~ Philip K. Dick (1928 – 1982), “How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t
Fall Apart Two Days Later”, 1978
The following is taken from a PowerPoint by a school identified for ultimate sanctions under No Child Left Behind. The school has been taken over by the state. I used to work there. Will the below plan work?
Eduhonesty: I must express a few concerns.
Certainly, all schools should focus on measuring learning results. All district departments should work together to make changes needed to improve student learning. Goals should be based on what students need to know for success, and those goals should not be stagnant.
That said, I just lived through this plan. I had a compliant administrator who did what he was told. In my view, what he did often lacked common sense, but no one up the ladder appeared to be available to listen to my observations. I believe my problem came down to point five: “Willing to make more dramatic changes to help children learn — even if teachers, parents or others disagree.”
But what if those teachers, parents or others have valid concerns? What if they are even right sometimes? I swear, every time I brought up a concern last year, I was brushed off. Abruptly. Immediately. At worst, I was criticized for not being with the program and for lacking faith in my students.
The program had me handing obligatory tests and quizzes to my students at least once a week — often tests and quizzes that I had minimal or NO hand in writing and often tests or quizzes that my students could not do. I knew they were struggling. I had to grade those messes. Expecting students who are operating at a test-documented, first- to fifth-grade level in mathematics to succeed at those quizzes would have been showing more faith than any rationale person ought to possess. Did that compliant administrator ever look at those tests? If so, what was he thinking? Was he thinking at all?
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in faith. I am currently wearing a silver cross I purchased in Scotland, and I am not wearing it to ward off vampires. But faith should not override reason in the classroom.
I will cynically admit that I have my own version of faith in that compliant administrator; I trust him to spout the testing party-line without ever taking a real look at the students in his care. He will do what people tell him to do. And I’m not sure that he is ignoring inconvenient facts. I am afraid the situation may be scarier than that. I think he may have no idea that you can’t consistently give students material that’s sometimes four or even more years above their operating academic level and expect them to succeed — not without much more remediation than a few hours of essentially optional tutoring each week.
Well, hugs to my colleagues in the trenches. To any of you who can identify with what I just wrote, I extend my profound sympathies. I’m not sure I have any real advice other than to nod, agree, and teach like your hair’s on fire. Trying to explain never got me anywhere, probably because my advocacy for less dramatic changes did not fit with the program. Readers, I hope you are doing better.