Yesterday, I posted a question (below) to the Facebook pages of Badass Teachers’ Association and In Defense of Teachers:
I was curious—and still am—about what other teachers think. How would you answer from what you’re seeing?
Consider all the reforms since you started teaching, whether it be increasing use of technology, more charter schools, the push to grade schools, new ways to certify teachers, emphasis on standardized testing, and many more.
Do you think learning, which is the true goal of education has been greatly enhanced, stayed the same, or been hindered?
That’s my concern: that recent “education reforms” have hindered learning. It’s the same concern I was feeling in May 2008 when I retired from teaching. And I loved teaching.
First to respond was Nomde Plume, an educator with twenty years’ experience: “No question about it—hindered.”
Peg Cummings Carbone was second: “Without a doubt, hindered.”
Melanie Miday-Stern was third: “Hindered—15 years…CCSS is CRAP.”
Capital letters! I think Melanie feels as I did. (I have noted some of my concerns in earlier posts.) But is it possible all of us are wrong? I find myself hoping we are. I hope our system of public education is on the threshold of great improvement. I just don’t see it. Earnestly, honestly, I do not see it.
Nomde Plume added details in a second response:
Hindered from real, effective, engaging teaching due to over-testing, ratings tied to tests, constant references to ‘data driven instruction,’ [including] grouping based on test data, data walls in classroom, data walks, bulletin board standards, lesson plan standards, quarterly goals standards (meaning these are all for someone else and not for teaching or the kids learning)…The requirements are endless and have nothing to do with actually teaching students. There is so much more! I am too tired to write about it. I was in at 6:30 yesterday and today, worked last night till after 10:00 p.m. And today till six. If my tired brain can actually calculate this, I worked 27 hours in two days…
Elizabeth Mays jumped into the conversation: “Not only hindered, but because so many ‘latest and greatest’ [reform ideas] have gone through the pipeline, I try to ignore them the best I can…since it will be replaced with some other ‘latest and greatest.’”
I can add from my experience here, that in the late 80s, the State of Ohio designed its own Ninth Grade Proficiency Tests. These tests were supposed to greatly improve education in the Buckeye State.
After a little more than a decade, these Ohio tests were scrapped and replaced by new tests tied to No Child Left Behind. And we all know how NCLB worked out.
Next to answer my original question was Margaret Sanderson: “Hindered.”
Ed Dziedzic took his turn: “Hindered. But when I started an old timer told me every time some damn fool new program came out ‘this too shall pass.’”
Priscilla Sanstead weighed in: “The whole purpose of Badass Teachers Association is to fight CC$$. ‘Hindered’ is a candyass, lightweight term for the child abuse that IS Common Core.”
I agree with Ms. Sanstead and particularly like her $ signs, because I think corporate school reform is a growing danger. But I keep thinking maybe I’m wrong. The education reforms of recent years seem crazy to me.
I don’t feel crazy, though. (I think my wife would tell me.)
Megan Bartley commented next: “Well it has been one hell of a waste of money. That is for sure.”
(In 2012, it was estimated that states were spending $1.7 billion annually on standardized tests. All those tests—tied to NCLB—are now recycled paper.)
Maybe Barbara K. Yohnka, next to comment, would respond favorably. One can always hope!
Nope: “No question—hindered.”
Lauren Green-Mainowski: “Hindered! With all the assessing who has time to teach?”
Lauren’s comment reminds me of the dilemma I faced my final year in the classroom, in 2008. Our entire social studies department was taken out of class for three days so we could design practice tests to prepare students for the social studies section of the Ohio Assessment Test (OAT). We devoted three more days to giving the practices tests. In May, our students spent four more days taking the OAT.
So we lost ten days to learning, just so we could prove our students were learning! Was I crazy? I told my principal I thought this was educational malpractice. Is Barbara crazy, too? Is Lauren?
Maybe that’s the real problem. Maybe America’s teachers are crazy.
Lauren offered this additional insight: “Don’t get me wrong. I’m on board with the idea of CCSS. I just wish we could have the resources and be left alone enough to actually teach that way, theme teaching is how I was raised and I like to think I turned out pretty well and loved learning.”
What! “Loved learning?” How do we measure that when it comes to testing?
Joan Jefferson Lanier Bennett was next to offer an opinion:
The amount of paperwork to support all the ‘data based’ teaching with proof you have data, not to mention days lost testing to see if there has been progress, which generates more data to record/put in portfolios, HINDERS time to plan and execute real teaching and student interaction.
And here’s a real kicker. Joan continued: “I am on year 54—yes, I retired once and thought I was dying of boredom—and I base my remarks on all those years’ experience!”
If Joan is right, I’m more worried than ever. And I think she’s right.
Anna Davis agreed:
Hindered, I have been teaching for seven years, all of it in the data driven frenzy. During pre-service I was told that the district who hired me would help me develop as a professional. The only thing that seems to matter is how high we can get the numbers. I get canned lessons to teach but very little real professional development.
I may steal that phrase: “data driven frenzy.”
Holly Clouse followed:
You know, it comes down to thinking, asking, trying, adjust—that’s what I do with my kids. The whole corporate takeover, robo-thinking, scripted plans are just stupid. Don’t get me started on data collecting—the pendulum has swung too far right and will swing back. Meanwhile, I’ll teach my kids to think, question, try, adjust and celebrate. I refuse to let idiots ruin my students’ education.
Tera Wolf had this to say: “[I teach] Special Ed students only: I would say services are better for Special Ed students now but the testing mania has hurt them.”
Amen to that. I suspect almost all teachers would agree with Ms. Wolf that schools do a much better job integrating Special Ed students in regular classrooms now, than they did when I started teaching in 1975.
Megan Bartley rejoined the conversation:
The only good data is the data you collect as a teacher, day to day in your classroom. All of the rest is fluff! Administrators should hold teachers’ feet to the fire to show how they are using information on formative assessments to help individual students. Time spent on Marzanoing and NWEAfests and MAPtatic Multiple Choice Extravaganzas is a pure waste when the rubber hits the road.
Over on the page for In Defense of Teachers, Geralyn Pfaff added: “Greatly hindered. Special education students should not be forced to take the same extremely difficult standardized tests as their typically-developed peers. And Special Ed teachers should not have to have their livelihoods held accountable to those scores.”
Charmaine Wilks went with the one word I fear says it all: “Hindered.”
Finally, back on the BAT page, Kelly Braun offered a little reassurance: “Post [the comments] after you write it and we will all badass back you up.”
So: am I crazy? Let me say again: I loved teaching. I never doubted that what I did in my classroom mattered.
In my heart I truly felt focusing on Songhai trade and Shay’s Rebellion (two topics covered on the social studies section of the OAT) might not be the best way to enhance real, broad-based learning.
In any case, I retired in 2008. In 2009 the social studies section of the OAT was killed by the State of Ohio which had designed it and implemented only five years before. Today the entire OAT is dead.
No Child Left Behind, with all its emphasis on standardized tests, is no longer among the living.
Coming soon to a school near you: New tests! New test preparation! New expenses tied to all the testing! New and onerous paperwork for teachers and administrators, and Common Core Curriculum!
Call it the Standardized Testing Zombie, the creature it was almost impossible to kill!
If I’m wrong, if I’m crazy, I hope real teachers will take time to weigh in and reassure me. Care to comment, anyone?
Addendum: Over the course of three weeks, more than 1,700 people took a look at this post. Eventually, Kevin Barre, a principal, weighed in with a pro-reform response.
The tone was probably harsher than he intended and he went on to qualify his comments in response to questions and comments by other educators. I still have my doubts, but, again, I hope he turns out to be correct. I fear that the future of U.S. education hinges on getting this question right. He explained:
I’m actually enjoying the dialogue created in these OTES pre and post conferences. News flash: principals that whine about the time they are spending and teachers barking about the extra paperwork are forgetting that time management is part of the game. I’ve got 14 years in the biz, and I can promise you that the extra five hours of educational dialogue this takes per teacher only cuts into the negative and idle time wasted daily in a school building. Yes, I said it. It’s holding people accountable, I think, once people get over the insecurities of change, they’ll see how it’s good for growth and amazing for kids. I believe many people, admins included, need this push to reinvigorate growth. It’s a breath of fresh air, pedagogically speaking. It makes us talk.
Anyway, I know, because I taught history, that in matters of opinion we can almost never prove which side is right.
I will say it again, however. I fear the testing trend is doing irrevocable damage in U. S. education.