Not all evaluations are equal …

As the school year is coming to a close many of district administrators are busy working on teacher evaluations. In Michigan, all teachers now have to have a yearly evaluation. By law a significant part of this evaluation has to be based upon  student achievement data. Has the state given guidance into what data to use and how to use it? Not really. The MDE was supposed to come up with an evaluation model by the end of March. At the end of March, they realized how hard this model was to create and have decided to Pilot a new model in 13 districts state-wide to make sure it is fair.  Meanwhile in all of the districts in the state, evaluations are being done using what each district feels will work best.

So all of the state’s teachers are being evaluated on as many different models for evaluation as districts. These districts will report one of 4 rating for each teacher; 1. Highly Effective 2. Effective 3. Minimally Effective  4. Basic. This is reported in the rep report to the state which is a public record. If this get published think of the chaos.

A teacher ranking “Highly Effective”  in one district could rank “effective” or lower in another district. We will be comparing apples but they are different types of apples used for different thing.

Districts and the state need to report publicly the formula used for creating the ratings. Or better yet, the state needs to void all of the ratings until a universally used system is put in place. This way the public won’t get confused.

An open letter to any elected official who is willing to listen

Dear Officials:

First an foremost thank you for taking the time to listen to an educator. Most of us feel unrepresented in this time of school reform.   As you create laws and pass sweeping changes that affect my place of work I would like you to keep in mind a few things.

1. Please listen to educators- the ones who have been in a classroom at least 10 years.

2. IF you feel you need to cut money from schools remember that it means I will have less to pay for student’s meals, snacks and supplies. That is where most teachers extra money goes back into the underfunded classrooms.

3. IF you feel teachers need to spend more time with paper work and training, it will mean I will have less time to coach, tutor, or design high quality lessons. Teachers already work at night and during weekends to keep up with the demands on their time.

4. Address the hidden curriculum. Sure I know we need to teach math, science, social studies and language arts. We should not have to teach: social skills, manners, internet safety, hygiene, etc. Poverty makes in necessary for teachers to teach these needs. Funding needs to be available to help in these areas. Or reform business so poverty is gone.

5. Remember your teachers, you have an education because of them. Teachers make the future and need to be supported and not attacked.

 

Again Thanks for listening.

Collaboration Adds Time

As a teacher and parent, time always seems to be at a premium. Choosing what gets done is all about priorities. Finding ways to accomplish tasks in less time is a huge plus. I have found that by fostering a collaborative relationship with other teachers helps us all with the time crunch.

 

Last year, I found myself teaching a new grade level for science. In fact both of the eight grade science teachers were new to the grade level. At first we found ourselves overwhelmed with work. During the school year we developed ways to cut down our load. First, we started sharing everything we were doing in our classrooms online. A Blackboard classroom was created to be a “file” cabinet for us. Sitting down to talk things over was kept to a minimum do to time. Trust Was the key. Each of us trusts the other to create the best lessons for our students. Since our doors are across from each other in the hallway, we can have 3-minute mini-discussions about what needs to be accomplished. We quickly decide what each of us will do based upon our strengths. This collaboration effort has created more time for both of us.

 

Are work loads ever equal? No, it is not a concern that they are equal. In the end there is a balance. No collaboration will be 100% equal. All parties involved just need to focus on the benefits of working together nor the division of the work load. If I did not collaborate with another, I would have more work. This is the idea people need to focus on when building a collaborate relationship.

 

Will it cut your work in half? Probably not at first since both parties will have to make efforts to make the relationship work. Eventually the efforts will pay great dividends.

Where does learning occur?

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The education reform movement seems to be so focused on academic learning that occurs in the classroom, they seem to forget that learning occurs elsewhere too. Our students are learning many different things, most of which can never be measured by a standardized test.

In fact learning occurs everywhere everyday. You know those Ah-HA moments where a person figures stuff out. That is learning. We learn from our mistakes and success, by trail and error. We learn from victories but more often from the failures. Anything that makes us reflect, pause or change our course.

Problem is this educational reform movement just wants to focus on learning that can be measured in the classroom. This can be very limited at times. Lessons take awhile to sink in, when the student is surrounded by peers who think learning isn’t so cool. The student might be learning how to deal with divorce or how to tend for a sibling. It just might be too hard right then to focus on that algebra or reading assignment. Students are so busy learning how to survive in life that their academic success may be on pause.

The movement needs to focus on the individual growth of students using a portfolio of growth instead of standardized testing. Portfolios need to include aspects of all areas of learning: Social, emotional, and physical growth need to be measured on top of intellectual.  All students do learn, it is just that they learn in many different ways and rates.

Do all children talk or walk at the same time? No. Does this make one smarter than another?

Recognizing that all children are different and should not perform the same on a yearly standardized test needs to be the first step in educational reform.

Make it relevant!

A child asks “Why do I need to know this?” As a teacher the pressing reason is because it will be on a standardized test. Of course ALL knowledge is valuable, but to learn it really needs to be relevant to our curiosities, needs and desires.

Some of the benchmarks teachers are required to teach are not that relevant when looking at the surface value. Does the average American need to know how to graph the slope of a line, know who why the war of 1812 was fought or know how a subduction zone affects the Earth? Probably not.

Does technology sometimes hurt us in making it relevant? “Why do I need to learn to multiply if the calculator can do it?”  or better still “There is an app for that!” Technology has taken some of the relevance away from teaching. When teaching measurement and how to read a ruler I was told by a contractors son that “My dad has a laser he points to the wall to make the measurement.” After he brought the tool in to show me, I found it to be more accurate and saves time. Should we all know how to measure, certainly because we need to make sure the technology is working correctly and some of us will go on to create technology that makes our lives easier.

If standards can not be made relevant to a students, they will not learn them. We need to realize that all standards will not be relevant to all students. Luckily most students will find most standards relevant if connected to their lives in the proper manner. Parents, teachers and communities need to make this learning relevant by sparking curiosities and asking questions.

Too often connections aren’t made and learning is hindered. I hear: “My parents don’t know the answer” or “I am not good at _____”.

 

It is not about others knowing or being good it is about figuring our something new. This needs to be encouraged.

 

In reality school is NOT about the standards that we are required to teach but about learning HOW to learn new things.

 

WHY? Because everybody has to learn new things everyday to survive in our society.

 

Leading a Student To Water.

I love being a teacher, helping guide students in their learning. Seeing their eyes light up or face brighten when they finally get it. These AH-HA moments really are the reasons anyone teachers. Quenching the students thirsts for knowledge is highly rewarding.

Lately, I have gotten the impression that a growing group of students don’t want the knowledge waters that are being offered in schools today.  Groups of students seem indifferent to what is being presented to them in the classrooms. Saying “So what”, “Who Cares”, or “I don’t need to know that”.

Why? I wish I could answer that one. Is it because they can just google anything thing and get an answer in seconds? Is it because they see no need for knowledge in the world today? or is it that the American culture is about instant satisfaction and education is about a life of learn?

We need to work as educators, parents, and communities to make sure our students drink what we are giving them. The statistics show us falling in the world rankings. Until we find ways to motivate ALL students so they want to seek knowledge instead of randomly access it the fall will continue.

If we lead them to knowledge, drinking it up is expected.

The Gorilla out the window

Let me stare out the window for a moment instead of looking in the mirror. There is a huge billion pound gorilla out there that nobody in the “Ed Reform” world wants to address. Society doesn’t value education anymore.

 

Yes, I know every candidate for political office want to say they do, and parents say they care but do they really VALUE it? Like people of days gone by?

 

Our entertainment industry sure doesn’t. The Cosby Show is only on in reruns and to replace it we have Two and 1/2 Men. So from a family show that stressed hard work we move to, well what have we moved to, a show about a leech of a man with a dumb kid living with a “lucky” internet billionaire. To sum it up the next generation is worshiping the Kardashians and Jersey Shore. They have the “I don’t care” attitude and it shows. Parents try as they might but I see them giving in to being a buddy to their children because they do not want to deal with the extra stress or real work of raising them. heck right now my 3 children are glued to the TV while I take the time to write this. (I guess I am part of the problem). Today one of my students confessed he plays 4 hours of Xbox every day. Others talked about going to bed at 6 am over break because they were busy. These are 13 and 14 year old 8th graders.

 

Our Business industry doesn’t, they are so worried about profits they don’t think about the culture it is creating. They will sell anything to anyone if they will make money. My students always seem to have the newest games, cell phone and clothing. My students say they must have the name brands to be cool. These thoughs are inserted in their heads young and last a life time. Stop worrying about profits and worry about the kids. If they can’t make money, they won’t have any in the future to spend.

 

Did the Gorilla gain some weight.

 

Teachers need the help of society to fix the “ED” problem. Teachers will continue, like we always have, to work to improve our teaching and engage our students. We just need some help in our society to actual make it hit home.

 

Please Sweat to Inspire and put the Gorilla on a diet by holding the entire society accountable to the educational issues in this country not just the teachers. They are only a small piece to a very complex puzzle.