More paradigm shifts… in 2013… from Common Core to teacher evaluations..
As time marches on, so do federal and state mandates that effect every teacher and student in this country and beyond. From a severe bashing of teachers from politicians who blame teachers for US students being behind international ones, to the development of Common Core Standards, and the support of Universal Design for Learning, teaching is still on the cusp of a monumental change. While I agree that change can be good, and since education has NOT changed in a century, being based on the factory model of learning, too much change can be overwhelming. And the fact that this change is mandated by politicians who have no clue what education is really about, or the developmental level of the child, makes this a scary time for many teachers.
While I’m an older teacher, having close to 40 years in the educational field, I applaud some of these changes, even though it goes against my colleagues and administrators. Yet, other parts I really hate because we seem to have taken childhood out of the equation, and treat our students as test scores. When the standardized testing became the norm in the early 1990’s, I moaned as the test creators expected my 10 year-olds to balance the Federal budget and write a preamble to a constitution all in one morning. This was one of the first renditions of the test, and the rewrites 10 years later became much more reasonable and doable, yet I still tremble when I watch my 8th graders today undertake 10 hours of testing in Reading, Math, and Science. Are we truly preparing them for taking the SAT four years’ later, just by making them endure the testing seat time?
While I abhor what the testing movement is doing to our kids, taking away from the fun and JOY of learning just to be a number on a piece of paper, I also applauded the changes the testing movement has pushed. I watched the development of the Common Core with a measure of joy, thinking that finally K-12 could be on a common field that will further encourage the development of online learning, which is my passion. While I think we are on the right track towards that passion because the common core and standardized testing have fine tuned and outlined what needs to be taught so that instructional designers can now develop online materials that can be adapted for public educators to use for students to progress at their own pace. That has been my passion… individualized learning….. Yet… The common core have been developed and are being shoved down teacher’s throats BEFORE being tested, norm referenced, or other wise researched. The newly developed researcher in me ( I just recently completed my Ph.d.) screams in pain…..
The same researcher also screams in pain at the speed at which teacher evaluations are changing. Again, I’ve felt for years that teacher evaluations needed to be changed because the scoring of teachers for years as either Unsatisfactory, Causing Concern, or Satisfactory, has left much to be desired from the teacher’s point of view. It always felt so punitive that administrators could take one incident that happened in one 45 minute lesson while they were there, and make a judgement on your total teaching career from that one comment or action. It didn’t take into account all the other 179 days you taught successfully, if you made one mistake in that one lesson, you were put on a plan of action, which included a ton of extra work, which in turn took away from the energy you were giving to your students (where it belonged).
When I took a hiatus from my district and spent time in a Teacher Education Department in a College in Colorado, I was heartened to realize that they had figured out that successful teachers had to have 186 skills, and they developed a database to score those skills for their prospective teachers. If only that could be developed for classroom teachers and administrators to give a more realistic evaluation! Well, Charlotte Danielson did just that with her Framework. And since the Feds have opened the teacher evaluation can of worms by requiring systems to change their evaluation system in order to get their piece of the Race to the Top funding, systems have quickly grabbed onto whatever they could get their hands on ! Most seem to have grabbed onto Danielson’s framework, even though it was just a theory when she proposed it. Now corporations and research entities have jumped on her bandwagon, developing tools to measure her framework of teaching skills. And while this process may eventually make teacher evaluations a little more fair, again it is being utilized before being tested and researched thoroughly… all because politicians want what they want, when they want it (sounds like spoiled brats, don’t they?)…. I suppose it’s all because these politicians have a limited 4 year term and want to be able to point to the changes they’ve made during their time frame… but come on.. what right do they have to tell educators how to do their job? Why don’t they tell Wall street how to do their job? or Banks?
I’m just glad I participated in the pilot program for teacher evaluations in my district. Now I won’t be panicking along with the other thousands of educators who will be faced with the new evaluations, and new standards in the next year. I suspect an unprecedented number of retirees are leaving this year… If I could afford it, I might too…. but naw…. I want to stick around to see all these changes develop and make education better 5 years from now… hanging on for wild ride into my educational sunset….