This week has been a horrendous week to be an educator for G. Besides the usual crap he has to deal with, he has been the subject of a witch hunt. Why? When asked if a state assessment test was important, he said yes and made it part of their grade.
State assessment tests are treated differently in each state. Here in Oregon, it is part of the schools “report card” – an assessment that is published on the education website as well as in the paper. The grade a school gets has many factors including how kids grow year-after-year in terms of improvement. Schools with poor “grades” are subject to action plans which could be extremes like replacement of entire staffs. Parents use these report cards to determine if schools are good. Districts use them to determine which “bad schools” need to be fixed. And schools use them as a way of setting goals for the future year – “how do we increase performance” plans.
Are they important? Yes.
Do kids think they are important? Nope.
So when asked, by a smart middle school kid, G answered they are. And he made them important. The average growth each year is, per educational standards, 5pts. He made a grade based on it. I should also mention that kids get to take it 3 times. So, if they screwed around the first time, they can take it again.
One kid did not show growth from last year on the test. He received a grade reflective of it. And his parents have flipped…..
…out at the teacher.
And what started was the slippery slope theory in practice. Each things snowballed into a sort of “and another thing” rant. Things that were minor got swept up and made bigger as the issues gained momentum. Which lead them to do something quite bold – email the entire group of middle school parents asking for their complaints about the particular teacher.
An angry parent who was not happy at this “witch hunt” made him and the others aware of the email that went out. She did not like the fact they were unhappy with the decision and deciding to stir up the community instead of dealing with the situation head on. She also didn’t like how nitpicky they were being.
For example: G was having the kids read a book in class. Before they ended the book – like right before, he showed the kids the movie in class. This is their bitch. THIS is the hill they are willing to die on. Or he is not providing the kids enough individualized feedback on their work. He teaches 60 kids. He grades papers from 60 kids. And they want individualized feedback.
Back in my day, if I wanted that kind of feedback, I met with the teacher after class and asked for it.
While not all teacher are good, I am a bit bothered by things being said. They are asking “deep philosophical questions” about education when neither one of them are educators or have an education background. They are questioning how things are being done at the state and local level – and holding the teachers – the ones who are given the consequences just as much as the parents and kids accountable for what is happening. And all because their straight A student that is “normal” got a bad grade.
G has seriously come close to throwing up his hands and saying “I’m done”.
As he said, would you go into the local pizza place and demand they cut the onions differently because it makes them less potent – and just for you? No. You may say “no onions” but you aren’t going to hover over them as they make it and question each step along the way. But yet, that is considered acceptable with educators especially after they give your kid a bad grade for work they didn’t do.
As I wrote the principal last night, we need to keep our eye on the ball – and the ball is what we are teaching our kids. Sure the teachers are teaching them reading and writing and arithmetic, but what are we teaching them about failure? What are we teaching them about situations where they don’t do the work? What are we teaching them about life?
We are teaching them that parent will always fight their battles. Bad grade resulting from the lack of work can be turned around with some bitching. And failure can be turned around with an argument from Mom and Dad.
I think teachers should start asking “would you like fries with that?”
In IT land, one of the first things you have to learn is that you serve not the employees in a company but the company. The company is your customer. This minor shift means you are no longer at the beckon call of the employees. You serve the interest of the company first. It’s quite empowering.
But in Education, we are shifting to a model where you are serving the parents first. Make them happy and they keep their kids in the school. Kids become the commodity instead of the focus of education.
And we wonder where all the good teachers have gone.
Education as a system is broken. I am the first one to stand up and say that. We have a system based on an antiquated model that doesn’t engage the student as it needs to. The world evolved but the system did not. That is a problem.
But the tact being taken these days does not address these issues. It does not address the fundamental problem.
We start making the good people throw their hands up in frustration and eventually walk away.
And that benefits no one.
note: Not all teachers are good teachers. If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know I do not believe that teachers are infallible. I just see good teachers get chased away – then parent wonder aloud why. This is why. I swear if G could walk away, he would right now. He is truly done. A guy who has spent a huge amount of his own money to make sure he can teach the way kids can learn and not to what the district funds. A guy who takes classes and works with kids who have learning issues to ensure they can be successful – not because he is required, but because he wants kids to learn and succeed. A guy who frets over what he did wrong when his kids don’t study and fail his tests. He cares but is being treated as though he doesn’t. This is my problem.
9 Comments Add yours
Guess who got a call from the HS Dean this morning complaining that Cam wasn’t taking the State testing seriously? YEP! That would be me!
Kids don’t get the big picture on this one and? If it doesn’t impact them? Why should they? I like G’s plan!
Oh! And for the record? I’ve been having the OPPOSITE problem with teachers. Cam’s don’t *want* to give him a failing grade for work not done. I’ve asked them to do just that – FAIL him if he refuses to do the work. Summer school is a wonderful consequence for him!
As someone who knows the in’s and out’s of public education, I agree completely with your comments. What we have is a system inbedded in the 19th century educating students living in the 21st. Most public school administrators lack the skills, vision and talent to convert instructional approaches in their schools that would better equip students either next steps in higher education or for vocational training. For those administrators who are capable of doing just that they are stymied in their endeavors either by know it all parents or by teacher unions. The time is long overdue for a complete overhaul of public education. Only problem is this: Who’s going to lead the charge?
“We are teaching them that parent will always fight their battles. Bad grade resulting from the lack of work can be turned around with some bitching. And failure can be turned around with an argument from Mom and Dad.”
I deal with that constantly. And you’re right. It makes those of us who do care about what we do and put in a solid effort, want to quit.
What’s the solution? I’m not sure. Somewhere in the middle probably. Personally I’d like to see some parents and some administrators admit that what they do (and -gasp- what the students do) ALSO plays a major role in student performance vs. dumping everything on teachers.
We are walking a fine line today in regards to education. Unfortunately, everybody loses.
Take the fact that education has to start with the Parents. In order for it to be important to the child, they child must understand that the parent sees it as important. Unfortunately, in today’s world, most parents are not taking that step.
Secondly, our education system is failing in one aspect that the “bad” teachers are being protected by tenure. So, there is no consequences to that.
Couple all of this with a complete lack of communication and you have a recipe for disaster.
I agree with your post here and the comments so far. And I do wish there was an easy fix. Tell G to keep the faith in knowing that even though he is struggling with this one kid, he is benefiting so many others…..
I am a teacher. I am actively involved in my kids’ education. It burns my ass when I see a teacher not even trying…just coasting to retirement.
There’s a reason I never want to set foot in a public school classroom as a teacher ever again…
However, back when I WAS, I had to juggle that fine line between wanting the parents to stay the hell away, and wanting the parents to be actively involved in the music program. Few parents had any musical knowledge, so I didn’t have much problem with them thinking they knew all there was about the subject. But it made it harder to explain why little Johnny wasn’t getting an “A” in band. I mean…it’s just “band”, right?
I think that teachers who teach specific subjects (music, art, p.e., etc.) don’t have quite the same pressures as those who teach the “4 Rs”. It sounds like G was approaching the testing in the right manner. It’s sad that the ignorant parents tend to have the louder voices…
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My parents are/were both high school teachers, have been for 30+ years (my dad retired last year). They have noticed a huge shift in how parents treat them and who is blamed for bad grades. It used to be that parents would treat them with respect, value their opinion and hard work and would make the kids work harder to improve their grades. Now, the parents complain to the teachers about bad grades and blame the teachers. They think their kids are geniuses that are being treated unfairly for one reason or another. The responsibility for good grades now lies with the teacher, instead of with the student.
And yes, there are plenty of bad teachers. I have had horrible teachers who didn’t teach me a thing over the years. BUT, I’ve also seen other students abuse teachers and actually bully them to get an A. It made me afraid for my generation. If we don’t learn that hard work gets you rewards and doing nothing gets you nothing, then we will stop moving forward and fall behind even more.
As the mom of a middle schooler, I know how tough G’s job is and I would not want it for the world. I have also explained to DB that the state testing is important to the school and if he does well on the testing the school will not bug him with extra tutoring and stuff and let him read or something during the tutoring time.
I also have a simple philosophy for education. Everyone has a job. Its the school’s job to provide a clean, safe, well lit and comfortable (temp wise) for the kids to learn.
Its the teachers jobs to stay up to date on their subject matter & such and teach the material in an engaging manner.
Its the students job to sit their ass in the chair, pay attention, ask meaningful questions and do the assignments when they are assigned and as they are assigned.
Its the parents job to make sure that my student shows up clean, fed, rested, and ready to work. Its also my job to communicate with the school and if my child needs some help, I am allowed to make reasonable requests. Also, if my school does not provide something I want my son to know, its my job to get that to him. DB was obsessed with Ancient Egypt, so I took him to the Met to see the exhibit.
However sometimes the parents expect the school to do freaking everything.
Personally, I would love for DB to have G as a teacher. Please send his sweet ass my love.