Monday, July 8, 2013

Dammit, NYSED! We’re educators, not magicians - (originally posted - 06/11/13)

Who says you can’t learn anything from TV? I say NYSED needs to watch a little more. Specifically, Star Trek reruns. One phrase the popular character Leonard McCoy delivered in this series was “Dammit, Jim! I’m a doctor, not a(n)…” followed by a task that was beyond his skill. Jim was Captain Kirk, McCoy’s leader. Kirk was frequently guilty of asking more than Doctor McCoy could do, but he redeemed himself by listening to him and adjusting to the reality of the situation. Unfortunately, Captain NYSED is not listening and is a little out of touch with our situations.

The other day I sat at a table with my principal looking over my teacher rubric form that counts as 60% of my APPR. Because of her workload, we only had 15 minutes to go over the rubric. She has done her best this year to do justice to what she has been asked to do. Unfortunately, even after spending over 5 hours on my evaluation plugging in evidence, through our 15 minute conversation we found areas that were overlooked by her(and by me). The meeting, the whole evaluation process, and several other state initiatives this year have become a rushed product. If Captain NYSED were here, he would say to my principal, “Stretch the 24 hour day into 48 hours.” As the realistic educator I am, I would reply “Dammit, NYSED! She’s a principal, not a magician.” Typically, this is where Captain Kirk would listen and adjust to the reality of things, but Captain NYSED continues to tell her to press on with total disregard for her limitations. She has been stretched paper-thin between her routine responsibilities towards over-tested students, over-stressed staff, an underfunded school and the new responsibilities of several new State mandates.

On a little side note, I do have to sarcastically commend NYSED’s “reform movement” in this area. I foresee that the new APPR will develop a generation of teachers that not only teach to the test, but to the rubric. While an unintended product of testing is a student shooting for a 65, I believe that an unintended product of the APPR is a teacher shooting for their “Effective” rating. Anyway, let us get back on track and talk about Captain NYSED and over-testing.

Over-testing. It’s nothing new. It’s reached a new height. If someone tells you it is not a problem, they are either in denial or not a true educator. My district has put our students through State tests, field tests, SLO pre and post tests, DDI interim tests, our local 20% pre and post vocab tests, and, let’s not forget, quizzes and tests that teachers usually need to give. When you look at each item on the list separately, each has its own justification for being there. However, I don’t care what the justifications are, when you look at the whole picture there’s an overflow. We are over testing and it’s wrong. Captain NYSED says “Create a stress-free test environment.” As a realistic educator I reflect that perhaps, for a test or two I could, but look at the list. I would then say “Dammit, NYSED! I am a teacher, not a magician.” Again, typically this is where Captain Kirk would listen and adjust to the reality of things, but Captain NYSED continues to tell us to test on with total disregard to the negative effects it has on the environment within our schools.

On another little side note, I do have to sarcastically commend NYSED on there bold implementation of the Common Core Curriculum or what I like to call the “teach what we haven’t figured what we want you to teach” curriculum. Who else has the fortitude to promise modules to their teachers at the beginning of a school year and not deliver? Who else has the fortitude to deliver just an outline of Module 1 for 8th grade math several weeks after the State Test for it was given? Who else has the fortitude to tell the public that they adequately prepared their teachers and schools, when they were totally unprepared themselves? I can tell you who, there is only one person who has superpowers like that… Captain NYSED. Anyway, lets end this.

Captain Kirk expecting more than can be expected from his crew is an admirable quality. However, it is only an admirable quality because when he does ask too much, he backs off and develops a new plan. NYSED clearly exhibits the first trait by setting lofty goals and always expecting more of their schools. However, this quality is not admirable if they ask too much and do not react to the limitations they are overstepping. It’s not that Captain NYSED has deaf ears, it’s that he is refusing to listen. Hopefully, the One Voice Rally on June 8th was a loud enough “Dammit” for our Captain not to ignore.

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