Tip of the Iceberg
Ms. Zempel's tidbits
It is easier to fool someone than to convince them they have been fooled.
- Mark Twain
Saboteurs are successful at destroying an iceberg because they chip away at it with their puny butter knives for decades. The rest of us abet this effort because we hide behind
the mindset 'So what? It's only a butter knife.'
Our FEATURE Article:
Continued from our HOME PAGE
What Can Fix Our Broken School Systems?
Our schools can be fixed
when these things happen:
Testing counts more for the students than it does for the teachers. Sure, let’s keep testing kids annually with our state exams. But put the onus on the children, letting them know that their results will be used to place them in classes according to their need. Besides, do you really think every kid takes a test earnestly? They know nothing is riding on the test for them, so if they’re tired, lazy, or just don’t care about your test, they go through the motions, clicking from screen to screen and waiting awhile before selecting their answer, whether they read the passage or not. You should see some of the questions a fourth-grader is expected to answer, based on the Common Core standards. You can find released test items on the internet if you’re interested, but I’ll make it easy for you by posting a link here for a practice test on a passage about happiness. Scroll down a little and you’ll see it. Look for the orange title “Reading Practice Test – 4 (Reading Comprehension)”
Teachers are hired for their ability to teach. Seems like a no-brainer, but teachers are not hired for a demonstrated ability to teach. They’re hired based on how they were able to BS their way through an interview, or whether they somehow had an ‘in’ with the principal. Competence does not enter the equation. I heard a pundit on TV say recently that there are plenty of people who love their job but are just not good at it. That applies to a lot of teachers. Many love their job, but they aren’t good at being a teacher. I work with one of those now; she loves her students, provides plenty of opportunities for enrichment in her classroom, nurtures their dreams, feeds them snacks, shows them videos. But she doesn’t teach phonics, vocabulary, or basic sentence structure. She thinks her primary job is assisting her students’ social/emotional growth. She’s in charge of a 2nd/3rd grade combo class, and she’s not teaching her students how to sound out words and make sense of groups of words, or how to write complete sentences. As a result, I get 4th graders who cannot read or write.
Achievement among students is once again celebrated. Today, academic “growth” is considered more important than achievement. Twenty years ago, I would have said you’re crazy if you think this could ever happen. But 12 years ago, it started in Colorado. Our principal shared the bullet points of the Every Student Succeeds Act (2009), which celebrates and measures growth over grade-level achievement, and told us we need to get on that bandwagon. It’s been downhill ever since. (You can read a lot more about how growth has tainted education over the last decade in my book Chaos in Our Schools.)
Teacher evaluation systems rely on watching a teacher teach rather than on reading the teacher’s documentation about how she is teaching. When do you think the teacher is doing this documenting? At home in the evening, on her time? Probably not. At my former school in Colorado, our principal made it clear to his teachers that if it wasn’t written down, it didn’t happen. He said that documenting what we were doing to differentiate for our students was the best thing we could do for our careers. That is mind-blowing. I thought the best thing I could do for my career was teach my students the material I was responsible for teaching. Sooner or later, teachers realize that the documentation is the only thing that matters. No one can prove you didn’t work with that small group on their vocabulary list, using strategies you found in a manual in the breakroom. So what if it isn’t true. Your principal has no grounds on which to refute it, even if he suspects you’re full of $#!t.
Here’s a glimpse at what the School Matters Foundation proposes to combat the sad state of learning in America:
You can read more about all these ideas in our book, Chaos in Our Schools, now on Amazon.
We’ve all heard the adage before: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result each time.
That’s what we’ve been doing in public education since the 70's, and we still act surprised that it doesn’t work for at least 50% of our children.
Read more FEATURES here.
Continued from our HOME page:
From the new book
Chaos in Our Schools
There’s an insidious element in education that is unnoticed by most people. Schools are not set up for the children; they are set up for
the convenience of the adults who run them
This comes from the penultimate (2nd to last) chapter in our book, Chaos in Our Schools. The entire book leads up to this chapter, which proposes the conclusion that kids cannot be the primary focus of schools any longer...not when their needs are placed in a subordinate position to the "needs" (read: DESIRES) of the adults who work with them.
How can this be? And what is the basis for this conclusion? Reading the book will answer these questions, but here is a little more from that chapter:
Our schools, particularly at the elementary level, are operated with the guiding principles that
1) Procedures and standards, copiously outlined, meet the education needs of students,
2) Children should be arranged in groupings that are acceptable to the adults in charge.
This is nonsense, but at present, there is little that can be done to thwart these ideals because the teachers’ unions won’t allow for a sensible approach to education.
And, it is because of these two principles that a third principle also exists:
3) Those who work with children must be regulated, lectured, and gaslighted by those who don’t.
Politicians and administrators had been stymied for years in their quest to get around the teachers’ unions, who set and control how teachers and students are assigned within schools. Perhaps they thought their legislation would mitigate this. But instead of making the situation better, they have made it worse. This is what happens when you try to put a Band-Aid on a cannonball wound.
The problems in education are shared and exacerbated by both sides of the coin: the teaching staff and the administration who supervise them. It is an adversarial relationship that gets more contentious and (ironically) more euphemized every year. The Edu-speak that guides every educator’s career (and I include administrators in that mix) has become the most important aspect of the game. If one can manipulate these phrases and standards effectively, one will achieve success. (Not for the kids, of course, but for oneself.)
Teachers work very hard to curry favor with the administrator who gives them their ratings. Only a foolish person would not come to understand very clearly how human nature works in these situations. Butter someone up and he is likely to reward you for that.
I’m sure the intent of SB 10-191 was to encourage teachers to reflect on their practice of teaching and to grow from that reflection. I have doubts that happens in any meaningful way for most teachers, however. There are not enough hours in the day or week to teach effectively and also keep up with requirements to prove you are teaching effectively, or that you are metacognitively evaluating yourself. Unfortunately for the Colorado legislature, instead of rewarding quality teaching in Colorado, they have instituted a system of rewarding the appearance of quality teaching.
Getting rid of this phoniness is necessary before our education woes can seriously be addressed.
The elites don’t want things to change, probably because they enjoy the money that follows programs and policies, as well as the accolades for a job well done.
Those who are not affected themselves by onerous requirements
are more likely to impose those requirements on others.
This has been the case in school management for decades.