Thursday, July 4, 2013

NFL Adopts Common Core Playbook--Copying Education Reforms

(Washington, D. C.) In a surprise news conference today U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell announced plans to improve NFL performance in coming seasons.

Unlike news conferences on education, which draw sparse crowds, representatives from hundreds of newspapers, television and radio networks, and ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN for Kids and ESPN Tales from the Crypt were in attendance.

Mr. Duncan spoke first. “We are pleased to announce a partnership involving the U. S. Department of Education and the NFL,” he explained. “We will call this new effort to improve pro football ‘Race to the End Zone.’ All the leading school reform experts insist this approach will dramatically improve the quality of football play.”

“Frankly,” Commissioner Goodell admitted, “this joint effort developed out of a concern for failing NFL franchises. We have watched the brilliant successes wrought by Mr. Duncan and others like him in recent years and believe it is time to adopt a variety of sports reforms, similar to school reforms, and introduce them in our league. We believe with such changes in place the Cleveland Browns can finally reach the Super Bowl and win.”

“We in the NFL love the Common Core Curriculum that Mr. Duncan is pushing on schools here in D. C. and in forty-five states,” Goodell continued. “Just as he believes Common Core Curriculum can save the schools, we believe a Common Core Playbook will save our struggling teams. Beginning with the 2013 season every coach and every team will use the same playbook.”

A collective gasp went up from the audience. “Does Bill Belichick know about this?” a reporter from ABC wondered.

An MSNBC reporter shouted from the fifth row: “Do you truly believe if all teams run the same plays they’ll all have the same success?”

“Of course,” Mr. Duncan interjected. “It’s going to work in education, too. I promise. And I went to Harvard. So you have to listen to me.”

“You don’t know anything about NFL football…” a Fox Sports Channel representative pointedly remarked.

“Yes, well, Mr. Duncan never taught school, either,” Goodell offered in lame defense. “And look at the fantastic job he’s doing fixing U. S. schools. Only $4.35 billion spent on ‘Race to the Top’ and scores on standardized tests are soaring.”

At this point, reporters could be seen shooting each other strange looks. Frankly, none of them paid the slightest attention to stories about American education. So, for all they knew, Goodell might be telling the truth.

“We believe with this system in place every player can succeed,” the Commissioner added. “By 2020 we believe every player in the league will be proficient in blocking, tackling and pass catching.”

“Are you saying that a new playbook—nothing more than diagrams on paper—will magically change the game?” a representative of local television station WJLA wanted to know.

“From now on every quarterback will be calling the same plays,” Goodell replied. “In other words, all of them will play like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

“Even Mark Sanchez?” asked a dubious correspondent from the New York Post.

“That’s the beauty of the Common Core Playbook,” Duncan explained. “We draw up new standards—kind of like we said we would do under No Child Left Behind—but this time the standards really work, because I promise they will. After all, I’m really smart. Did I mention that I went to Harvard? See: all the running backs run the same plays and all succeed the same way, because the coaches don’t try to design their own schemes.”

“Naturally, all defenses will be set up in the same way,” the Commissioner added.

A young lady standing in the back of the auditorium raised a hand. The Secretary called on her to state her question.

“I’m sorry. I’m not a sports person. I’m just a third grade teacher visiting the capitol on vacation. Are you saying that if all coaches follow the same plays and all players follow the same offensive and defensive plans this will guarantee success for every player and every team?”

“Yes…” Duncan began; but the teacher had more to say.

“Wouldn’t it be wiser to let the coaches design their plays? Aren’t coaches skilled in their field and doesn’t knowledge gathered over many years in the game count for anything? Don’t players have different strengths and weaknesses, so that coaches must tailor plans to meet their needs? Don’t players, themselves, have a dramatic impact on their own success or failure during the games and the success of their teams? No  playbook in the world would have saved Aaron Hernandez if he was truly intent on committing murder this past week. And I’ve heard Peyton Manning studies more game film than anyone else…”

By now, Duncan was shifting nervously from foot to foot at the podium where he stood. “Did I mention I went to Harvard? I think we experts can fix the NFL, just like we’re fixing the schools! Pretty soon, we’ll be like Finland, whose students rank #1 in reading and math whenever international competitions are held. Just listen to me and all the other school reformers. By the way, I went to Harvard, in case you’ve forgotten.”

“I don’t think that guy knows s$%# about football,” a sportscaster from Chicago could be heard telling the teacher.

“I don’t think he knows anything about education, either,” she nodded glumly. Unlike school reformers she had learned about helping students by actually helping students for many years. She already knew what worked in a classroom and understood that writing a bunch of standards had almost nothing to do with real success.

(Standards in education, she realized, were like diet advice. Losing weight boiled down to motivation in the end.)

She tried one last question: “Mr. Duncan, I know experts say Finland’s scores are high because they have better teachers. Do you think we should copy their system in other ways? For example, their schools have no sports teams and focus entirely on academics. Might we copy them in that respect? Might we do away with organized sports in our schools?”

At that point pandemonium ensued, with shouting ESPN reporters and fainting sports columnists, and Godell looking aghast. A Fox Sports correspondent jumped on stage and tried to wrestle the microphone away before Secretary Duncan could posit an answer. No one in the audience could even fathom the idea.

Insanity, surely, putting academics first—and right here in America, too!

The teacher smiled at the irony and exited from the room.


Here’s how Common Core Playbook will work: 
All teams will use identical plays.
Coaches' and players' strengths and weakness 
will no longer be paramount.
Written standards of play are clearly the key—
just as it now is in U. S. education.
It’s not “how you play the game.”
It’s a bureaucrat’s dream of how you play the game.



P. S. John Curry noted that under this plan all referees will be replaced by young "Referee for America" candidates, who had a crash course in rules that lasted five weeks, a program modeled on the fabled "Teach for America" plan.

This is satire only; but real teachers know this is how dumb our leaders in education reform actually are. 


If you like this post be sure to check out:  "How Many Reformers Does It Take to Fix a School?" That's one of my favorites. http://ateacheronteaching.blogspot.com/2013/03/how-many-reformers-does-it-take-to.html


50 comments:

  1. Love the content! Wish the grammar had been more carefully proofread.

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    1. Curses! I fixed a couple of flaws; but I'm not seeing much. Let me know what I need to fix if you have time and I will tinker with the material.

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    2. last sentence, second to last word... should be America, not American

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    3. Good catch. I must be going blind.

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  2. Replies
    1. I'm too old to be computer savvy; but if all my readers will spread it, I'd appreciate the help. I'm a retired teacher; but I'm sick and tired of "experts" telling us what do do...which has been a growing trend for the last fifteen years.

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  3. I've shared this on the Facebook group, Badass Teachers Association (22,00+ members), and with Illinois delegates at the NEA Rep Assembly that is going on right now in Atlanta. Also sent a message to Diane Ravitch's blog, so I hope this post gets some traction!

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    1. I appreciate your help. Ms. Ravitch used an earlier post of mine on her blog. I think teachers are increasingly ready to fight back against all the misguided guidance they're getting.

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  4. Awesome. I can name some NFL teams that already play like they are using a Common Core playbook, but that's not the point, so I'll be nice. Thanks for this witty, funny/sad approach that should help illustrate why we are not happy with CCSS OR Arne.
    From a member of BAT, and a 20-year veteran middle school teacher.

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    1. I find the idea that Arne Duncan, who never taught, should tell you (with 20 years) how to teach, or Michelle Rhee, who taught three should have told me (33 years) what worked best in the classroom to be a form of academic madness.

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  5. Reblogged and re-posted on Facebook (with meme) to my page and several teacher/parent group pages.
    This is hilarious AND pointedly satiric. I love it.

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    1. Thank you, Mr. P. I will check it out on Facebook, too.

      I loved being a teacher, myself. I hope the meddling reformers don't ruin it for the next generation of teachers and kids.

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  6. You neglected to mention that once all teams adopt the CCPlaybook, they'll all win, of course. After all, they have the winning plays right there in the book - and the book is that good! Any team that loses must therefore have a lousy coach (although why one would be needed with such a fantastic playbook is beyond me LOL) who will then need to be fired immediately and replaced with someone else who can hand out the playbooks better..... yeah, that'll work. LOL

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    1. The author says your sarcasm is better than his. That's a compliment, by the way.

      Don't these arrogant reformers drive you nuts?

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    2. Thanks - I'm fluent in sarcasm. Or, "Sarcasm: just one more service I offer." *grin*

      And arrogance in general drives me nuts. It's probably why I like children better than adults in many cases. LOL

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    3. You are dead on about the kids. I had 5, 000 students and probably liked 4, 995.

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  7. Who wins in common core? The publishers!

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  8. This was a great parody .... I just 'retired'from teaching 4 years early ..... I was never so humiliated in my life ... with our Florida's new 'teacher evaluation' program .... and the introduction of common core. Teachers were warned 'to not provide moral directions' to our students .... during class time (even though most of our small-town inner city school students do not know how to act in school. My students lost a great teacher .. and many more at my school this year ... sad, very sad ....

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    1. I feel your pain. My last year we were told a thousand times to teach to the test. I thought it was almost educational malpractice. The next year, Ohio ditched its social studies test because even the bureaucrats realized it was crap.

      I could have told them that for free and saved the state a few million dollars.

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  9. This is brilliant. I'm a young teacher with only 6 years under my belt, but I've been making these exact comparisons since I began. I've shared this with my FaceBook friends.
    Can we send a link to Duncan? I'm sure he should read this.

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  10. John,

    This is great! I agree with playlearnteach that this needs to go viral. I would like permission to re-post this on the following two sites:

    http://truthinamericaneducation.com/
    and
    http://stopcommoncorewa.wordpress.com/

    If this is re-posted, who gets credit?

    Thanks.

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    1. Repost and credit me. As a retired teacher I have time to read and write. I believe the experts are ruining education in an attempt to improve it.

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  11. Well said... I find it hard to believe that someone with no classroom experience is telling me (with 16 years) how to do my job. The word "clueless" doesn't even begin to describe the bureaucrats making (up) the laws as they go... Keep this going, it's a great illustration of current education reforms!

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  12. Bill from ChicagoJuly 8, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    Thanks for an analogy that I can share with my non-education friends who think testing is the answer. I wish we could get over comparing our children to kids in other countries - many other countries are much smaller in size and population. They also have uniform funding from one Ministry of Education, which sets out the curriculum for their respective nations. Instead of competing (we Americans love to compete) against other nations, let's just give our kids the best education possible including arts, music, PE, and recess! I think the loss of recess in so many school districts has hurt us collectively - there are no shortage of studies tying physical activity to improved brain activity.

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    1. Holy Mackerel! I had no idea that some districts had done away with recess! Is this really true? What in heaven's name? WHY???? Kids (and teachers) NEED recess. Kids NEED to have breaks. I agree that we need to stop comparing ourselves to other nations. Perhaps other nationalities ARE smarter. So what? Why does it even matter? God made us all different and unique, each with different talents and abilities. I myself love writing, reading, spelling, and history, but have always found math to be a challenge. Does that make me stupid or less of a person? No, indeed it does not. We have the VERY BEST healthcare and doctors here in America. I think that counts for something - and we have democracy, and we have lots of fertile land, and we grow many wonderful and amazing things here. We have many, many blessings in America, and let's recognize and celebrate these blessings. We have awesome teachers - even with lots of unmotivated and many rebellious, resentful, and even dangerous students. Many students are resistant to learning, and yet teachers are required to teach them anyhow. Many teachers are spat upon, hit, kicked, and given death threats - AND they have to clean up poo, clean the bathrooms in their classroom, wait to go to the bathroom, wolf down a quick lunch WHILE babysitting delinquent kids (no breaks!) and then they get yelled at by some parents who are off their rocker and some who are downright rude. (There are also super and wonderful parents too as well as super and wonderful kids too, but you have to acknowledge that there are mean and rude ones out there too.) Then the teacher gets evaluated by the principal - the teacher who has been doing a super job for YEARS - and is said to be lacking in x, y, or z skills all because of these new, totally unrealistic expectations, such as expecting certain special ed kids to be doing certain types of math equations and reading at certain grade levels. All the while, the teacher is putting in the most insane hours, paying for his/her own continuing education, paying for classroom supplies & materials, and working many, many hours without pay. WHERE IS THE GRATITUDE FOR THESE SELFLESS SERVANTS, AMERICA??? When will you stop criticizing teachers????? Teaching has become a profession of insanity!!!!! Why would anyone choose to teach now-a-days? The certification process alone is so completely complex and whacky and intense that they teach a WEEK-LONG course on how to obtain it. I say the government needs to get back to fixing the roads and quit trying to "fix" schools; they were never broken, thank you very little.

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  13. Taught 14 years in High School. Great analogy. However, "years of experience" does not equal good teaching. Most of the time we are on our own, trying to figure out how to do our jobs, and some of us don't do it right. A lot of us are not doing it right. Teachers are the worst at accepting criticism, so most never change. Common core like every other system before it does work for new and/or failing teachers. It just doesn't work for those who have success without it. Following your analogy, some bad coaches would perform better with a universal playbook, as long as they were allowed to leave it behind once they were performing better.

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    1. Fair points; I don't mean that length of service alone makes any of us good. It does, however, provide perspective. I see, for example, that tracking by ability is "in" again in schools.

      My experience with the last round of tests tied to NCLB was almost surreal. Could students answer questions about Songhai trade, mercantilism and Shay's Rebellion in social studies. We geared up for that test and spent hours on preparation and gave our kids practice tests, etc.

      State of Ohio killed the test in 2009. It didn't even last five years.

      One of my first posts ever on this blog lays out my fears--that standardized testing will curtail real learning. It's about bringing fourteen combat veterans to my school to speak--and how this was the very antithesis of standardized education.

      Sham Standards...May 25, 2011.

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  14. If lessons were designed by master teachers so you didn't have to spend all your time dreaming up what you wanted to each and every day and waste time scrambling around trying to get together the materials you needed, that would be a benefit. We lived in Japan, there was one detailed curriculum for the whole country, with detailed lessons and all materials provided to all teachers. Teachers were able to concentrate on making sure those lessons worked for their individual students. Also, because the lessons were the same throughout the nation, all the students were in the same place all the time. Teachers didn't have to wonder what this student transferring in or out needed because they knew they were on all pretty much on the same page. The lessons were all very well done too. They provided a lot of variety and used a lot of good methodology. I think we do our students disservice when they move from school to school because everyone is in a different place we're all so fiercely independent, we all decide how we are going to do it in our district or in our state or in our city and who cares that the kids just get lost in the shuffle. I think that would be a wonderful benefit of Common Core, or one of the purposes, so that kids don't get messed up when their parents move from one town to another. Then, if they took it another step further, actually providing all the materials and training necessary to carry out their mandates, that would also be beneficial.

    PS I am a high school teacher at a US school with a student turnover rate of about 30% a year and a budget that gets lower every time we're asked to do one more thing.

    PPS German schools don't have sports teams, either. Kids who want to participate in organized sports do so at their parents' expense, not the governments.

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    1. I am the parent of four wonderful children. My oldest is 10 and profoundly gifted with an 150+ iq. My older daughter is very creative. Math does not come easily to her and she gets frustrated when reading quite often. My b/g twins just finished Kindergarten. My little boy was practically deaf until the age of 3 and has some delay's as a result. He finally seems to have gotten a handle on phonic's but it was a struggle and sight words required a lot of extra work. His twin could read when she was two. She steals her big sisters chapter books all the time. In my own house I can see that children have different needs and learn at a different pace. My kids attend two different schools so all of their special needs can be met. Two need extra challenges and their school traditionally works 2-3 grade levels ahead. The other two go to a Catholic school and receive lots of individualized attention. I don't see how a standard curriculum, like the one you are describing, would benefit any of them.






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    2. I totally agree. I see the same diversity and different strengths and weaknesses in my family. Education is not, and should not be one size fits all. Education should be fun and child-centered as much as possible. Maria Montessori would be rolling in her grave at all of the standards and testing that goes on these days.

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  15. Non teacher here. I'm not looking to pick a fight, but I'm curious why there is so much resistance among the teaching profession to being evaluated against a baseline? I cannot think of a single other profession (although I'm sure there are some) where people are not held accountable to a core standard. I acknowledge there are tremendous issues with standardized testing, and they should be addressed by cross functional teams of those with academic and real world expertise alike.

    I'm also sensitive to the variability the children bring to the equation, but isn't that really the point of a common core - setting a bar that fantastic teachers like yourselves can help the kids reach or exceed? The common core as I understand it is just that, a core. It sets a level playing field that ALL teams should play on.

    I think the NFL analogy is actually quite apropos, but I see it from a different angle. The NFL is the common core itself...all players that play in the NFL had to reach a certain level of expertise to be at that level in the first place. The coaching (teaching), is what takes individuals and teams above and beyond that baseline and creates those that come out on top; but shouldn't we be striving to make sure everyone has the skills to even play the game?

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    1. My experience with the last set of standards was this: they were very minimal. For example, what ONE question would you want students to be able to answer regarding Islam on a standardized test?

      We had one in 2006. One again in 2007. So, was I wasting my time when I tried to make sure my students knew: what jihad was (current events, surely; and I hate Muslim bashers, by the way), where Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Mecca, Jerusalem were on a map (not tested, of course). Or: if I can bring in 14 veterans, to speak to my school (as I did), including Iraq and Afghanistan veterans...what baseline measures that?

      I set much higher standards for my students than any test could ever measure. So, do I do wrong if I refuse to focus like a laser on Songhai trade?

      Yep...that was on our standardized test.

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    2. Actually, you've given a perfect example of what I was referring to.

      You clearly went above and beyond the baseline, and your students - I'm certain - are much richer for it. Unfortunately, with the system we have now of patchwork curriculum, there are kids that have never heard of Islam - or Judaism - or Buddhism - or even have a clue where Israel can be found on a map. Why is it a bad thing to have core set of knowledge that a kid is expected to have when exiting a particular grade? I just don't understand the resistance.

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    3. We had a decent curriculum for our course. The problem was trying to measure what teachers really did with a 50 question test (in Ohio it covered three years of material, too).

      I could have hammered away at the basics and insured my kids learned the key one or two facts; and then I'd have scored higher (and under new Ohio laws perhaps earned merit pay). I was NOT going to get paid extra for bringing in those veterans...and yet to not do so would have struck me as educational malpractice.

      I knew who wasn't making enough progress in my class by testing them myself. That's what we've done since time immemorial.

      The standardized tests only measure the baseline; and if you deviate from that you do so at peril.

      One other example you might like: I used to require my students to read four books and total 1,000 pages of outside reading to get an "A" or "B" for the year in my history class. I think a lot of reading skills develop in the same way physical strength does by lifting weights.

      Since I wanted to instill a love for reading, I gave kids a list with hundreds of choices. Gone with the Wind, Killer Angels, Black Hawk Down, Night, Co Aytch, To Kill a Mockingbird, etc.

      It took a lot of time in a history class to make a program like that work. I was cautioned in 2008, my last year, to stick to the benchmarks on our state curriculum.

      I can only say in good conscience to you that I felt this was nuts. Even if my students could find the Gobi Desert on a map (the only geography question in 2008) in 2008, they wouldn't need to know it ever again. But, ah...if only I could turn out a few avid readers. There was the rub.

      I also worked extensively with students on writing style...not just grammar. Again, very sadly, not anything I was going to be scored high or low for, based on standardized tests.

      Hope I'm not annoying you with too many examples; some "basics" you need to teach you learn only by teaching, not writing up Common Core Standards. I was surprised in 2000, for example, to find that many of my kids no longer recognized a picture of Adolf Hitler. So a good teacher adjusts and a core curriculum is essentially dead and inert.

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    4. In very few professions are people actually held accountable to a "baseline." I can't even think of one. In most jobs, people are evaluated by their supervisors, period. Let's let our principals and school administrators do the job they were hired to do, and evaluate our teachers.

      Would you judge a doctor based on how many of his/her patients ended up getting certain diseases? No, because too many other factors come into play: diet, exercise, genetics, etc. Why on earth would we evaluate a teacher based on how well his/her students do on a particular test? Principals and administrators should be the ones judging our teachers.

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    5. So on your evaluation from your supervisors there weren't specific sections related to the work you do? Those where you are rated as Does Not Meet, Meets, Exceeds, etc.? Every person I know in a wide variety of professions is evaluated in this manner.

      I do, however, agree that principals and administrators should be the ones judging (evaluating) our teachers. The problem is that if there are no standards to evaluate them by, then the playing field is not level and there cannot be a fair evaluation.

      Standardized tests, as I mentioned in my original post, need to be (and can be) fixed as they are far from perfect. Test scores, however, should be just one measure of effectiveness. Unfortunately, teachers cannot be evaluated due to union contracts in most areas....sadly, there are many 'teachers' who simply show up to collect a paycheck but are untouchable because they cannot be terminated. So my original question stands, why are teachers so afraid to be evaluated?

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    6. Not afraid at all...most of us. Not anxious to be rated on shaky criteria.

      For example, when I had a young man miss 106 days of school in a single year, who should we rate when he does poorly on his tests?

      Mom, or Dad, or his pediatrician?

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    7. Think about it, though. People are not robots. Not everyone CAN play the game. Think about the high (and increasing numbers of children with Autism. Think about kids with Down's. Think about kids with dyslexia, and discalculia. Think about the kids who are socially and emotionally disturbed. Think about kids whose parents are in jail. Think about kids who are living in poverty. Not every child WILL be a reader. There are children with brain injuries, with medically fragile conditions, with serious illnesses, with serious disabling conditions. We need to be realistic. Not every child will be a reader, and not every child will go to college. Let's bring some common sense back into the equation.

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  16. Unfortunately the evaluator needs to be impartial. Seen this much. It is not subjective.

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    1. I think you meant to say, "Teacher evaluations are SUBJECTIVE rather than OBJECTIVE". Yes, if you are good friends with the principal - a pay of his/hers, then things are peachy, and the evaluation goes quite well. If not, then the principal can find all kinds of things wrong with your teaching style/methods.

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  17. Of course, all of the teams will be above average.

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