wishing that I could buy into the absolutes that well meaning organizations were spewing. I have always had the issue of thinking just a little differently than the masses- no matter what side the masses were on. Alas, I am the female Don Quixote and there are some huge windmills.
Viewpoint 1- There are bad teachers. Not 67% and not necessarily measurable by standardized tests, but I would hazard that about 5% of teachers currently teaching are bad, and another 5% are poor. No, I have no data to back that up, just my gut. Those teachers either 1) should never have started teaching; 2) would be good teachers if they taught at a different level; 3) have burned out; or 4) are resting on laurels they never had. You know the ones I mean. They call kids 'fucking stupid' or 'morons'. They haven't changed a lesson plan in years, regardless of the make up of their classes and talk about 'this is the way we always did things.' I actually had a colleague ask why I was redoing some lessons because the ones I had were 'good enough.' Say what?
I acknowledge that there are bad teachers, and they are the ones giving the rest of us a bad name. It is incumbent upon administration to remove them, through an expensive and time consuming due process 3020a. I am totally in favor of due process, but I am sure there is a way to make removal less expensive and quicker if our unions put their minds to it there could be a good solution. To say that 'it is the job of administrators' is true, but a cop out. If we truly want to make our profession professional, than we also need to have a hand in removing those who need to go. One bad apple does spoil the whole basket- at least in public perception.
Viewpoint 2- The Common Core standards are good standards. The fact that they are certainly not easy to understand is crazy, and there are standards that are inappropriate for the grade level. Having said that, the haste with which they were rolled out meant that revisions would have to be done as they were piloted. The fact that no meaningful revisions have been made is one of the two major problems with the standards. The second major problem with the standards are that they were rolled out and used without proper professional development. The verbosity of the standards that lead to the lack of comprehension of the meaning of each standard, the lack of professional development and the rush to use the standards meant that teachers were nearly forced into using the modules or Pearson's consumables. The modules themselves are over long and, other than the tri-state rubric, there is no evidence that their use would increase test scores. Furthermore, standards should not be linked to grade levels, but their mastery should determine promotion to the next level.
Ah, test scores. The NCLB tests meet RTT meet CCLS. What a mess!
Viewpoint 3- In New York State there is a history of testing, the most recent being the Common Core tests. Testing is not inherently bad. The major difference between the tests before NCLB were created by teachers in NYS for students in NYS. The questions were field tested in NYS and then used in PEP, PET, RCT and Regents exams. The passing grades were determined prior to the administration of the test and only on rare occasions were questions deleted after administration, thereby changing scores. Those tests meant something and those tests could be revived.
Viewpoint 4- As a parent I believe that my husband and I are the best people to determine what our daughters should or shouldn't do. Therefore we are deciding to have our 5th grader take the common core tests. When asked, she said that she wasn't stupid, of course she doesn't WANT to take the tests, but since they are required she wants to do her best to defeat them. I understand the arguments that the only way we can make a statement that the common core tests must go is to refuse to allow our children to take them. I believe that I can make my opinions of the state tests known through emails, tweets, letters, and phone calls to my legislators and to the Regents. The parents who want to refuse the test for their children are well within their rights, and I will support their decision. They believe that they are practicing civil disobedience or saving their child from abuse. That is their belief and they are entitled to it. I believe that in life there will be hardships and obstacles my daughter will face that will make state tests look like the ant hills they are. My husband and I are teaching my daughter to do your best no matter what, that her self-worth is not dependent upon a test score anymore than it is dependent upon her looks or her athletic ability. The tests can't teach resiliency, but taking them knowing that they are a not real determinants of ability and merely a waste of time actually is a life skill best learned young. I would no more have her skip the state tests than I would tell her she couldn't try out for any activity in which some people get chosen and others don't. The test is only abuse if the adults make it a big deal. Oddly enough, the most rabid of parents who are touting their right to refuse the state test for their child are the ones that are most against my choice to have my child take it.
Let the games begin!
Monday, February 9, 2015
Dear Governor Cuomo,
You, like King George, have ‘a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny.’ In the parlance of the Declaration of Independence, "To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”
* You have refused to assent to the release of school aid runs, “the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.”
* You have hinted that you will refuse to pass a budget “ of immediate and pressing importance,” unless your ethics reforms are passed.
* You have held promises of additional money for school districts, only if they relinquish the right of local control over districts, ‘a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.’
* You have promised to create more charter schools, whose directors boards are not local and are at places ‘unusual, uncomfortable, and distant’ from the families of the students they purport to serve.
* You have declared your objective to take down the teachers union, ‘for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.’
* You have endeavored to obstruct the Dream Act and the tax credit for education by making both conditional with the other.
* You wish to obstruct the Administration of Justice, by desiring to destroy due process, a right negotiated by collective bargaining, which is a protected right in the NYS Constitution.
* You desire to make teachers made Judges dependent on flawed tests alone, ‘for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.’
* You plan to erect a multitude of new districts, called charter school, and sent hither swarms of corporate cronies to harass our school districts, and eat out their substance.
* You have given your recommendation to ‘Acts of pretended Legislation:’
o For imposing a tax cap without removal of unfunded mandates
o For depriving schools and counties of needed revenue in times of recession; but not restoring same during times of prosperity
o For suspending your own ethics panel
* You have abdicated Government here, by declaring teachers out of his Protection and waging War against us.
* You have plundered our schools, ravaged our counties, imposed tests created by corporate donors, and destroyed the joy of learning for our children.
In the Declaration of Independence the paragraph immediately following the list of injuries and usurpations reads. “In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.” Governor Cuomo, do you feel the anger emanating from the population you are supposed to serve, but you wish to rule? Do you see the Fates snipping the thread from which hangs your ambitions for higher office? Can you be so blind, so deaf, and so ignorant that you cannot see that your education agenda has made you a despot such as was overthrown in 1776? Do you not understand that you were re-elected governor, not anointed king?
Sunday, February 8, 2015
Saturday, February 7, 2015
Thursday, February 5, 2015
The governor’s education agenda is just plain wrong. First, there can be no doubt that teachers can and do have an impact on their students. In small schools and districts that impact is even greater. In 1989, researcher Craig Howley indicated that smaller schools and smaller school districts have a larger impact on students in poverty than larger schools and larger districts; and the more recent (2000) Matthew Project concurred. Additionally, there is also no doubt that tests measuring student growth can contain valuable information for parents and teachers. The best method of determining student growth is to have reliable and valid tests. Furthermore, an achievement test in third grade, assuming a student has had adequate teaching, should reasonably predict the child’s ability to succeed on the next year’s assessment. These facts are missing in the governor’s agenda.
What is wrong with Governor Cuomo’s agenda? First and foremost, the problem in New York is poverty. Long standing measures like the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that middle and high social economic students are learning material quite well, it is the poorer students who are not. Second, the governor’s insistence that small school districts merge is not only an attempt to rob people of local control of their schools, it is contrary to research on what will best help students. Third, the governor’s agenda demands that teachers be evaluated on assessments, yet there is no mention of the ability of a score on any of the assessments to predict with any reliability the score for that same child in subsequent years. The teacher never even sees the areas in which a child succeeded or failed, so there is not a way to improve teaching or truly help the child. Finally, his Gap Elimination Adjustment, his refusal to equitably fund schools, and even his Tax-Free NY initiative rob counties and school districts of necessary revenue; especially those schools that serve the poorest students.