Race To The Top and watch us all fall down

qqRace To TopHave you ever wished you didn’t know something? Like maybe the person that told you some information got it wrong. Or maybe you read that sentence in an article wrong and missed the word almost or nearly. Sometimes I get that way because I am happier being ignorant. And I don’t feel like getting involved all the time. But then I hear something or read something and my opinion starts formulating against my will. Then I get fired up. And finally I either talk Mr.’s ear off about it or I torture you good people with a blog. Well this is the case with this Race To The Top issue.

My principal mentioned this weeks ago and I tried to pretend like I heard it wrong.  She informed a few of us on bus duty that things are going to start looking different come evaluation time thanks to the Race To The Top grant. She said that if 50% of our students don’t show improvement on ‘the test’ by the end of the school year, she could not give us a satisfactory rating. A satisfactory rating is the way we get our raises. I kept my mouth shut and went on about my business thinking maybe she got it wrong (she gets confused sometimes but I still like her). I overheard her repeating the same info to a different group of people yesterday and again I shrugged it off. I guess God said ‘listen up’ because just last night I went to a meeting where the leader asked us to get our friends to go to this forum with Dr. Foose (Superintendent of Howard County Public Schools) on March 14th. The forum is about the achievement gap between Black students and other races but Race To The Top came up…again! I suppose I can no longer ignore it.

You know what melts my butter about this is not necessarily the competition-type motivation that this grant brings. Some teachers are quite complacent and they really need to be fired up or straight out fired.  I am a 16 year veteran teacher and I have seen some pretty sad excuses for teaching occur around me. Teaching from chairs, giving out goo gobs of handouts for assignments, calling kids ‘dumb’, passing a kid on because they no longer want to engage in behavior management, etc. But when you talk about tying my salary in with test scores I have some questions about what your goal is. For starters what kind of evaluation of a person’s body of work depends on one single entry?  When we compose students grades we consider classwork, homework, participation, and test scores.  Each part makes up a certain percentage of the final grade. Most people know that children shine in different ways and you shouldn’t punish them for not performing well in one single area. How come teachers can’t get the same kind of respect? What about the parent-teacher conferences we hold or all the collaborations we do with other teachers to reach our students more effectively? How come the professional development workshops and in-services don’t count? What about the observations that principals do? This grant negates all of that effort. I would prefer you look at my entire portfolio before you pass judgement on whether or not I’m a good teacher.

This grant sounds good but let me tell you it’s Pandora’s Box incarnate. Once you tell teachers they won’t get their measly raise unless children pass the test, there will be cheating all over the place. Teachers will break all the rules just to get kids to pass a test (and many teachers already do this). And you can forget preparing students for the real world because it will be all about the test. Use process of elimination to find the answer. Start your answer to the open ended question with “I think my answer is right because…”. Who cares if the child can read an application or make change from dollar bills? Every lesson will about the test. PERIOD. What makes me so sad is that these kids are going to ultimately lose in the end of all of this. Folks won’t care about genuine, meaningful learning experiences anymore. This kind of thing saps out all of the creativity of teaching. It’s bad enough we teach with scripts nowadays. Anyone who can read can supposedly teach. There will be no room for divergent thinking. The colorful world of education will go to black and white.

I know people want teachers to save the world and produce power students expeditiously but there’s one component that everyone seems to forget when it comes to educating a child. THE PARENTS. I am fed up with parents being let off the hook and not being held responsible for their child’s education.  Where is their accountability? Family life has a major influence on the education of a child and anyone who tells you something different is full of it. I guess what the child lacks at home can be remedied by us teachers too. Did your child miss 45 days of school because you didn’t feel like sending him? No problem. The teacher will catch him up on 270 hours of missed instruction in one week. Is your child coming to school hungry because you allow her to eat junk with empty calories at home for dinner? We got you covered. The teachers will not only provide nutritious meals to eat but we will also force your child to overcome their junk food addiction and eat the healthy food at school (I have lunch duty at my school and you would be amazed at how much food the kids throw away because they crave sweets and processed foods). Is your baby sleepy because you don’t enforce a reasonable bed time at home? It’s ok. The teachers will ensure that your child gets a nap in class. Don’t worry about hindering his proper development and growth. We’ll catch up on that during the 270 hour marathon. Hey maybe your little cherub has some difficulty managing her emotions. It’s the teachers fault. It has nothing to do with the fact that you struggle to make the rent and keep moving her from place to place. It also has nothing to do with the fact that you spend about 60% of your time out of the house with your friends and leave her with relatives or child molesting boyfriends. Clearly, the teacher is boring her at school and that’s why she acts out.

Cut the crap people! This assessment of teachers is about placing blame not about education reform or achievement.  Race To The Top puts all eggs in one basket and doesn’t begin to tell the whole story. Shame on people who think that it’s all about classroom instruction. Childhood development is a comprehensive process and it is nurtured by several sources.  Stop grabbing at straws in student achievement. The buck stops here. We need all hands on deck.

Thanks for reading!

PS 1. Dr. Foose wrote an op-ed about this in the Baltimore Sun.

2. The forum will be at St. John Baptist Church in Columbia on March 14, 2013 at 7 pm.

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2 thoughts on “Race To The Top and watch us all fall down

  1. Yes! Thank you. This obsession toward holding teachers’ feet to the fire of accountability is suspect. None of this “reform” movement is actually about improving student learning. None.

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