Sunday, July 15, 2012


On another post Anonymous wrote:

new topic- the script?

"our curriculum is scripted and politically correct, but doesn't prepare kids for standardized tests

-our curriculum does not allot time needed for continuous repetition of worthwhile strategies"

This is exactly the issue--back to the one room schools, real teachers knew, as parents know, that some students take longer to learn some concepts than others. As educators we knew timing was different, modes of learning were different-some of our students are tactile and need the concrete, etc.

Educators knew also that not all students show learning in the same way- that is the different ways of knowing. We had teachers who knew that the problem solving skills needed for higher level math and critical thinking took time to develop.

Now we have grants to fund a script to teach the test--not working!

We have grants for RISE-- but some univerdities have pulled student teachers--not much for them to learn by reciting the script. Also the very basics of running a classroom are no longer

teacher-led. Teachers are told exactly what posters to put up, what to put on their doors etc. This teaches emerging educators nothing.No wait-- this teaches them to be sure to have their walls perfect for "walk-thrus"-even the ones that occur after hours to check your walls. Smart educators,whose great-grandparents taught in this city are now telling their kids-- go teach in the suburbs where you can do what real teachers do-- work hard every year to get concepts across to students- whatever time frame or method it takes-- not how can I say what the RISE people need to hear to save my job.

Remember tax payers, across PA in about 400 other districts, teachers will be setting up, anticipating a new year. Students will be wondering-what will my teacher be like? What will I learn that is new this year? What will the teacher have up in the room?

But not in Pittsburgh.


Anonymous said...

I wrote the original post about why we are unable to get more students to proficiency on standardized tests and why we have such a huge disparity between white and black students. To me at least, anytime there is some entity that is far removed from day-to-day proceedings attempting to concoct a cookbook of how and what to teach for no other reason than to maintain tight control on teachers and a level of political correctness, you have done nothing more than develop a recipe for failure.
By their very nature, good teachers are able to monitor and adjust their teaching to push kids forward. This curriculum does not allow such a strategy. A good soldier of a principal will place you on an improvement plan before he or she would ever hear the wisdom of gearing instruction toward the needs of students.
THIS is the problem.
This disconnect, between people who inhabit offices on Bellefield Avenue and at Greenway---to the teachers who want to maximize the abilities of each student---is the stumbling block.
Principals are largely in the middle. The ones who sense the problem must stay quiet or risk their jobs. Since most of the old guard has been replaced however, you have PELA types who will never question. They would rather bow and genuflect, and hold teachers under the gun.

The funniest part of all of this is the "incentive package" now being pushed at teachers as "the remedy." On one hand, you have to use the horrible scripted curriculum, which makes the incentive idea a complete loser. On the other, even if your kids achieve, you will have to jump through hoops to ever get that "extra money."
PPS would rather give it to one of their own.

Friends, THIS is why our kids are doomed. Teachers know what to do, but aren't allowed to do it. They know how to instruct each student, but can't.

Anonymous said...

Truer words were never written-teachers do not teach anymore, they read. The district has had so many complaints from teachers that they now have the words in the curriculum that say "this is not a script". But you better be doing it when someone walks in. A good teacher knows that some things need more time than others and this varies from one group of students to another. Having guidelines and grade level requirements is not wrong but everything is not one size fits all.
And Heaven forbid if the students show a special interest in something and you would like to focus, just for a bit, on that. Forget it! You will be asked "Where did you find that in the curriculum?" If the lesson on the day of your "formal" observation is a basic lesson then you are rated as a basic teacher.
Teaching used to be a profession that was treated with respect, a profession where experience was valued and a profession that you were so proud to be a part of every day. A lot of us try to hold onto that feeling because we are here for the sake of the children. There are many days that we feel as if we are battling the adminstration for the benefit of the kids and just trying to get someone to let us teach.

Anonymous said...

*If the lesson on the day of your "formal" observation is a basic lesson then you are rated as a basic teacher.*

I don't think this gets enough attention. How are they grading teachers on the lesson, if they teachers have little to no say on the format, order, lesson methods, etc.?

I guess it's all about whether you have a nice enough smile (and aren't too high on the pay scale), and perhaps the "culturally appropriate" methods of classroom control you use? How well you've attached your required elements onto the wall?

It's insanity to be evaluated on something you have no say in.

Anonymous said...

Your point is extremely well-taken and is one that has been made to Dr. Lane with a strange response.

If, in fact, teachers are tied to a managed (not scripted?) curriculum, then CLEARLY, the lack of student performance/achievement is due to a "core curriculum" that is NOT meeting students needs.

Dr. Lane was asked to give seriously underachieving schools the ability or opportunity to use their own strategies to bring students up to par. Dr. Lane stated that should could not allow a poorly achieving school to deviate from the curriculum--particularly a school that was performing so poorly.

The question then becomes "What do you have to lose? Since, clearly the PPS curriculum is not getting results, why not allow a school to try to achieve the goals on their own decisions using effective teaching and learning from another venue.

PPS needs to consider the fact that if their "core curriculum" is not getting the job done, and they are "managing" it, it is likely the curriculum that is the problem and not the school/teachers.

Thinking, it seems, beyond a "managed" curriculum and unending streans of consultants is NOT a possibility. WHY?

Anonymous said...

"Thinking, it seems, beyond a "managed" curriculum and unending streans of consultants is NOT a possibility. WHY?"

That's an easy one. Because of Broad/Gates reform money/mindset and Foundation buy-in.

She (they) KNOW what works, even if all the evidence they've created shows that it doesn't work.

Honestly, I don't know how they can keep their beliefs and reality so separate in their heads. It's some sort of a skill, I guess. I wish they had different ones.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what I can add beyond my first post here. Having met Ms.Lane on a few occasions, she strikes me as someone who is completely out of the loop with regards to what teachers are being made to endure or someone who is very savvy where saying the politically correct thing is concerned.
It's also always humorous for me to read and hear the "Well, it is not scripted" commentary that comes from people like Lippert. Clearly, this has been her response du jour but it certainly does not hold water when walk throughs come around or when RISE evaluators show up in the classroom.
The message is clear---follow the curriculum to the letter, or else.

There are those among us--teachers who have great concerns--who feel a better day is ahead. They feel that RISE money will run out. They feel that Gates money will run out. They feel that there is some realization that the curriculum has been a trainwreck.

Sorry, I don't agree. Just like behind every third world dictator there is a kabal of like-minded, even more dangerous individuals, PPS is quite similar. I cannot imagine any of the current lieutenants ascending to superintendent. My God! At the same time, this district has hired so many individuals entrenched in the rein-in-teachers dogma that IS RISE that even if the money were to evaporate, some incarnation of it would be re-formulated. They sound alike at meetings and even use the same terminology. They're even insulated from furloughs.

As for Gates money, we make the mistake that Pittsburgh is some sort of island in the stream of education. On the contrary, the ability to draw comparable funding thanks to being a "cutting edge, Gates/Broad district" probably means all kinds of funding abilities and grants for years to come. Gates has not changed his view on teachers. He even wants to end the pension system as we know it for future generations of teachers.

He has proven that you can be called a philanthropist by throwing bundles of money out there and still push your own agenda. That's not philanthropy but rather, business acumen.

There is all kind of money out there--Gates and otherwise--to keep education corporate and to continue the blame game while empowering administrators, researchers and consultants.

Anonymous said...

The question then becomes "What do you have to lose?
Hmm--well, Nina E-V has said that books will be written about this time period and what we did in education. I personally think of the Titanic on that one.
But, IF the consultants,education companies and the other snake-oil salesmen can massage the data enough to make this look like it works-- it would be the greatest thing since sliced bread. Imagine the magic script one size fits all- that would solve urban education!
Gates could make another fortune!

Anonymous said...

Look, on a personal level, I don't have a problem with Nina or anyone currently at the PFT. We often talk about kool aid drinkers on this site in referencing those teachers who actually believe in the curriculum and that RISE is, cough, "empowering." But Nina and her staff are kool aid drinkers too in a way, as I actually think they believe that the union is a viable force to be reckoned with. To any veteran teacher, that's patently ridiculous and again, one need only look at the size of the contract book now as opposed to a decade or so ago to understand how much has been given away.
Before I was a teacher, I was in the corporate world. Maybe it's just me, but why would management ever feel the need to negotiate or bargain when it has all the power???
This is compounded of course by Nina's refusal--like John and Al before her---to use the only trump cards she has: organize her union, talk about her disgust, organize walk outs, organize strikes. Just as PPS refuses to raise taxes in the city so as to look politically correct, Nina refuses to use the only power she has.
Sorry, but why would management ever feel the need to bargain with a paper tiger?
I am a dinosaur, but an example of a unified group of teachers is what we saw in Tacoma a year ago. Google it if you are unfamiliar with it. It almost brings tears to my eyes---people willing to fight, willing to stand up for the courage of their convictions, from leadership down to first year teacher. And in the face of threatened arrests and court orders, they essentially said, "Come on and arrest us."
Pardon me for saying this, but management and labor should be necessarily adversarial. And America was built on the aforementioned courage.
But we don't have that. We have mamby-pambys.

As for your comment about rewriting history, of course. Look at how Ebony's office is able to manipulate public perception through her office. Look at how the idea of the Promise can overshadow all of the comments that our kids just aren't college ready. Look at how questions about teacher cuts without administrator cuts are just never asked.

Did you ever think you would see a day when a huge financial "donation" would actually have the contingency of pushing an agenda?

Follow the money. It's all about the money. And the corruption.

Anonymous said...

It's funny to me how corruption and incompetence often go hand-in-hand. We see that in those third world nations. We see it here. Yes, the start of the school year is going to be an absolute train wreck, for all involved, thanks to the incompetence of "Talent Managers" who were put into power by those who are corrupt in some way, shape or form.

That said, can you ever remember a time when the start of the school year is a mystery????
It's like they know the district is going to mirror Westinghouse's situation last year and will be delaying kids coming to school and witnessing the chaos up close and personal.