Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Raising the standard of teaching

Trying to keep the GPA thread devoted to that issue... On that thread Anonymous wrote:

Question for anonymous: how do you raise the standard of teaching when it is governed by a horrendous managed curriculum in PPS that dictates every step a teacher must take?

Please explain.



Questioner said...

On another post Anonymous wrote:

4:15 - Some schools are being allowed the autonomy to develop a better curriculum, a better model, a better way to educate children. It will take COURAGE and COMMITMENT to FIGHT the status quo in PPS.

But that process MUST BEGIN, wherever, by whoever, NOW. If it is forced to be subversive, then so be it. PPS children's futures are at stake. Rally the parents, the community in all of the schools that are not educating the majority of students/children; and, that includes just about ALL with the possible exceptions of CAPA, Obama and SciTech.

Questioner said...

Doesn't Allderdice educate at least the majority of its students?

Anonymous said...

Allderdice? A significant number of the "Dice" students are being educated. White students are 84% "proficient" in Reading. Black students are 37% proficient in Reading. The Achievement GAP between Black and White at Allderdice is 47% !!!!!

Let's look at the overall progress at Allderdice or rather the LACK of progress, just in Reading "proficiency".

2003=72.5%, 2004=75.1%, 2004=75.6%, 2005=71.9%, 2006=77.9%, 2007=72.3%,
2008=64%, 2009=65.5%, 2010=69%.

From 2003 to 2010 Allderdice Reading "proficiency" DROPPED by 13 points instead rising by at least 20 points.

63% of the Black students at Allderdice are NOT "proficient" in Reading. You be the judge of whether or not the majority of students are being educated.

Might the "managed curriculum" be responsible for the downward trend?

Veteran Teacher said...

For those not in the know, here's a brief run-down of the "managed curriculum" mentioned here.

Five years ago, I was allowed (even encouraged) to modify daily lessons as I thought best. There was even an official phrase for that: "monitor and adjust".

Sure, there was a course overview I had to follow. It listed the topics I had to cover, and gave a rough timeline. For example, it might say "spend two weeks on the quadratic formula".

But I was trusted to handle the details. One class might need another day's practice on the basics, so they got it. Another class might not, so they got an enrichment lesson.

And I was able to use my experience - and my knowledge of my students - to present lessons tailored to them.

For example, the textbook might present one way to introduce the quadratic formula, but I knew another way, one that was simpler and easier to grasp. I was encouraged to use what worked best.

That is all gone.

I now have a binder. It says I must teach each day's lesson exactly as scripted. No modification at all is allowed.

It does not matter if I have a better method, one that has been very successful in the past.

It does not matter if the class might need a review example or two before starting the day's lesson.

I must teach each day's lesson exactly as scripted. If I do not and a supervisor walks in, I'm in trouble.

The rich irony here is that the district is telling everyone that it is "empowering effective teachers."

They are doing just the opposite.

And for what it's worth, I'm tired of fighting them. I'm taking an early retirement.

recently retired veteran teacher said...

Good explanation, Veteran Teacher.
The only thing I can add is the joy of "walk-throughs" of admin checking on your script; and observing your walls so that the correct materials are hanging on the walla and on the board; principals buying door decor so every door is alike. It is certainly exciting in September to go into a room exactly like the one you were in last year-NOT!

Questioner said...

It's really sad that our schools are being set up this way, and without any real discussion outside administration either. Mr. Broad may believe that exact cookbook style instructions worked for building homes and should work for educating children as well. But did it even really work for building homes- chances are slim that he actually lives in one of the cookie cutter homes his company build.

Old Timer said...

Questioner, I thank you for posting this as a separate thread. I guess I can only say this about the comment posted at 4:15: I am in complete agreement with you, but how do teachers go about this?
You need only look at board minutes over the past year to notice the number of terminations and resignations of teachers.
You need only look around your school to hear about teachers being placed on improvement plans.
You need only look around and see administrators spending more time on observing teachers than dealing with things like discipline.
And PELA people? These folks are being placed into schools to do nothing but ensure compliance and "fidelity to curriculum."
We've all heard the speeches from department heads about tweaking curriculum and how it is managed but not scripted, whatever that means. The reality is clear: teach everything you see verbatim or deal with the consequences.
Most of us 'old timers' saw this coming from the beginning. Kaplan curriculum was one thing, but this is another.
As a teacher, I abhor scripted lessons. It's not education and seeks to take the most valuable part of the process--the student/teacher relationship--out of the equation.
As an adult, I abhor being made to push a curriculum that has an agenda at the kids. Education does not mean teaching kids what to think, but rather, how to think for themselves.

Diane Ravitch recently talked about how Gates gave up on the smaller school mandate it embraced after a few years as it was a failure. I can only hope that like dominoes, the pieces will fall when Gates gives up on this teacher effectiveness rant.

Weingarten's commentary is noteworthy in this regard. If she truly wants to re-empower teachers and remove ivory tower types from the decision making process, she need look no further than our own town.

Man in the Trenches said...

A couple of thoughts about canned curriculum:

1) The kids who really want to be in school and learn know the curriculum is a complete joke, too. Ask them. They laugh at a great deal of what they are forced to do and know when the teacher is doing someone else's bidding.

2) Unless I'm seriously mistaken, CAPA, Obama and Sci Tech abide by canned curriculum, too. The rumored number of teachers on improvement plans at CAPA is proof enough, and there is a PELA in charge there. IBMYP has two mandates, I believe--IB and PPS curriculum. And I believe Sci Tech also adheres to PPS.

3)It's clear that the PFT signed off on this long ago. No surprise there. I have to think that new leadership, in the form of Mark Sammartino, would address this continuing atrocity. "Empowering effective teachers"? Hardly. This bloated department has more than a handful individuals who should get pink slips tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Dear Teachers,

As a mom who made a really difficult decision to send her children to private schools this year, reading your demeaning stories and lack of respect for your profession makes me feel like I made the right decision. You deserve so much better. How did this happen? It is sad for the kids, educators and community.

Does anyone know why there were 100+ people were at Minadeo tonight?

Anonymous said...

Mom, you are right. You made the best decision for your child/children.
It is critical that they are your first priority. Its clear, they are not that to the PPS people.

Anonymous said...

Wow, as a teacher I am completely offended. I don't think it's a lack of respect for the profession. It is a lack of respect for people who don't really know, or care to know, about the profession. I dare someone to say that the teachers don't care about the students. There are a number of teachers in this district who have actually fostered some of their students because they care for them. The hours spent after school and on weekends with students has made it so that teachers spend more time with students then they do with their own families. If anything, teachers have put their students first. What they should do is say screw it and focus on their own families first. Why not? Their families should come first. Instead, teachers have chosen the profession because they care in a worldly way, for all children. I mean, why should they want to teach the group of students who don't care to learn and their parents do nothing but criticize what the teachers are doing. Step into a teacher's shoes for a week, deal with being cussed out, deal with being held accountable for students' learning when you have no control over how to get the knowledge to them, deal with the lack of power to discipline, deal with being accused that students don't come to school because you're not entertaining enough. Once you have dealt with it, then post what you like.

The fact of the matter is, the reason why teachers are standing up against these horrible decisions and getting them out there is so that the general public is educated on what is happening in the schools that tax dollars go to. The reason they stand up and speak out is BECAUSE they care enough to do so, and in most cases, enough to risk their jobs.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:39

I am Anon 7/13 11:03

Why are you offended? I am not a teacher, I do not work for the district and I think teachers are being targeted as the scapegoats. It is unfair and teachers have their hands tied. My kids will not get a decent education due to the muzzling of teaching.

I want my kids in public schools. It is NOT the teachers fault.

Old Timer said...

You know, it occurred to me today that at least in my case, I've said my peace about the state of affairs in PPS. Now it's all repetitive. As someone who is on the edge of retirement, the various issues shouldn't really bother me, but they do.
Anyway, I think my positions are pretty clear. I thank Questioner and Pure Reform for their efforts and am going to spend a little time feeding the pigeons in the park and walking circles at the mall for a while.
Best of luck to everyone this coming school year.

solutions R us said...

I think that some of the comments that generalize about teachers miss the big picture. My husband is a doctor, an internist (the least paid) yet he knows that there are doctors out there that care little about their patients. I am a nurse and I will defend the hard work of many nurses, but have witnessed first hand uncaring and incompetent nursing care. I have children in the public schools for 16+ years and have seen the best, the worst and the in between of the teaching profession. That statement by no means diminished the hard work and dedication of the majority of the teaching profession, it is just a reality.

Yes, teachers are the latest scapegoat for what is wrong in public education (unfairly). But let's not loose track of the fact that EVERY profession has its best and worst and that we should all strive to provide all of our teachers with the tools to really make a difference.