I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

03 March 2013

What I Learned From Our Superintendent at the SSC Summit

ETA: I am trying to go all BEST INTENTIONS on this.  I mean,  we DO need to be real about the opportunity gap.  And we DO have a pretty obvious problem with student results.  AND assessment is important.  Besides, I love professional development; every good teacher is a growing, learning teacher.

That said, I feel like the District's leaders are localizing OUR problem in teachers and at schools.  That's fair to a point.  But I need to see that the District is willing to ask itself the same hard questions they want me to ask myself.

In my years in the District, I have worked hard to be the best educator I can be for ALL my students.  On the rare instances I have asked for help from the District, they haven't even suggested professional development: the answer is silence.

It's kind of like the inclusion push: I strongly believe in inclusion.  I hear the District saying that they do, too.  I see inclusion students.  What I don't see is the District providing the support to make inclusion real.  It is not just an issue of better professional development.

I want to see the District holding themselves accountable for students the way teachers do.  Maybe the Superintendent's new evaluation is the start of doing so.  But I think veteran high-needs teachers - who have been surviving in a system whose inequities are at times the fault of the District - have the right to expect more.
  1. Our teachers are not broken, but they sure need a lot of professional development to fix support their practice.
  2. Societal inequality has an enormous impact on student achievement, but teacher professional development will fix that, too.
  3. We are interested in a child's growth over time, not fixed measures.  This is why we collected great entry assessment data for our Kindergarten students this year.  Oh wait, scratch that.  We knew we forgot something.
  4. Testing is so overrated, which is why we are buying the Smarter Balanced assessments, and schools will be piloting them whether or not they have the technology to support them.
  5. Our move to inclusion has nothing to do with cost savings, state audits, or any of that.  It is all about equity.  The fact that our teachers don't believe us has nothing to do with their lived experience of 120 school days of inclusion.  It is because they are broken need support.
  6. We barely have two nickels to rub together, but seven cents is going to professional development that we are choosing because our teachers are broken need support.
  7. Teachers whining that they need support in the form of adequate copy paper for the year, the technology necessary for the Common Core standards and Smarter Balanced assessments, buildings with adequate heating systems, and social-emotional support for students are broken need to be professionally developed until they are too tired to whine.
Maybe I am just too old and jaded these days, but the Superintendent's claimed vision was so different from my reality that I felt more frustrated than fired up.  It's nice to hear that you are not broken, that the fact that some students come to school hungry matters, and that we believe in equity in outcomes.  But when the District's actions are so removed from its rhetoric, it is hard to believe your ears.

I spent a significant (more than a thousand dollars) amount of money on the kind of professional development that the District wants to standardize (and that's after getting a scholarship, by the way).  So I suppose I am happy that the District is going to start eating some of those costs.  But honestly, I am tired of hearing how the support I need is more professional development.

I am already doing that.  I spent two weeks of my summer and countless work year weekends pursuing professional development.  I read books and articles on my profession.  I seek out opportunities to be observed and get feedback, and to observe other teachers.  Many teachers are already doing this.  Our reward is apparently that we should do more of it, because we are doing it wrong or something.  Even if the development we are pursuing is the same stuff the District wants to demand.

The District seems unwilling to recognize what its teachers are already doing and what they are actually experiencing in their classrooms.  If our leadership truly believes we are not broken, they should start talking to us about what we need.  They should come and see what we are already doing (it would save me the bother of hearing I'm going to pilot an assessment that requires computers without computers, too - the tadpoles grow at a remarkable rate and are of high interest, but they do not run Smarter Balanced programs.  Of course, the ancient relic of a computer they replaced didn't either).

Oh, and also?  The District's teachers can read.  So the big reveal had been spoiled already.  And while I'm all in favor of ending the tutoring programs (listening to tutors holler at kids is not that fun, nor does it lead to increased performance), the waiver application is not quite as revolutionary as sold.  After all, like all waivers, it will require tying test scores to teacher evaluations.

Again, it's not that the waiver application is enough to demand a move to Australia.  It's that its presentation at the summit was not entirely correct, and I dislike it when my leaders ignore the sticky details in favor of soaring rhetoric.  My entire workday is down in the sticky details (metaphorically and not), and when the District erases them they erase their actual business of educating kids, too.

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