Ms Stockley, a 15 year veteran teacher who possesses National Board Certification, told the local legislators attending the Monroe forum that they should not have approved these sweeping mandates without first consulting classroom teachers. She said many of the most respected teachers she knew were feeling extremely stressed out by some of the so called reforms that seemed to be poorly thought out and rushed. Many teachers feel that the state mandates are not being clearly communicated to the teachers in the field because state officials are unclear in their instructions to local supervisors.
For example Stockley who teachers high school English III and A.P. U.S. History, was informed that she needed to set her Student Learning Targets (SLTs) so as to expect 70% of her students to reach proficiency by the end of the year. This goal was strongly recommended to her even though the new evaluation plan specifies that SLTs are to be determined through consultation between the principal and the teacher each year based on various factors including student characteristics. Apparently someone from the sate level simply recommended the 70% as a model goal. But in describing her classes this year, Stockley said that her classes contained an increased number of students with disabilities and several students who were no longer living at home and who were not in a stable learning environment. She states: “These types of conditions and numerous others, unrelated to the classroom can negatively impact learning and test scores for which teachers are still held accountable in the eyes of the LDOE even though we have no control over such circumstances.” Yet apparently the state expects sort of a pre-set performance from all such classes. That's the kind of frustrating uncertainty faced by many teachers according to Stockley.
“There are so many unknowns with so many changes in education policy being implemented at the same time, that we don't know if our students will benefit or be harmed”, Stockley said. “Our administrators don't seem to have clear directives from the state and the rules seem to change from day to day. Most teachers are not afraid of evaluation or accountability but feel that their careers are being endangered by these poorly planned reforms.”
“One of the changes teachers question is the rushed approval of voucher schools and course choice programs that will draw students and funding away from public schools even though it is clear there will be little state oversight and almost no accountability for such programs. Teachers believe this represents an unacceptable double standard”
My discussions with Stockley and many other dedicated teachers leads me to the conclusion that Jindal and the Legislature have missed a great opportunity by not consulting our experienced professional educators before launching some potentially harmful changes. But then I believe the motives of the reformers were more political than educational. I hope the so-called reforms don't drive away teachers like Ms Stockley. Our students need such teachers much more than any of these “bold” reforms!