"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

Search This Blog

Thursday, December 8, 2011

DESE NCLB Waiver Application Needs Input By January 5th

Yesterday I wrote about the cost of the NCLB waiver. It could be argued that, since Missouri has already signed on to the Common Core Standards back in June of 2010, we would ultimately incur those costs anyway.  That may be, but DESE should still be held accountable for determining exactly what those costs are and getting approval from the legislature before authorizing any work on meeting the CCS requirements.

In the waiver itself are several areas of concern, some having to do with cost (like the creation of three new job positions [for underperforming schools] under DESE of Project Manager, Instructional Improvement Coordinator and Instructional Improvement Staff) and others having to do with process.

According to the terms of the waiver, "Qualifying for a waiver would commit the state to using standardized test scores or equivalent data as part of the evaluations for teachers and principals."

Teachers AND administrators in this state should pay special attention to this commitment. It comes from the Race To The Top program which Missouri has successfully ducked in the last year. We (the State School Board) spent almost $600,000 developing the grant application, and getting all 557 school superintendents to sign a Memorandum of Understanding that they would abide by the promises in the, at the time, incomplete application. Even though we didn't win a grant award, the school districts are being held to the terms of that MOU.  That means that we in Missouri will be facing the same problem that caused 658 principals from around the state of New York to sign a letter of protest against their waiver requirements.

According to the New York Times, principals like Bernard Kaplan of Great Neck North High School on Long Island, who runs one of the highest achieving schools in the state, and has been performing teacher evaluations for decades will be required, under the terms of the waiver, to attend ten training sessions. The sames goes for Carol Burris, the principal of South Side High School, who was named the 2010 Educator of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State.

  • “It’s education by humiliation,” Mr. Kaplan said. “I’ve never seen teachers and principals so degraded.”
  •  Katie Zahedi, principal of Linden Avenue Middle School in Red Hook in Dutchess County. said the training session she attended was “two days of total nonsense." “I have a Ph.D., I’m in a school every day, and some consultant is supposed to be teaching me to do evaluations,” she said. “It takes your breath away it’s so awful...

Their complaints are many: the evaluation system was put together in slapdash fashion, with no pilot program; there are test scores to evaluate only fourth-through-eighth-grade English and math teachers; and New York tests are so unreliable that they had to be rescaled radically last year, with proficiency rates in math and English dropping 25 percentage points overnight."
In DESE's application, the steps Missouri would take to address failing schools are based on four fundamental principles.

1. Students cannot wait for incremental improvement in their educational conditions.
Given the trends of low performing districts and the lack of district systems to sufficiently respond, targeted and rapid intervention is necessary for improved and sustainable student learning so that all students graduate adequately prepared for college and careers.

For students who, at any point in time, are out of alignment with grade level expectations, the school will be required to take immediate action. This (and principle #3) gives DESE the right to step into your district offices and schools very rapidly.

2. The process of targeting intervention requires a systematic evaluative focus on implementation and dedicated project management and instructional improvement support. Existing district capacity is insufficient to implement and monitor dramatic transformation of district instructional  improvement given current resources and processes. The Department must be an active participant in districts to change instructional practice, curriculum, formative assessments, and develop and utilize collaborative instructional teams to accelerate implementation of district and building improvement plans.

This is a preemptive vote of no-confidence on the part of DESE towards existing district staff. The people in new positions mentioned above will be the ones to come in and direct you on how you are to fix your school.

3.  Monitoring progress in districts must be based on outcomes.   Monitoring district implementation of agreed upon intervention components is necessary to ensure that progress is underway. The Department must work with and in the district to make appropriate adjustments

4. Collaboration among stakeholders is essential for sustainable improved  student learning.  The district must ensure that school leaders, teaches, parents and community partners are actively engaged in the implementation of the district a (sic) building improvement plan(s).

DESE does not give any enforcement mechanism for the school to use to make sure all the named stakeholders are active participants in this improvement, but they do require the district to somehow force (ensure) that everyone named is "actively engaged."  This should send a chill down the backs of parents.

The last thing I wanted to point out to our readers who are primarily parents (as opposed to teaching staff) is the chart on the waiver page 30 that shows everything a teacher is expected to do as part of his/her professional commitment.  Two things come to mind when looking at this. One is, if you have a teacher who seems unable to respond to your individual concerns about your child or who seems on the verge of burn out, keep in mind that many of these requirements are already in place and teachers are dealing with all of them, in addition to formulating lesson plans and grading papers.  The second observation is more general. When looking at most of these boxes and what the teacher is doing I am struck by how most of them used to be the job of the parent, especially numbers 1, 2, 6, 9, and 8. Yet this is now the Teacher's job description.  Parents have been relegated to support personnel or stakeholder.

Don't forget the deadline for comments to DESE is January 5th, 2012.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Keep it clean and constructive. We reserve the right to delete comments that are profane, off topic, or spam.

Site Meter