Tag Archives: APPR

A Parent’s Fear

I had an interesting conversation tonight with a parent whom I was CERTAIN was planning to have her child refuse the tests this spring. This is what she said to me: “I just love my daughter’s teacher, and when I think that I could do something that might hurt her, I get worried.”  This is a common thread of conversation that I’ve been hearing lately among the once-certain, once-defiant parents who were completely committed to test refusals last summer.

I think I understand where their hearts are. I think I do “get it” when they say that their WORST FEAR is that something that they or they child could do would possibly have a negative effect on a teacher that is beloved, a teacher whom they recognize as one who cares deeply for their child and has done everything in her power to make sense of all the CCSS nonsense in NYS.

I also think that I understand in their heart of hearts, these parents aren’t afraid of rocking the boat, or afraid of standing up to NYSED. What they do fear, however, is that personal connection – how it would affect someone that they have come to trust and respect and admire.

Despite the many gains made in my little school district, this one fear still exists. It is driving decisions that are truly based in a concern for the well-being of an individual PERSON – one that they care about so very deeply.

So …….. to all of you out there that are living with this fear, I want to tell you:

1. You must do what is BEST for YOUR CHILD.

2. Your child’s teacher – that person that you have grown to respect and trust and admire – will not be ‘hurt’ by a test refusal. In fact, if enough of you refuse – a score cannot even be generated! And, truly, how unique is that – that your child’s teacher would not be defined by a number and neither will your child!

3. Teachers support you in your refusals, and you know what else? Even IF somehow your refusal “hurts” us – we know that you have our backs. That means more than anything that a test could ever tell us.

http://www.nystoptesting.com/2012/08/what-opt-out-is-not.html

Where do you eat your lunch?

Dr. Mark Naison posted this yesterday on the Facebook Opt Out page:

“Just received confirmation from a former student that during training, TFA tells is Corps members not to interact with veteran teachers at the schools they are placed in and not to eat in the Faculty Cafeteria because those teachers are “jaded.” ”

If there were really any more proof needed that TFA and its privatizing buddies were out of touch with real education, real teachers, and real schools – we have it here!

I have not had lunch in the Faculty Room in over 2 years. This is not because I don’t enjoy the company of my colleagues, it’s because the policies of  Race to the Top have destroyed  collegiality  among teachers.

It used to be, once upon a time, that the Faculty Room lunch was a place to get to know the newly hired teachers in your building, to share a laugh, to talk about how to address students’ needs, how to motivate students, to share successes, to get advice, to be PEOPLE that cared about one another.

The Faculty Room was the place where sympathy cards, birthday cards, get well cards and retirement cards were left for signing because everyone went there. It was the place where you could find a lively debate about politics, the Oscars, the Grammys, the Tonys, the Emmys, educational practices, sports teams, or even simply which is better – coffee or tea! It was a place full of loud voices, shared laughs, and sometimes quiet tears. We walked in knowing that there would be “friend” there.

Now, the Faculty Room is a ghost town. The newspapers still litter the long tables, but most days they are still perfectly folded at 3 PM. If not for a copy machine, a soda machine, and our mailboxes, I would hazard to guess that someone would be considering making it an office!

Why has this changed? Do we suddenly care less about one another as people? NO! We have been bombarded with policy changes that have made us competitors and not collaborators. School administrators may say that they have encouraged and even developed Professional Learning Communities in the name of collaboration for the benefit of our students, but the reality is that each of us stands alone at evaluation time with the scores of our students looming overhead. In fact,  think about this – our lunch times have even been scheduled (in many cases) to PREVENT us from talking to someone who is not in our PLC! We are encouraged to use our lunch time to meet with our PLC – under the guise of a “relaxing atmosphere in which to discuss student outcomes and analyze data.” Talk about an appetite suppressant!

If we’re not meeting with our PLC, then most of us are sitting at our desk with a cup of yogurt, or a piece of fruit reading the emails that have been piling up in our inboxes or working on our SLOs or grading interim tests, or collecting “evidence” of our professionalism or communicating with parents. Conversations about our “real lives” happen in quick snippets between classes or after school in classrooms with the doors closed – lest it be discovered that we are NOT analyzing data. Cutting us off from one another is a means to an end – the END of a school community, the END of public education.

We have lost our way as a collective group of people who will “see us through”. We don’t have the “group history” that once had.  We have been forced into a world much like The Hunger Games – kill or be killed………all for the enjoyment of those in the Capital.

PRESSURE!!

Well, it’s done………..the lesson plan, the pre-observation conference form and all the materials for my formal observation are finished.

When I heard last week that some of my colleagues had spent upwards of 10 hours on this ONE lesson, I thought that they were going a bit overboard. I couldn’t imagine that anyone would spend that much time on a plan for a 40 minute observation. Well, I didn’t spend 10 hours, but my estimate is that I spent about 6 hours on mine.

Why? Well, it’s not necessarily because I’ve planned something more elaborate than anything I would “normally” plan to do……… in fact, my observation will be during a period when my students are working through some Math Centers – mostly games! I will not be the “sage on the stage” – instead I will be walking around watching them play the games, guiding them, and pretty much keeping some order to the classroom. I figure that this will either kill me or make me some sort of “hero”………it’s a gamble I suppose.

And, let’s get one thing STRAIGHT…… I don’t want to be “hero”! I just WANT TO TEACH!  I want to do what’s FUN and MEANINGFUL……..not what some stupid rubric calls “highly effective”. I want to do what I KNOW is developmentally appropriate for each and every one of my students. I want to guide them to their fullest potential while they’re in my classroom. I want to be in a school where there is actually TIME for free play, exploration, and things that I miss so much – like putting on Fairy Tale plays for parents.

Why did I spend so much time on THIS ONE PLAN? Well, there’s pressure – the pressure (or fear) to get a “good grade”. There’s the pressure to fill out all the paperwork ‘correctly’, and since this is the first time working with these forms, there’s the pressure of not knowing exactly what to expect. In my heart of hearts, I KNOW that I’m a good teacher, but it is nice every now and then to have that validated – and this is my ONE SHOT at getting that validation.

So, I came up with the games that will be the Centers. I made the sheets where my students will record their work. I have everything set to go, and on any other day I would go through these with my students bit by bit, piece by piece and it would all be very relaxed and FUN! We would work out the kinks together – with me getting their input on what games are fun and which ones are “boring”. BUT – this time I want it to all go as perfectly as possible. And while I know that isn’t going to happen, I’m already stressing over what I imagine could go wrong…….the thing that could sink me.

The paperwork was not difficult to complete – heck, I KNOW what my goals are, I KNOW what I want the students to do, I KNOW how it fits into my ‘big picture’, but there is pressure to put it all on paper perfectly. I had to: describe the lesson content, explain where it fits in my curriculum, tell the ‘big idea’ of the lesson, explain how I would differentiate and actively engage the students, list my criteria for success, describe the feedback I will give my students, and tell what examples of student work I will bring to my post-conference. That’s just the Pre-observation form! On the lesson plan, I had to list my objectives, tell which standards I’m aligning with, describe connections with prior and subsequent learning, list all the materials, give all the academic vocabulary, provide class data, give my success criteria, detail my assessments, describe my learning activities, and list possible adjustments to my lesson.

My observation is on Thursday, and already today, the familiar stress-induced ache in my left shoulder reappeared today. I know this feeling well – I’ve had it a lot this year. So, I’ll spend the days up until Thursday losing sleep, obsessing over this ONE lousy period, popping Advil for the shoulder, and in general being on edge.

I still have the “unannounced” observation to look forward to. This is not a time when my Principal comes in and takes a look at what happens in first grade. Unfortunately, this is a time when my Principal comes with a clipboard and a form and checks off any items for which he can find “evidence” of my teaching ‘skill’ and then gives me a score. More PRESSURE!

AND………..before June, I have to collect 18 “artifacts” of my professional conduct – parent communication, evidence that I’m involved in Professional Learning Communities, evidence that I’m involved in the school community – you know, that I actually do something other than work from 8-3 for 180 days, and evidence of my continuing professional development. These items have to be submitted for another score. More PRESSURE!

Of course, all of this doesn’t mean a damn thing if you get rated “Ineffective” based on student test scores – because in NY, 40% (the student test score portion of your evaluation) actually equals 100% of your evaluation- you’re simply “Ineffective”. PRESSURE!

Now, imagine yourself as a 6 or 7-year-old coming to school this week to a teacher who is already feeling anxious about something that’s going to happen on Thursday.Do you think this teacher will be the same carefree, high-fiving teacher you left on Friday? I doubt it. Try as I might to NOT let my anxiety overtake me, I’m sure that I will be short-tempered – fearing that “normal” 6 and 7-year-old behaviors are going to somehow affect me.

Imagine that you are 6 or 7 and every day is like this – teachers on edge, information coming at you at break-neck speed. There is no time to PLAY (which is what you really want to do) and hardly anyone at school smiles any more…………and YOU feel the PRESSURE too – take this test, read this book, solve this math problem, read another book, but please read it faster this time, memorize your math facts, learn your sight words, take another test……..wouldn’t your inner child be screaming “STOP IT!”? Wouldn’t you have stomach aches and headaches? Wouldn’t you cry? Wouldn’t you want to stay home?

And just when you think that maybe, just maybe, you can shield your students from some of this – it’s BUDGET TIME! Get those requisitions done! PRESSURE! We may be cutting teachers – what do YOU think could go? PRESSURE! There may not be electives for your high school aged child next year – what do you do as a parent? PRESSURE! Your friends and neighbors go to the school board meetings and name the names of teachers that they feel should go. PRESSURE!

Maybe that’s the goal – to put so much PRESSURE on veteran teachers that we’ll just go away……at this point, I don’t know any more…….I just know that the PRESSURE will increase until June. Then I’ll have a few weeks to get over it and jump back into the PRESSURE COOKER……..

Welcome to the World of Paced and Scripted Curriculum

http://engagenystg.prod.acquia-sites.com/sites/default/files/resource/attachments/3m1.1.pdf

Well, NY…………here it comes…………..PACED and SCRIPTED Curriculum courtesy of our friends at engageny.org.

The link above is 100 pages long and it is ELA Module 1, Unit 1 for Third Grade.

If you can stomach it, take a look at lesson 1 – it’s only 6 pages long complete with directions to “gather the group back together”.

The BEST (well, ok the WORST) part of all these modules is that NYSED is now saying this is AND ONLY THIS is acceptable curriculum in NYS. They’re going to cut us all a break, though and allow us to use “Textbook Money” to print enough of these lovely guides for every teacher.

Here’s the kicker, though – there are lists and lists of “recommended texts” to match each lesson, each module, each assessment. Where are we going to get the money to buy all these books? For crying out loud – there are schools with NO LIBRARIES or LIBRARIANS! And, how on earth will every third grader in the state be reading the same books on the same days?? I’m pretty sure that those books aren’t going to fall from the sky.

Hey, what about this: How about if BOCES buys enough sets for the schools in their regions? After all, most of NY’s RTTT money went to BOCES for training in CCSS implementation. BOCES trainers tell us all to visit engageny for the latest breaking information. Every district pays into BOCES COSERS – we should probably be able to get our materials from them right? WRONG! Our district has been told that our BOCES will NOT be purchasing enough books for everyone. WHAT??

Adding insult to injury, if you dare to visit engageny, you will see that there are NO modules for ELA below third grade! From what I’ve seen, primary grade teaches will have the joyful “opportunity” to attend training in early August on these yet-to-be-seen modules. Yeah, that’s a great plan – NOT!

Teachers are constantly being told to implement this, do that, test this, collect data on that WITHOUT THE PROPER TOOLS, MATERIALS and TRAINING! And, don’t even get me started on the fact that the CCSS is SOOOOOOOOO developmentally inappropriate that it isn’t even funny.

So, I guess – coming to YOUR CHILD’S school in September – no books, no materials, and teachers with no training or time to examine the curriculum in-depth. Of course, since teaching has become a “paint by numbers” activity, I guess it doesn’t really matter………or does it??

I’m So Tired………..

I’m not just tired……….I AM EXHAUSTED!

  • It’s observation time for me and that means aligning a lesson to the Common BORE Standards, completing all the required paperwork, preparing the lesson, and using a prep period for my Pre-Observation Conference. Let me make this very clear: I am NOT opposed to observations at all! In fact, I wish that my Principal had the TIME to stop in my classroom on a regular basis and get to know my students, me, and see us all in action – even on my worst days. I am opposed to a contrived “dog and pony show” simply for the purpose of getting a “good” score.
  • I’m TIRED of hearing that teachers will NOT live in “Highly Effective” – only visit there once in a while, and on the other hand being told that EVERY SINGLE ONE of my students should be a pre-determined level if there is any hope of them doing “well” in school and on state tests.
  • I’m TIRED of watching GREAT teachers retire at their first chance because they just can’t take the beatings any more. Teachers with 20, 30 years of experience who still have plenty of “good years” in them and who WANT to teach are kissing it good-bye because of constant demoralization.
  • I’m TIRED of watching NYSUT play catch-up with their “Listening Tours” and “Member Action Center” begging members to inform them of the problems with CCSS, APPR and excessive testing. You know, if they had LISTENED to begin with – they would have heard us screaming to NOT give in to King Andy’s ridiculous demands.
  • I’m TIRED of the stories of parents being intimidated by NYSED and School Administrators when they decide to OPT their children OUT of unnecessary high stakes tests!
  • I’m TIRED of the outright THREATS coming from Albany, Commissioner King, and Governor Cuomo to hold back funding increases for schools that don’t just jump on their bandwagon.
  • I’m TIRED of engageny.org being touted as the “go to” place for CCSS aligned lessons, learning modules, and information, only to find that ONE UNIT of MATH for second grade is a scripted 300 page mess. There are NO ELA modules for PRE-K – 2 yet, and those trainings are set for AUGUST! Way to go NYSED – leave us hanging and then use your incompetence to somehow prove that teachers of young children aren’t “up to the challenge” of implementing CCSS.
  • I’m TIRED of school budget battles where programs for students and teachers are the ONLY things cut.
  • I’m TIRED of being encouraged to present material to my students that is developmentally inappropriate – for crying out loud – LET THEM BE KIDS!!
  • I’m TIRED of Response to Intervention – a process that has, in effect, withheld services from a student that I KNEW in October needed services – because we had to have DATA to prove what I KNEW about 6 weeks into the school year.
  • I’m TIRED of my years of experience and my Master’s Degree counting for NOTHING!
  • I’m TIRED of watching another district – this time Buffalo, NY – inviting TFA in while qualified and properly trained teachers sit waiting for the chance to TEACH!

UPDATED MAY 18

  • I sat at the Commencement Ceremonies of American University last Saturday and watched a young graduate with 2 degrees (in Political Science and Environmental Studies) win “The President’s Award” – the most prestigious award given at Commencement be applauded for “continuing a committment to public service” by signing up with TFA. I am tired of watching qualified EDUCATION MAJORS march across the stage wondering if they will get a chance to teach.
  • I am sick and tired of school district leaders who say “if one more teacher retires, we’ll be in really great shape financially.” WHAT THE HELL? Since there is no plan to replace the teacher, apparently financial concerns trump educational concerns.
  • Our district has a plan to move teachers into different classrooms. This wouldn’t be the end of the world, and I’m quite certain that it happens to lots of teachers every year, but in our little school – this is rare. This proposal – which was sort of dumped on us – is now up for debate and modification, but that means one more after school meeting where we will be asked to “leave our emotions at the door”. Sorry, but we aren’t robots – we have valid, developmentally appropriate concerns that have, so far, been brushed aside because they don’t fit with the “PLAN”.
  • As it always goes in our PreK – 12 school, I’m tired of the students in grades 7-12 being released from school on June 10, while the elementary kids come for full days until June 20. That, in itself, isn’t a horrible idea. However, we elementary teachers have the same amount of “work” to do – which could now include packing up our entire classroom to be moved while having students in those rooms all day. I’m tired of giving my time away for free – like somehow because I teach first grade, I don’t need time to complete grades and reports and folders and portfolios and pack without students in my room.
  • I’m tired of hearing that “PreK – 2” modules MIGHT be done by September, and being told that is what we’ll be using next year – and having no training (except training that I could volunteer to attend in August).

 

Why I MUST Occupy

I am going to Washington DC to join other activists at Occupy the DOE 2.0 because:

  • Try as I might, I cannot gain a lot of traction here in my little town. I talk and talk and talk, but for the most part, I feel like I’m talking to myself. Oh, my colleagues “get it”, but with declining enrollment, looming observations, and all the meetings and paperwork – they just don’t seem as fired up as I am about the current state of public education. I need to go to re-charge my activist batteries and return home energized to keep talking.
  • My students DESERVE better than the paced curriculum that NYSED is pushing on them. THEY do NOT need a teacher reading from a script, but a teacher who takes into account their individual differences and does her damnedest to make her classroom where each of them can progress at their own pace.
  • Our NATION deserves better. We cannot allow the likes of Michelle Rhee, Wendy Kopp, Mike Bloomberg, Bill Gates and Andrew Cuomo to control the narrative about what “good teaching” and “good learning” are. We have to STOP the Race to the Top!
  • I will have the opportunity to be surrounded by like-minded people who are informed, passionate and looking to organize in a way that my Union doesn’t seem willing to do.
  • I have to show my own children the importance of standing up for those who need help – whether they are children in rural communities or urban areas, I have to be the voice of the voiceless. My own kids need to know that being a citizen means you look out for others, and you speak up when you see injustice.
  • It’s just the right thing to do…………I hope you join me.

http://unitedoptout.com/event/occupy-doe-2-0-the-battle-for-public-schools-read-all-details-here/

Evil Ways

This was originally recorded by Willie Bobo in 1965, and the song was written by Bobo’s guitarist Sonny Henry. Bobo was Latin Jazz percussionist who was a big influence on Santana and played on some of their tracks in the late ’70s.

My apologies to the songwriter,but this tune has been bouncing around in my head screaming to be updated to reflect Education Reform.

You’ve got to change your evil ways, Andy
Before your nose grows too long
You’ve got to change, Andy
And every word that I say is true
You got me runnin’ and racin’ all over school
You got me writing, and typing and running myself down
This can’t go on, Lord knows you got to change, Andy

When I get to school, Andy
My room is dark and my computers are down
You’re hangin’ round, Andy
With Bill and John and-a who knows who
I’m gettin’ tried of waitin’ and foolin’ around
I’ll find somebody who won’t make me feel like a clown
This can’t go on, Lord knows you got to change, Andy