Here's what I think, and I imagine this will be the title of my first book.
Now that I work for NORT2H and the Lorain County ECS, I have the opportunity to work with administrators, teachers and students across northern Ohio. As I have spent the last seven months in and out of nearly 30 schools, something has become more apparent than ever (to me). the struggle between teaching&learning and the educational system is not only more unbearable as you work up the ladder from student to teacher to principal to superintendent; but the balance is shifting. I have a new sense of empathy for administration and those whom maintain local control over education. I use the word maintain instead of "decide" because in Ohio, the government and state department of education have taken most control away. It has become cliche, but Common Core, PARCC, SLO, End-of-Course Exams, 3rd Grade Guarantee, OAA, OGT, PBA and one or two other standardizations have taken a considerable amount of teaching time out of our schools hands.
To put this into perspective think about the idea of "yearly growth". The state wants kids to make progress. They decided that this is best determined through standardized assessment. Not only are our students judged by these tests, but our teachers and schools are also assessed on these few scores. Even better still, Ohio wants to use that information to judge the effectiveness of college education programs. So if you are graduating teachers and their kids do poorly on exams, the state can use that to revoke your ability to have an education degree program. Sounds to me like the state wants to limit (and thus control) where are teachers are coming from to create little mindless Common Core drones. I know, I know, pretty petty and outdated thought right? I digress. The two Ohio standardized exams that act as the "pre" and "post" tests to measure student growth, and thus teacher performance, are the SLOs. These exams are giving sometime within the first few weeks of class, then again in late March or early april (click here for Ohio's standardized testing schedule) So to show an entire year's growth, our students and teachers have less than one school year to teach/learn the curriculum. We still have school in April, May and part of June, yet we are being indirectly told that all of our curriculum should be finished prior to those months. Further, if you look at that testing date information, there are so many days devoted to testing that I wonder how many days teachers truly have to do all of those important things that our educational system does not devote time to: Building relationships, wonder, curiosity, independent learning, trial & error, empathy, etc.
With more standards (learning targets, objectives, "I-Can" statements, whatever you want to call them it is the same shit) how can we truly create more rigorous, robust, deep content? This problem becomes even more apparent when you throw in factors like professional time to work with colleagues. I don't mean the people in your department, I'm not even sure it is fair to say we need time to work with people in our grade level. Teachers need time to work with other teachers across the state to develop learning experiences that go beyond standardized testing. Look, taking a simple math problem and confusing it into a word problem and then telling a third grader to solve it, is stupid...just stupid. It is not driving learning, it is driving agendas. It is taking what we should spend one minute doing and creating a negatively-frustrating, ten minute scenario for our kids. It isn't fair and it isn't learning.
All of these new standardizations are not going to solve school funding, student achievement or anything else. Think about this too....SLO tests are created within the district and approved by a district-created committee. Yay, another committee in public education, all the others are so helpful too! While the state of Ohio has said there are guidelines that these committees will need to follow, no one I talk to seems to have a clear understanding of those guidelines, some have told me they do not even exist. So lets say there are guidelines. A district of 200 teachers or 2,000 has to have a committee approve all of these SLO tests by the second week of school. While some schools have written and used SLOs this year, none of them went to committee. So everyone is all ready our of time. Second, a school with one seventh grade social studies teachers is suppose to write an SLO equivalent to a school with six, seventh grade social studies teachers. Tell me, where is the validity of a test created under such parameters?
In the past I have written that I would rather be called a teacher and not an educator, because the institution of education is horribly broken and outdated. Teaching, still as awesome as ever. After all is said and done the following should be our professional mission statement:
Student learning is our GOAL
Knowledge is built upon culture
Culture is created through Trust
Trust comes from Empathy
.....Empathy is at the foundation of everything we do!