Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Building the Plane in Flight

Scott Richard, Executive Director for the Louisiana School Boards Association, pointed out some of the serious problems with the new Common Core State Standards in recent comments to the Press Club. I agree with Richard that the standards are being rushed into full effect without adequate preparation. BESE and the State Department of Education are ramming this additional reform into our public schools in a big hurry based on the assumption that these new standards will magically improve the performance of our students. This so called “reform” may be more like throwing a tired swimmer a huge rock and then telling him to swim with it an extra hundred yards to shore. We may not be pleased with the results.

Unlike some of the more vocal critics of the Common Core, I don't believe the CCSS is a Federal Government takeover of our educational system. That has pretty much already happened in many respects. I don't believe the Common Core is a secret plan to shape the minds of our children to make them into willing robot-like workers for the multinational corporations. And I don't believe it is a scheme by President Obama to indoctrinate our students to love socialism.

My understanding of Common Core is that it started off as a joint effort by the National Governor's Association and leaders of the College Board elites (the producers of the SAT tests) and some of the huge testing companies to create a standard set of criteria for academic achievement for American students for all states that would prepare all students to attend and succeed in college. (Don't believe that part about “College and Careers”) It is also thought that these more rigorous standards which are supposed to require the development of analytical thinking and problem solving skills would better prepare our students to compete for high level jobs with students from all other countries.

My main problem with the CCSS is that the developers assume that all students can and should learn the same college prep material that they (the developers) judge to be appropriate in order for students to receive a high school diploma. The developers of CCSS apparently believe that all children have the same intellectual capacity, the same interests, and the same motivation to tackle a curriculum that was designed by a group of academic elitists who believe in college for everyone. And if any part of those assumptions are not correct, then it is up to the public school educators to do whatever it takes to make it happen and to make sure that all students succeed in mastering the new standards anyway. I believe these are impractical expectations that are not appropriate for many of our students. I believe such standards when added to the previous ill advised reforms initiated in Louisiana by Governor Jindal will lead to a continued crisis in our public education system. Just like the current federal government shutdown, this is a totally unnecessary manufactured crisis that can only lead to harm to many of our students and educators.

My perspective is different from that of Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, David Coleman, and many of the other leaders of this initiative who had never spent a day in a K-12 classroom dealing with real students. Unlike these self appointed experts, I had the good fortune to work as a high school science teacher where I had the opportunity to teach science to a rich cross section of our Louisiana students. I found that while all students were wonderful to work with, they were just as different intellectually, talent wise, and motivation wise as they are in their physical abilities and interests.

Arne Duncan and Bill Gates would never dream of prescribing the same standards in a physical education class for all students of the same age, but they are quite willing to do so for all the academic classes. We would never require that students have the same requirements for the high jump, the hundred meter dash or weight lifting, because the physical differences and athletic potential of our students are visually apparent. It would be considered cruel and unfair to require a 10th grade student who is 5 ft 5 inches tall and weighs 220 lbs to clear a 6 ft high jump bar in order to pass a physical education class. But the same range of differences occur in our students' academic potential and interests. Yet in education it is considered OK to raise the academic bar and to make it exactly the same for all students.

For years now I have been preaching about how our schools have increasingly narrowed their focus to only college prep requirements. More and more we are ignoring the Arts and vocational-technical skills. This is happening while many industries requiring voc-tech skills are booming in Louisiana. Our employers are beginning the process of importing skilled workers from other states and from overseas. With their dead end training, our graduates will be relegated to serving these imported workers in our fast food restaurants. The Common Core will narrow this focus even further. Just because the developers of common core religiously repeat that these standards are designed for “college and careers” does not make it so. I submit to my readers that there was no one, not one person, involved in the development of Common Core that was a voc-tech or an Arts or Music educator. In my opinion there is very little in the Common Core standards that address the need of an educated work force to be familiar with tools, with construction principles, with mechanics, with electrical wiring and plumbing, with practical nursing, and physical therapy, with practical math, and with dexterity and with arts and music. The developers of the Common Core believe that if students are required to spend a certain percentage of their reading assignments reading technical manuals that this will prepare them for the career part of the standards. Bull s_ _ _!

What industry or profession adopts an entirely new set of standards for their workforce without testing of any kind? Diane Ravitch points out that this is what we are doing with the adoption of the Common Core. Even the best engineers, the best designers always test prototypes and do small scale testing before totally overhauling a factory to implement a new manufacturing process. Yet with the implementation of Common Core we are willing to “build the plane while it is in flight”. (The credit for those quotes goes to Dr Lottie Beebe and Scott Richard)

Only in the field of education are the bosses willing to implement a totally experimental approach to all operations without pilot testing. If it fails then it must be the fault of the educators on the ground who just did not implement it correctly. It can never be the fault of the reformers who never have to implement anything. Teachers, get ready to face the music two years down the road when this plane starts to fall apart.


Anonymous said...

I'm so tired. The stress level is through the roof. It'd be different if I were in a C, D, or F school and Ineffective or Effective: Emerging...but I am in a B+ school, and Highly Effective...if I am fatigued beyond being able to do even one more "reform"...how are those in worse situations coping with the emotional drain?

Anonymous said...

our administration is pushing rigor now.....on top of all this other mess. Also be sure you give out the reward cards to good students. Fill in your behavior reports and follow the PBIS rules. Everyone needs to sponsor a club after school this year and I signed you up for the concession stand on Tuesday evenings for the football games. Oh, sorry you did all that planning but the symphony is coming and the kids are going to an assembly. Do not forget your SLTs are due next week and also your PGP. You have to have Mrs. Master teacher review them first and she is getting behind with all the ones she has received so get yours in early. Besure to spend some time each day talking about the anti-bullying program and be sure to check last years iLEAP scores so you can recommend students for the reading support and math support classes. You have 3 parent conferences during your planning period, two of the kids have been acting this way since 6th grade and don't make so and so's mom mad because she will go to the school board. Just let her vent and when she calms down explain what you are going to do about his lack of effort. The rigor walk throughs start this week so be ready for your visit from the supervisor. Be sure your entire class knows what they are learning and be sure to have your activity groupings done by reading levels, not behavior. Tell the bad kids they can have some candy if they are good. Use technology. Have an exit ticket. be sure to walk all around your room NEVER sit down. Oh, two students need make up work by 2pm for the parents to pick up. 10 of your students are going to the band competition so they need work to do on the trip. You have not replied to Mrs. So and So's email from this morning. Answer that one before the other 20 you have because she is friends with the Superintendent.Here's your tickets to sell for the dance- bring the money to the office after each class and give each child a receipt. Mrs. Perfect complained her child didn't get one and she needs it for her taxes. Be sure to do alot of hands-on, I know your room is small but maybe some of the kids can move the desks around for more space. Your getting two new students but the textbooks are on back order so see if you can have them share a book till you can make copies.Make sure you check for dress code violations, gum chewing, shirts tucked in and belts on. Don't forget to greet each student as they enter. Keep your transitions smooth, chunk an article once a week and help the kids do the math problem of the day. We are out of paper for the copiers but the truck should be here Monday so you may have to buy paper. If you see a stray dog while out on duty send a student to the office because the SRO said it may be one that bites. Be sure the kids aren't trading ID tags between grades and write up any boys who are pinching each others nipples, it's some new trend we are seeing and a Dad complained. We are recommending you review the COMPASS observation rubric before you get observed. The administration sent out an email with all the areas they are seeing alot of problems in so read that and fix them before you get observed. Also I noticed that you are missing a lesson plan for Sept 20th and you know you must have those done and in the network folder for the entire week every Sunday. Oh did you see the email about the switch in the schedule for the 4 day week? instead of even odd even odd the master teachers changed it to odd even odd even. There have been too many rowdy kids at the pep rallies so when we release to go to the gym this afternoon have the problem kids walk closest to you and remember to seat them alphabetically in-case we need to find them or something.
Have a great day! Remember you are here to make a difference in these children's lives.

When do we get to actually teach????
We all want to be great teachers but with all the changes and new programs and such when do we have time to work on improving and growing as teachers?

Anonymous said...

Pretty good, except you forgot that we need to get more technology...but there are no more grants for wholesale technology and the technology that we got grants for 8 years ago do not work with the "new" internet provider the district installed this summer. So, all that stuff you created online for kids to practice with is not usable...and the testing that we were required to do on Eagle last year can't be done this year because the kids get kicked out of online access before they can read the questions. So, "just" have the kids do the test using pencil/paper and tell them to quickly put their answers online before they get kicked off line. Make sure that you create a list of modifications/accommodations that are expected of 504/SPED kids...but the reality is EVERYONE in the room gets the mods because reading the test aloud interrupts and distracts the other kids, and even the "regular" kids' parents expect their child to get extended time, preferential seating (like I have 28 front seats) and copies of notes they were supposed to write when we went over it in class. Make sure to make notations on lesson plans for the 3-4 "options" for kids to "choose" how they want to complete assignments so we can meet the district requirement of differentiated instruction for each child...although students will only half-ass do the one they choose. Make a list of students that are close to moving to the next level up on testing because if they are a few points from Mastery..they will be easier to "lift" than a kid that is in the middle of the scale. Be sure to list the Approaching Basic and Unsats in your lesson plan folder and grade book so you are ever conscientious of the kids that we are "failing to reach" if they still have this rank at the end of the year...despite your doing everything in your power to practice their skills at home and see no help coming from there. If you see a kid without a coat when it gets cold, turn in their name to the guidance office so we can get them one AND be on the lookout for kids that look like they need to talk to the guidance counselor about lack of motivation or home problems. However, the guidance counselor will likely speak to them once...so it is your best interest to do personal counseling sessions with them in the hallway while the rest of the class "suffers" from lack of teacher input...but in order to get any work out of this kid ever again, talk to them and hope no one in the room decides throwing AA batteries at other kids is a "fun distraction" until the teacher returns. Let the kids go to the bathroom if they ask because who are we to determine what an emergency is, but if they get caught doing something illegal/get expelled for...NEVER let them out of your sight again! If one of your kids comes to you with a probation officer, you'll only find out when the probation officer shows up for a conference...but you don't have a high enough pay grade to know why they have one. If a kid comes to you with a Behavior Intervention Plan, make sure you talk to him in calming tones no matter who he has spit on (usually a weak "target" kid)...or you might insight more unruly behavior and it will be your fault and they can use this against us to keep him in school. Oh, we want YOU to figure out how to improve your test scores...but we are going to tell you how it should be done...not let you come up with a plan yourself. Provide documentation for ANY and ALL bullying lessons in your plans.

Anonymous said...

Wait for all your kids to wash their hands and enter the cafeteria before standing in line to use the microwave to warm your lunch. You can eat with the other teachers that happen to eat at the same time as you, but keep your eye on your kids and go correct them if they get too loud or touch each other. At this point you have about 12-14 minutes to scarf down your food before collecting your class and making them walk quietly back to class, a feat harder to accomplish than climbing Mt. Everest! If you have to potty, buzz the office and wait 6-8 minutes for someone to come down to watch your kids...or in case of emergency, intrude on the teacher across the hall to step in the middle of the hallway and keep an eye on BOTH classes until the deed is done or an office appointee shows up. By the way, so-and-so's kid threw up and had to leave at third hour and we can't get a sub to cover her classes...so we need you to give up your planning period to keep an eye on that class...it'd be great if you could just teach it for her despite the things you had listed to do today. We have an IEP conference immediately after school...don't let the car riders out of the room early, although we don't have a list of who actually rides in a car. If it is raining at the 8 minute recess, if you didn't have duty and thought you might catch your breath/potty...recess will be cancelled. We need more teachers on duty...so you will have to pull 2 morning duties and 2 recess duties per week...make sure your copies have been run and you show up 20 minutes earlier than the 35 minute morning "kid collection" time to give your computer time to turn on for 1st hour to walk in on duty days. If a kid even thought they got hurt doing an activity in your classroom, write an accident report...it is better to have one on file than to wish there was one on file. If a fight breaks out while you are on duty, break them up but don't get hurt. You have 10 sick days per year, but only two of them are personal days and try not to miss multiple days in a row before testing. Be careful what you say and do because by the time the students twist it at home and the parents report it to the principal...you may want to call your union lawyer before answering any questions no matter how innocent and right you think you are! If you have any personal business to handle, (legal, insurance claims, doctor/dentist call backs, etc.) make sure you are not seen by students on your cell phone. Don't plan ANY doctor/dentist appointments for yourself, or your dependents, on the faculty meeting days...even if they really need it. Make sure your grades are posted online in a timely manner, because if you wait a few days, parents are complaining you NEVER get around to it. Don't ever be caught sitting at your desk, grading papers/posting grades online, when a supervisor walks in the room. Stand at your door and monitor hallway traffic, but make sure the kids in your room are working on a bell ringer WHEN THE BELL RINGS. Don't use red ink to grade papers. Make sure that none of your social network friends will leak any of your personal pictures, posts, etc. from your page to the general public or the consequences could be, well...bad. Pre-test, mid-test and document progress, post-test...not only for the year, but every unit! Document this in your lesson plans. Make sure to keep up your website, and it'd be great if you had communication with your parents via email/class newsletter. Oh, we need a sponsor for the athletic teams, cheer squad, someone to take Beta to convention for a weekend in February.

Anonymous said...

NO field trips before testing...the kids might like it, and one teacher may love it...but too many other teachers' VAM is at risk to take their time away...except for the pep rally, candy sale kick off, motivational speaker, choir concert, band concert, the high school mobile theatrical group, the high school homecoming parade, testing pep rally, and another one or two I can't think of. Oops...we forgot Explore testing and NAEP testing! And in the middle of ALL this...don't forget to teach the basic skills they will be tested on using a curriculum that doesn't exist. Good luck...if your kids don't do well...you will be placed on a fast track to being fired! And ANY teacher left with an ounce of sanity would give a hearty response of, "Thank God!"

Michael Deshotels said...

I believe all of the ridiculous, nit picking, "to do" lists detailed by our anonymous readers above result from the fact that all accountability has been removed from parents and students and attempted to be transferred to the teacher. This stupid new design of accountability is not only cruel to teachers but is impractical and will never work. This has happened because our education system is now being run by individuals who have no real knowledge of education, yet they have been empowered by our Governor and legislature to create this insane system. Every time John White says that his policies are designed to "empower" teachers I just want to throw up!

Jeremy said...

LOL, I swear you all must be from Avoyelles parish and sitting in faculty meetings with me because I've heard the exact same words being used. If not, then it's kinda scary how similar things are around the state.

I've already talked to Mr. Mike about student accountability when it comes to EOC tests. Trying to find out why fair counts as passing for students, but does not count one bit for the teacher's proficiency score. Getting the runaround....as is expected.

Anonymous said...

Love this! Sort of like a reality check for me! If we are all having these things happening then we aren't the INEFFECTIVE ones. I feel so much better to know I am not alone!
I'll add this. We have a Heroes theme this year. So we spend time talking with the kids about what it takes to be a hero and we have speakers come in or show videos of heroes. Yesterday the kids were asked to define what a hero means to them and we had a guest speaker come and talk. I didn't get to hear what he said because I was trying to "glare" holes into a boy in the upper part of the bleachers who was busy touching the heads of the three girls in front of him with a pencil. Over and over and over and over....
Anyway after the speaker the kids all got busy writing the names and whys of two or three people they think of as heroes. The speaker made the rounds of the front row, shaking hands and offering words of motivation. One boy near myself and several other teachers asked the speaker for ideas. The speaker, trying to be supportive said, "well...what about one of your teachers? Seems like they are heros." Kid next to him says, "Nah. They don't really do anything. I know! Iron Man is cool and he does cool stuff"

Ahhhhhhh middle schoolers! :*

Anonymous said...

I have experienced all of the above, in various positions, in several school systems. Although, I don't find fault in the standards themselves. They are quite accurate in defining a positive, collaborative, contributing, member of a civil society. The beast in this beauty of a tale is the ASSESSMENTS.[period]

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