On October 9, 2015, 2400 Spokane School District employees sat in front of a screen in each of their respective buildings. They received 7 hours of training via a Webinar and were given a 30 minute lunch. Teachers were told with force the day before, “You must be in your seats by 8:00 a.m. You may not be late. You will be given 30 minutes to eat. It is highly recommended you bring a lunch and do not leave the building for your lunch because you will be expected to be in your seats promptly at the end of the 30 minutes. You may not leave until 3:30. The District is keeping very close tabs on this time schedule.”
The bulk of the training was around TPEP, the new teacher evaluation system. Teachers sat before a screen and listened to district personnel explain to them the requirements of being an “applying” or “innovative” teacher. The message was clear that teachers needed several data points to prove their students had mastered certain skills and concepts. Amplify was listed as one of those data points. Amplify Testing is now being subtly pushed to be used and linked to teacher performance. If you are interested in Amplify’s history you can read my chronological compilation here: Amplify… A Modern Day Medusa.
It must be realized the tremendous pressure educators are under. I watched the look on many teachers faces throughout the day. Their training, their creativity, their innovative abilities, their love of children, their knowledge of child development… is being discounted and ignored. It must be understood how the mandates from the Federal, State, and District Level are impacting classrooms. Understand, if anyone desires to see changes in our schools, attendance at school board meetings, willingness to speak at school board meetings, and voting in new school board directors who are willing to be out in the schools, listening and learning what educators and children need… will ALL be critical.
I also did some math. 2400 hundred district employees were paid for attending this training. Considering per diem rates range from $222.00 to $366.00 a day per employee, I multiplied 2400 X $300 (close average). It cost the school district somewhere around $720,000 dollars for this one day training. This is tax payer dollars at work. Many educators felt demeaned, devalued, and slapped in the face.
I was mandated to be at this training although I am not on TPEP and have received much of the same training over the past three years. I was told I had to be at the training so I would “know what the teachers are going through and know how to help them.” With all due respect, I am quite clear on exactly what teachers are going through at this time in Public Education. I’m in their classrooms. Their autonomy to do what is right for children is being squelched as they are handcuffed with the Federal, State, and District mandates.
The Hidden Cost
The morale of the teachers.
The Parallel Between SBA and TPEP
As I sat obediently listening, my mind drew a parallel. Educators are spending hours on test prep. This is robbing children of precious instructional hours to get ready for a state evaluation: The SBA (Smarter Balanced Assessment). Yesterday robbed teachers of planning time to prep and design quality lessons for children. This training deprived teachers from receiving professional development they personally needed to improve their instructional practice. Why? To prep the educator for the state teacher evaluation system: TPEP.
The full focus has become TEST PREP, EVALUTION PREP and DATA.
Note: Some teachers did need the training on TPEP yesterday. They are new to this evaluation system and appreciated the time. The presenter did the best she could with what she was mandated to deliver to us. I am positive she worked hard. However, many of us, would have preferred to stay home and save the tax payer the per diem pay, OR had the option to choose other professional development. Many of us have sat through these Webinars and Power Points on TPEP multiple times over the past three years. Not only was it a bad form of Professional Development, it was not necessary to insult our intelligence and assume we needed the repetition. Many of the slides in the Power Point were read to us. We sat. We listened.
“Good boys and girls”.
What are Teachers Expected to be Learning and Implementing in the Classroom Right Now?
Let’s examine a list at the Elementary Level:
- Journeys (Year Two of the adopted ELA program, but many are first year teachers or new to the district)
- EngageNY Math (You may see Eureka at the bottom of the worksheets. Same Same. This is a math program that has not been researched. It is not differentiated. It is scripted. It does not align with any mathematical instructional best practices regarding how children learn mathematics. It does not meet the needs of special needs children. It does not meet the needs of English Language Learners. It does not meet the needs of children who enter the classroom several grade levels behind. Many teachers are floundering trying to implement this program in ways children can access the math)
- AVID (A College and Career Readiness Program)
- Why Try (A Mindset Program)
- Data Study (Five Schools have hired a .5 Data Coach. The teachers involved in the study are required to attend many additional meetings as well as implement the requirements of the program.)
- Amplify Testing (Teachers will need to learn this new testing program, learn new rubrics (designed by non-educators), score performance tasks, enter in the student data, have additional meetings to interpret the data, and include it in their TPEP, teacher evaluation worksheets.)
- New Science Standards, Topics and Kits
- Social Studies Standards (currently with no program, but with a new program coming soon.)
- A new Extended Day Program in which children are in and out of the classroom daily as learning has become more and more compartmentalized and teachers have less and less solid blocks of time to teach a consistent cycle of lessons. (Something required by TPEP)
- TPEP (The Teacher Evaluation System) which involves 4 Domains, 8 Criterion, 62 Elements, various Components, Segments, and Driving Questions.
- And there is more…
Ever Wonder Why Teachers are Choosing to Leave the Profession?
Ever Wonder Why There is Talk of a Looming Teacher Shortage?
As I drove away from the training the following was spinning through my mind:
Data Data Data. The world will not turn without data. Children can’t learn without data. People can’t eat without data. Schools can’t function without data. Teachers can’t lesson plan without data. Teachers don’t know how to teach without data.
Data… how did we ever survive before data?
Bill Gates, in the Road Ahead, stated simply, “Data is power, he who controls the data has the power.” That was 10+ years ago. Kids are being tracked cradle to career. They now have the platforms (Amplify to name one) to forecast children’s capabilities for the state labor force… whether scientific or manual. Teachers are not to teach as an art, but to teach to keep the cogs in the machine moving.
My “favorite” message from the training, “We (The District) need your data so we can help you grow.”
Right behind that one, my second “favorite”, was the fifth norm presented at the beginning of the all day Webinar: MISERY IS OPTIONAL.
Hmmmm… first time I’ve encountered this “norm” in any meeting I have ever attended in 26 years of being an educator. This begs the question, “Why would The District front load the 6 hour Webinar with this norm?”
Think about it.
Ever read or watched The Divergent Series? Or how about The Hunger Games… and President Snow of The Capital?
I do NOT choose misery. I choose the TRUTH.
“People are getting rich from data. This is a money grab. How many start ups and software companies are producing apps for CCSS (Common Core State Standards) and Test Prep? More than we can keep up with. They are still perpetuating the lie that US kids are behind the global curve. It’s a crock of $×÷$÷!” -A Spokane Parent (Sent to me October 9, 2015)
I was educated Pre-Common Core, and was taught to think outside the four corners of the text.
The result: I think outside the four corners of the screen too.
RAZ ON FIRE
- Spokane School District is not shy about Data Collection. Meet “Quasar’… The “never ending forming galaxy of data!”
Spokane School District’s Assessment Page: Assessment and Program Effectiveness
2. What is the Core Really For?