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.