Tag Archives: CCSS

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).

 

Running on Empty

“I don’t know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels
I look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too”

I have had this blog post bouncing around in my brain for the past two weeks, but honestly, I’ve just been too exhausted to sit down and write it.

February dawned in Western NY with a major “lake effect snow event”, and we were lucky enough to have a Superintendent’s Day. So, on a day when no one should have been driving, my colleagues and I trudged into the school for some “quality” professional development. We had been told that we would have all our questions about our APPR Plan answered. We were told that we discover that there is really nothing to fear.

As we waded through the 26 page Danielson rubric (2007), I looked around the room and saw in the eyes of my colleagues nothing short of a look of utter exhaustion. Glassy-eyed, we were instructed to note the difference between “effective” and “highly effective”. We were told that our lessons will be scripted because our observations have to have “evidence” of our teaching.

Our observation cycle will involve a pre-observation conference, the formal observation, and a post-observation conference. I grew weary just listening to this – already my head spinning about the paperwork that needs to be completed. Additionally, we will have an unannounced observation, and a collection of “artifacts” to submit before the end of the year.

All of this is just for our 60 points. We have another 40 points coming from individual SLOs or District-wide SLOs based on State Exams. The charts, the graphs, the DATA was shared with us about how those scores will be generated.

For the past two weeks, I’ve watched as my colleagues pass in the hallways asking “Is it Friday yet?” on Mondays. I’ve listened to the reports of the lone Principal scheduling back-to-back observations and through no fault of his, arriving late for an observation and missing the entire opening. Of course, not to worry, we can discuss that at our post-observation conference.

In the meantime, I’ve sat at an RTI meeting as well: the meetings that suck the life out of you as you sit and rehash an intervention that hasn’t worked YET for a student. As we sit and look at STAR Assessment scores, there is the ever-present feeling that I am failing this child. I should be doing MORE, MORE, MORE to get those scores up.

Throw in a Board of Education meeting with the news that we are about $300,000 short,and the rumors of who’s being cut start to swirl. Good people become paranoid, fearful, and start to name the names of people they think could be cut instead of them. The questions about the viability of our district resurface and our Board sits and says “We’re going to TRY to look down the road to get in better financial shape.” Would they accept that as my answer at a post-observation conference?

And, if it weren’t bad enough that we’ve had grey skies, snow, cold, and enough bad news to last a year – toss in 100 Days of School celebrations, Valentine’s Day, and one day when half my class was absent.

Everyone – the adults and the children are sicker this year. Maybe it’s because the flu is worse, but I’d be willing to bet it’s because we’re all exhausted. Teach better! Learn faster! Do this! Do that! And, do it to a level of DISTINCTION! (although as we’ve been told – Highly Effective is a place we’ll visit, not live in)

I come home and I’m asleep by 8 PM, waking at midnight and then trying to get some sleep after that. My children, who are in high school, spend time at sports practices and games and then come home to at least 2 hours of homework EVERY NIGHT!

There’s no more gas in my tank – I am running on empty and my friends are too……………

Won’t Back Down

The story of teachers in two schools in Seattle, WA who are refusing to give standardized tests, as well as the story of teachers in Hamburg, NY who refused a flawed and unfair APPR plan are stories that inspire me. I KNOW that it is mass resistance like this, and the Chicago Teachers’ Union strike that will have lasting impact on changing the course of the ridiculous high stakes testing mania in public schools.

I read and watch very public resignations by veteran teachers who are fed up and refuse to be part  of the testing machine. I share their stories, I talk about them to colleagues, and I secretly wish I could be one of them. Maybe you’re a teacher reading this and wishing you could be one of them too. Maybe you’re a parent or grandparent reading this and wondering why more teachers won’t do the same.

The reality is that for many of us, our incomes are the primary incomes for our families. That doesn’t mean, though, that we can sit back and say “Well, how nice for them, but I could never do anything like that.” Maybe we can’t quit – maybe our families need us to keep working in a system that is broken. Maybe we think that because we can’t do those things, we can’t do anything. NOT TRUE!

We CAN resist from within. We CAN start talking to our colleagues about the testing madness. We CAN refuse to spend our days subjecting our student to endless, mindless test-prep. We CAN refuse to send home packet upon packet of test prep material over a ‘break’. We CAN plan projects and lessons that aren’t scripted. We CAN have honest discussions with our administrators expressing our concerns about what our students are losing out on because of test obsession. We CAN find one other person who agrees and attend a rally, a meeting or stand together at a union or faculty meeting and speak the truth! We CAN refuse to let any data that the school collects define our students for us or for their parents. We CAN write letters to the editors of our local papers. We CAN meet with parents and discuss NOT test data, but what we know about their child and development. We CAN tell parents that it’s a great thing to opt their children out of high stakes testing. We CAN close our doors and let the little children PLAY! And, let’s face it, we CAN make any lesson or any activity ‘fit’ the CCSS if we have to. We’ve all done those “dog and pony show” for our observations, haven’t we? We CAN accept that if we are deemed “developing” instead of “effective” based on a ridiculous rubric, it’s not the end of the world. We CAN start talking about curriculum and textbook decisions with the power of what we know – what is developmentally appropriate for our students. We CAN say that we will NOT standardize our students or our teaching to meet anyone’s demands – especially the writers of the CCSS. We CAN demand that our state and national unions start supporting what’s good for our students and not what’s good for the corporate agenda.

Remember, every drop in the bucket fills it a bit more. You may be one drop compared to the CTU or the teachers in Seattle or Hamburg or those who have publicly quit, but you CAN be one drop that keeps filling the bucket of resistance!

Lessons Learned

It almost always seem strange to me to celebrate the coming a “New Year” in January, as for me the new year begins in September. However, this IS the time of year when many reflect on the year that has just ended, so it seems appropriate that I should do the same. Here are some of the lessons (in no particular order of importance) I learned in 2012:

  • I am not alone in my disdain for the overuse and misuse of Standardized Testing to evaluate students, teachers, principals and schools. It’s a bit scary at first, when you start to speak up and are met with blank stares and/or eye rolling, but if you hang in there long enough – people WILL listen! 
  • The CCSS are not based in reality and worse, not based in anything that lifelong educators know about child development! Of course, they may have been IF actual educators had been given any input.
  • Race to the Top is a thinly veiled attempt of the Obama Administration to impose a “National Curriculum” – something that is prohibited by the US Constitution.
  • Opting your child out of any tests that will be used to measure teacher effectiveness will NOT hurt your child or your child’s teacher or your school. Fear is a great deterrent, and to those parents who are on the front lines opting your children out of testing I say “Thank You!”
  • If you want to do ONE THING that will make you feel empowered, you MUST make every attempt to attend either: Occupy the Dept. of Education or a Save Our Schools event!
  • Social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc) is a great place to make connections with folks who are just as passionate as you about saving public education from the corporate reformers.
  • The Chicago Teachers’ Union is the example that ALL teacher unions should follow. We should be advocates for what’s right for kids!
  • VAM is a SHAM – enough said.
  • Facebook groups like “Dump Duncan” ,”Opt Out of the State Test: The National Movement”, “Wear Red for Public Ed” and “Teachers’ Letters to Obama” are pages you should like and follow. There is a wealth of information there from activists all across the US and the World!
  • Diane Ravitch is a tenacious advocate for public education and teachers. Her blog is daily “must read”.
  • An administrator can bully you, make you feel as if you have created some big local controversy – BUT there are ways to still have your voice heard. You may need to be “incognito” (which some may say is cowardice, but may be necessary) but you can still tell the TRUTH about reforms that are killing public schools.
  • Response to Intervention is nothing more than a way to delay services to students whom teachers can identify in the first weeks of school. The hoops you have to jump through and the progress monitoring are tedious, not needed and ultimately do NOT give struggling students the help they need in a timely manner.
  • NYSUT, AFT, and NEA are not working in the best interest of their members! It is time to find a way to reclaim our unions and make them work for US and for kids! If we could all be like CTU, there would be some major changes in the focus of teachers’ unions. I see it coming, and it may not be fast enough, but I think things will change.
  • Individually, we must decide what matters most to us and then find people of like mind. Using those connections, even a small group of people can have an impact.
  • I greatly admire veteran teachers who have publicly resigned, saying “Enough!” and while I wish that I could do the same, that isn’t the action I can take at this time. That doesn’t mean that I buy the reforms, but I am acutely aware that my income is my family’s main income and if we want to continue to eat and live indoors, I simply have to find different ways to be active.
  • While I may have had a setback in 2012, I’m looking forward to 2013 and any part I can play in the continuing fight for public education.

Dirty Work

Yes, I’m a fool, and yes, I keep doing their dirty work. As a teacher in NY State, with no other job opportunities or a nest egg to retire with, I am going to be doing the ‘dirty work’ of implementing the CCSS. Yes, I know it’s not good for kids. Yes, I know I could always just resign. Yes, I’m aware that I don’t HAVE to keep doing their dirty work, but I also have mouths to feed, bodies to clothe ,and I have grown accustomed to living indoors.

These links will give you a look into the “dirty work” that teachers all across NY, along with me are being asked to do on behalf of reformers that haven’t listened to our voices at all. There were no teachers involved in the design of these reforms, and even worse NYSUT, AFT, and NEA have been rallying behind them. It’s easy, I believe, to rally around something when you have no idea what it means in a classroom. For my primary grade students, it means an almost wholesale loss of “free play” – a critical part of their social and emotional development. It means that every child should be at the same place at the same time, which flies in the face of anything that we KNOW about child and brain development.

http://engageny.org/resource/grades-k-2-ela-curriculum-plan

http://engageny.org/resource/required-fluencies-in-the-common-core-standards-for-math

http://engageny.org/resource/prekindergarten-grade-5-mathematics-curriculum-map

http://engageny.org/resource/publishers-criteria-for-elaliteracy-and-math

http://engageny.org/content/nys-common-core-k-8-social-studies-framework-is-now-posted

http://engageny.org/common-core-curriculum

I feel I must make it clear that I am not opposed to ‘standards’. I am opposed to standards that have been created and forced on us simply for the PROFIT of textbook companies, test publishers and educational entrepreneurs. There has been little to no thought about educating the “whole child”. The end goal is to raise test scores – not to be concerned about a child’s emotional well-being.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/eight-problems-with-common-core-standards/2012/08/21/821b300a-e4e7-11e1-8f62-58260e3940a0_blog.html

I may not be able to walk away, although at times I’d like to, but there are things I CAN do. I can inform my colleagues of the flaws in the CCSS and our test obsessed environment. I CAN attend rallies. I CAN tell parents what I think. I CAN post the following in my classroom:

A Declaration-KenRev-611×17