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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 46,179

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I have some problems with this.

First of all, this:

My second year as a principal (at School 50), I got 90 percent of my fourth graders passing the math test. We were busting our butts. Back then, the only students who had to take the tests were in fourth grade and eighth grade. The very next year, the state instituted grades 3 to 8 testing, and when they did that, test scores across the state crumbled. And when the test scores crumbled, so did teacher morale.

It took me five years of steady gains to move the scores back up to the point of getting 68 percent to 69 percent passing the English language arts tests and 72 percent passing math.

HE got students to pass tests? HE got scores back up?

No. The teachers and students did.

He may have been a driving force; in my district, principals are evaluated partly on school test scores and testing goals. Therefore, the principal exerts extreme pressure to teach to the test, and makes sure everything we do is directed towards standardized scores. He can use our evaluations as a weapon in that process.

FYI, higher scores don't necessarily mean more learning. It's about statistics. It's about manipulating data. It's not really about learning.

Then there is this:

What happens in schools today needs to occur within a system. Gone is the day when teachers walk into their classroom, shut the door, and do whatever they want to do.

For example, if we both teach fourth grade, but we don't teach the same thing, then when the fifth-grade teacher gets our kids, the students are not going to be at the same place in math.

I have problems with this. Why? Because the system is too authoritarian. It's TOO standardized, trying to force students into a standard mold, when people just aren't. It doesn't matter HOW strictly you standardize curriculum and instruction, students do not walk into ANY classroom all "at the same place." That's because they are people, not factory parts.

I worked for a district a dozen years ago who was adopting scripted curriculum and standardized pacing schedules for EVERYTHING. We were told that we had to use the scripted BULLETIN BOARDS in our scripted teacher's manual; that there would be random visits from district personnel to check compliance, and if our bulletin boards were on the wrong day, it would affect our evaluations. One admin in that district told his teachers that, if he walked down a hallway and didn't hear the exact same thing (reading the teaching script) coming from the exact same grade level rooms at the same time, that it would reflect badly in teachers' evaluations.

Finally, my principal told me he had to observe me reading the script from the adopted curriculum, and he had to use what he observed to evaluate me on the teacher's standards for professional practice, which included things like development of lesson plans, flexible delivery to respond to perceived need, etc.. In other words, the script didn't match the standards. I asked him what he wanted me to do; he shrugged and said, "Read the script." So I did. The students were confused. It was the first time I'd ever done that, and the script itself was awkward and not very coherent. My principal walked out after the observation, and I put the script down and taught the kids. He wrote up an evaluation based on things he'd seen me doing when I wasn't reading the script, and pretended it was all about the script.

Real teaching and learning just doesn't work that way. That's why there are so many problems trying to use a factory model and/or a corporate/business model.

At the same time, Mains does acknowledge many of the frustrations we're facing. I wish he'd recognize that it's the standardized reforms and privatization that has broken the system.

Are you a Democrat?

I don't think so. Of course, my perception is colored by a couple of decades outside the party, as an independent that never registered with a party, before becoming a "Democrat" in 2000 to protest the selection. So I see the Democratic Party from 2 different lenses, inside and out.

To be honest, I liked the party better when I was an outsider.

At this point in time, from my admittedly different perspective, a Democrat is someone who puts party before principle, and whose narrow concept of "winning" is focused on elections, not issues.

You are not that kind of Democrat. Are there enough "old" Democrats left to retake the party and make it stand for the principles in your list? To make the party meaningful and relevant again?

Reading down your thread, I see a Democrat writing off the left, writing off those unhappy with the direction the party is going, and telling us that the party will be better without us. "Us" being those of us with principles. I see a Democrat relating party membership to loyalty to party, not issues.

I'm not that kind of Democrat. I wonder what the response would be if all the "fringe" wrote their candidates in '14 and apologized for not donating, campaigning, or voting for them, because they'd been told that it would be better for the party if they left.

I see the claim of ten new, faithful partisans for every "fringe" voter purged. I don't believe that's true, unless those new partisans are coming from the right. I guess the Democratic Party can build a position of strength by encompassing the right, but then the relevance of the party is over.

At least as far as I'm concerned.

Am I a Democrat? I'm registered that way. I often vote that way. I don't, though, support in any way the direction the party has taken. I'm not taking any right-hand turns with the party.

We've always looked at outcomes.

The bottom line, though, is that we've known, since long before the standards and accountability testing movement, that teachers are not the most significant factor in those outcomes. It's SES that impacts "outcomes" more than any other factor, and that is beyond any teacher's scope of influence.

If a child in my classroom is not learning, I'm going to take it personally. I'm going to do whatever I can within the limits I'm given to work with to change that situation.

Sometimes a successful outcome is not measurable on a standardized test. Sometimes "success" is not defined by academic benchmarks.

One example from last year: One of my 8th grade girls, of above average ability and coming with a decent skill set, had an attendance problem. She'd moved from school to school, and had the same attendance problem in each school. For the first couple of months of school, I agreed to meet with her at least once a week before school to help her with the work she was trying to do from home. That apparently reassured her mom; at our first fall parent conference, she listened for a bit and then the dam opened, and I learned way more than I really wanted to know about physical and sexual abuse in the home. I contacted some sources of support for her. Convinced that school would be "safe," the girl began showing up every day. By xmas, the mom was out of the home, but hiding, so the girl wasn't attending any more. I continued to provide work, and "taught" through emails with my student and her mother; the student emailed assignments in to me.

By June, the mother had a new job, an above-ground place to live, restraining orders, and they were moving forward with a new life. This girl didn't show any growth on those high-stakes tests. So, according to those measuring academic "outcomes," I failed her.

I beg to differ. She, her mother, and her younger siblings are now safe and in counseling. She will be attending high school in a different town, but with regular attendance, she'll do well academically.

That's just one story. I've got hundreds of them. Hundreds of students to whom "success" meant something different than those outcomes measured on a standardized test.

I've got lots of stories about academic growth and success as well, but those come AFTER the foundation. Maslow's hierarchy.

I confess.

I never loved him.

I opposed him from the first. Not because I'm a fan of HRC; she's a neoliberal too, and I've never been her fan, either. Not because I'm racist. Anyone who knows me in the real world knows that to be ludicrous, including my 2 black nieces. Not because I'm a libertarian; I'm not. I'm a Democrat. I'm a Democrat with high standards and no patience for political bullshit. I opposed him.

Because he's a neoliberal, and neoliberals are bad for the nation. Because he told FOX, in an '08 interview, that one of the things Republicans "do better" than Democrats is education, and I'm a teacher. I could go on, and on, and on. I wasn't starstruck. I wasn't inspired. I actually listened to what he said.

Still, I shed some tears and cheered on election night. Partially in relief that GWB was gone; more because, even if he was the wrong man, America elected a person of color, which I still see as a giant leap forward.

Then I watched his appointments. I knew he was not good news before he was inaugurated.

Even so, I have been shocked and awed at HOW bad it's been. At HOW far to the right he has been willing to go.

I never loved him. I don't love him now. The damage he's done is enough that I don't hold out any hope that will change. I have no reason to gush over public relation photos or vague speeches. He's said some decent things; they are usually vague enough to justify the things he does later. He's done at least one thing in the last 5 years I support. I said so at the time. It pales in comparison to the rest.

I feel no glee every time he or his administration does something else worthy of criticism. I feel despair. I feel anger. I feel hopeless. There's no glee involved.
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