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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Change-Weary Educators

I've noted a drop in teacher enthusiasm lately, and I'm wondering if that's because educators are change-weary.

Many teachers just got used to PARCC and now we're changing to Next Generation MCAS.

Many educators have worked carefully to embed Common Core Standards into worthy learning design, and now people are debating whether to keep the standards or not.

Many educators have worked to embed the new Massachusetts Educator Evaluation System into their professional patterns, and now we face the addition of DDM reports--a component that is confusing, inconsistent and seemingly punitive.

Further we're moving from NCLB to ESSA which will introduce more changes, and if these changes are not adopted in thoughtful, consistent ways, there will be more confusion.

The rhetoric during the national campaigns for President have been disconcerting, and local battles for support, adequate structures, and respect continue.

Further, the Lift the Cap proponents further worry educators as this support tears support away from our public schools--schools that seek to serve all students. It is only in the recent years that educators are telling stories of students who don't have proper shoes, nutrition, care--the poverty levels are affecting schools GREATLY. The stories so many teachers are telling about children who are uncared for remind me of Charles Dickens' stories, stories I never thought would be an everyday occurrence during my lifetime. Further, reports of growing numbers of children in need from the Department of Social Services and Child Welfare support this need.

In Massachusetts we were on a good path. Our schools and students have been doing very well. I'm worried now, however, since there seems to be confusion at the helm--where are we going? who are we serving? how much are we spending?

In the days ahead I'll look for these facts and figures?
  • The ratio of money spent on leaders vs. teachers. I suspect that this scale is tipped in favor of leadership, and I believe that we should be spending most of the money on educators who are serving students every day. More time on task with students will result in better programs.
  • The ratio spent on testing vs. teaching. I suspect that this ratio may favor testing which is problematic. I'm in favor of some testing, but not too much. I can tell you right away which students in my class will ace standardized tests and which students will not do well at all. I'm in favor of some testing to tease out data points that can help us teach better, but I'd rather spend most of the money on good teaching and learning rather than lots and lots of testing.
  • The ratio spent on leadership efforts vs student efforts. What does this ratio look like at local and state levels. Most teachers and students learn with few materials or special events--we should make sure that most money is spent on student programming and learning rather than leadership events.
  • The ratio spent on worthy professional learning vs. ineffective professional learning. We need to look for the richest professional learning paths and spend money on those paths. We need to rid our systems of ineffective, demeaning professional learning.
How we spend our dollars in education tells the story about what we believe in and what we honor? I fear we are spending too much money on changes that won't result in meaningful change, however, I do believe that we need to spend some money to forward good, positive change in schools. Worrisome reports about the lack of fair pay or credential at charter schools worry me. Good schools pay their staffs fairly and require good credentials too. 

I worry that the many changes happening in Massachusetts now may have more political roots and private industry connections than necessary. This is something that our government leaders need to look at closely. This is a time when vision is incredibly important. Like our Governor, I was influenced by seemingly long waiting lists for charter school spots, but the more I learn about these charter schools, the more I fear their longterm affect on our communities, students, and democracy. 

There's lots to learn in this regard, but overall we want to be careful about change. Good change that results in better learning for every child is good, but change that isn't well thought out, worthy, and results in less passion and interest on behalf of educators and the students they serve is not what we want or need. It's a time where all citizens and leaders have to think carefully about where we are and where we are going in education. We have to keep our collective energy well directed with regards to serving students well today and tomorrow. Let's not lose the momentum that's been created by so many to do good work with thoughtless, ill-directed, inefficient change.