Not Unintended

I often wake up with opinion pieces on my mind.  I suspect I dream rhetoric and filter and remix in my head, and if the waking up is done correctly–and coffee is waiting–I don’t forget everything.  This happened the other day after a snowday, and I posted the following on facebook.  I decided that I’d crosspost here, not least of which it’s searchable (and I post far more on facebook than any one person should ever be allowed to).


For those of you not in education right now, I’d like to try to explain something to you about new standards (any new standards, not just all the talk of Common Core):

When new standards come along–and in my 12 years’ teaching this is my *third* set–we must change how we teach, what we teach. That stands to reason. Whether or not the standards are valid or not, grounded in pedagogy or not (and despite CCSS’s pitfalls, which are numerous, I still maintain they rock over the previous set of Minnesota standards, but that’s a discussion for another time).

Here’s what happens on the ground, however.

On my own time, unpaid, I redesign my units to cover the new standards. Fine. Whatever.

I then do my best to implement them all in a school year (always impossible, no matter what anyone says, but again, not my main point here) and do my best with my raw material: kids of vastly different backgrounds and support systems all with different learning styles and abilities.

That would be difficult enough, obviously, without the *new* trend toward punishment. I mean to say, if standards were simply *goals* as you might think, fine. Lofty goals are good things to have.

But that’s not what’s happening.

Beginning with Bush’s NCLB and continuing (even worse) with Obama’s RttT, here’s what happens, especially under the new set of standards which, like Minnesota’s previous set, is cumulative and grade-leveled:

I teach 9th grade. Meaning, new standards tell me what I need to teach in 9th grade, but that’s assuming that the kids got the previous standards met in K-8 under the new set. That’s obviously not the case (we had to implement the new standards last year), so we’re then playing catch up. NONE OF THE KIDS I TEACH FOR THE NEXT SEVERAL YEARS WILL HAVE HAD THE GRADE-LEVELED STANDARDS GROWING UP, no matter what. That’s just fact.

But–and check this out, folks–these kids are TESTED ON THE NEW STANDARDS THEY’VE NOT HAD.

And, when they fail–as has happened across the country last spring, as you’ve read–it means schools lose funding, teachers and administrators are fired, and kids are branded as “failures.”

For not being completely successful at something they never had.

For my 9th graders to even have a chance at being successful, mind you, I’d have to not only teach all the 9th grade standards completely, but catch up on everything they hadn’t been taught to the new standards in the previous eight years.

I cannot do that. No one can do that.

And those making the tests and calling for the tests to mean so much, from the Right and Left, KNOW THIS.

They. Know. This.

This is NOT a surprise, nor is this failure an UNintended effect.

So, the next time you read an article in a newspaper about failing teachers and failing schools, and you’re wanting to go post on facebook or carp around a water cooler about those “lousy overpaid teachers” and “crappy American schools,” don’t be a pawn. Know that you’re being recruited into continuing a ruse, a horrible, planned piece of public theatre, that is hurting kids.

Testing is big business. School “reform” is big business. People are getting rich over privatization.

Your kids, OUR kids, are the ones who lose.



You know how “educational” trends come and go every few years, sparking massive levels of devotion, construction, and deconstruction? If you’re in Minnesota, the latest one down the pike is “Q-Comp“–Quality Compensation–one of Governor Pawlenty’s babies.

The basic idea is that if teachers will only work harder to raise test scores, the State will pay them a little bit extra and everyone’s happy.

Yeah, so that’s the idea.

My lack of enthusiasm would explain why, when it was first tossed out to districts, my own voted to not even look into it because it sounded like a bunch of hooey.  However, now it’s nearly necessary, and it will soon be mandatory, so this year we’re starting.  Perhaps you can feel my joy; or perhaps that’s only snark

I shouldn’t be so cynical; part of it makes sense. It does, indeed, promote more staff development time (mandates an hour a week, actually), that could be a great thing and exactly what’s needed for overworked, flying-solo teachers existing in little separate boxes. Of course, in our district that means showing up an hour early every Tuesday, but that’s okay. We need this time.  (The great news about these meetings is that it’s not, thank God, some touchy-feely encounter group, even if having to work on process more than outcomes right now is annoying. The only thing Dr. Laura and I have in common is that I, too, don’t want anyone to ask me how I feel about a topic–who truly cares, ugh–but I do like to be asked what I think about it. Relational, I’m NOT.)

However, what turns me off (and doesn’t surprise me in the least, as it’s coming from Minnesota’s Department of Education, which like in most states seems to be run mainly by people who’ve never taught, never met a spreadsheet they didn’t like, and who haven’t spoken to a child in fifty years) is the bureaucracy and nitpicking micromanaging. Ugh. I don’t want to work in the corporate world. I don’t want to be controlled by data. I don’t want to have meeting minutes taken and sent in to prove I’m freaking worthy of that extra $300 (or whatever it is–I honestly don’t know and don’t care) so they’re willing to pay for 36 hours of meetings outside my already long day.

Pretty soon, we’ll have to file a department form in triplicate to bring up a topic of discussion at any random faculty meeting.  Bullshit.

Our–and by this I mean our PLC (don’t even ask me, I couldn’t tell you the acronym) which is the group that meets every week, and will be observing each other and whatnot–current problem is that it seems MDE (see above re: bureaucratic idiocy) doesn’t think anything that happens in a school outside of reading, math, and science counts for diddly squat. We’re supposed to come up with SMART (no, I’m not kidding, and yes, laugh with me, please–stands for something else that boils down to measurable*) goals, but the only ones the state seems to want to approve are those based on raising test scores in the above three subjects.

Which is fine, if public schools didn’t have Phys Ed teachers.  And guidance counselors. And teachers of health, shop, and FACS.

My PLC has a Health/Phys Ed teacher and a guidance counselor; the latter doesn’t teach classes, and it’s as if her education, her bona fides, her contribution to the school’s climate and the growth of *people* (you know, the kids) is worthless in the eyes of the boneheads who came up with Q-Comp (T-Paw, you listening yet?!?).

Are we managing figures in Excel, or are we forming well-educated, capable human beings that can contribute to the world?

Yeah, I know.  Silly me and my John Dewey, Diane Ravitch sensibilities of education.  They’re not kids…they’re scores.

Color me terribly unimpressed.  I’d much rather the State keep their paltry 30 pieces of silver and let us actually do things that matter and include all of us.

Addendum (later same date): Just got this in the news.  Only one study, true, but it also reflects many other things I’ve been reading.  Sigh.  Will they ever learn?!?

* Anyone else notice that in the world, acronyms seem to usually start with a cute word and have the elements match that, instead of the other way around?  Annoys me to no end. Waaaay too cutesy.