Some readers wonder why I’m not a fan of charter schools and other education ‘reforms.’ The answer is simple: they usually involved outright lies.
Consider the Education Achievement Authority (‘EAA’) created by Republican Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to take over failing schools in Michigan. Of course it involves busting teachers unions and lots of assessing of metrics. Speaking of which, this will end well (boldface mine):
MEAP testing was disgraceful this year. With most schools there’s a secured testing room where they house all of the MEAP materials. I know from previous experience in schools I’ve taught at that those materials cannot be accessed by the entire staff, they must be in a locked room. At my school, that room was wide open for two weeks before the test was administered. Everyone was in and out of there….
We use a “1-2-3-4” system. We’re not allowed to use letter grades. 3s and 4s are considered mastering a concept and they’re passing it and 1s and 2s are not considered okay. It means that the student is working toward it but they haven’t mastered it yet. So, I may put in a 3 or a 4 for a student but not have anything on paper other than a note that I had met with the student.
Well, all of a sudden, that wasn’t okay last month even though at the beginning of the year, it was fine. I don’t know if someone came down on the EAA for not having enough proven work or what. And, for some students that weren’t doing well, I’m not going to lie about their grades. If they’re not mastering something, I’m going to give them a 1 or a 2. A 1 is basically “they don’t really know it” and a 2 is like “they’re trying but they still haven’t grasped the concept yet.” So, I had a number of students with 1s or 2s and all of sudden it was, “You can’t give 1s anymore.” I argued this with them. I said, “Why wouldn’t I give a 1 if a student hasn’t shown me anything on it?” and they said, “Well, we don’t want 1s in the grade book. You need to go back and change that.”
But wait! More lies:
Performance series tests are what the EAA uses to show that the students are making gains and showing growth. Since I began last year, it has been drilled into us that they consider these tests more important than the MEAP. They are given four times a year in reading, language arts, science, and math and they show if the students are mastering the content and if we’re meeting them at their level vs. their grade level, the traditional level. So, we’re supposed to treat these like a secure testing environment. You have to fill out testing verification forms and proctor forms declaring that you made sure the students were on the computer, not talking, just like you would do for the MEAP. What we have recently been told is that if a student from the last test actually went down more than 100 points, they want us to retest those students the next week. My argument is that, if they are using this test to show growth, and I know that this what Covington refers to when he’s on the news or writing about our our schools, why would I go back and retest a kid if that’s how that kid did?
I didn’t get any answers to that and they still said, “We want you to retest these students and we would like you to go back on your proctor forms and write in that the student on the original test date had ‘bad day’ so we can officially retest them.”
So they basically wanted you to keep testing these kids until they got the answer they wanted?
Pretty much. Until it showed that the student had actually learned something.
The workplace is Stasi-like–and that’s not hyperbole:
Another thing that I wanted talk about is what we, and when I say “we” I mean a group of us EAA teachers, what we call “the promotion of the tattletales.” They have made it a point in EAA schools across Detroit that they will make teachers coaches or instructors – give them that pay bump and a separate title – if they are willing to rat out other teachers for not implementing the SCL model to the best of their ability or if they are caught complaining about something the administrators have done….
It’s almost become a way of survival that, if you have friends at school, you don’t act like it. Because the minute they see a team, like a hallway team getting along, or if they see teachers from other grade levels working together, they sever that relationship. Whether they call you in and tell you that that person is talking about you in a negative way or they move your position completely. I have seen them take one teacher being successful in a hallway, being successful at what he or she needed to do and then, all of sudden, they are put into another grade level…
I would definitely say that, in my experience, that a big fear among the EAA leaders is the staff rising up because I think that they are starting to see it at a lot of the schools. So, when people are getting together and talking, it’s a threat.
One thing that I have experienced is that we have one teacher in particular that I know who was given a promotion at our school and this particular teacher was actually caught not doing his or her job on several occasions. This teacher was also caught signing in for days that he or she was not present at school by administration and nothing was done about it….
He or she was willing to… if he or she overheard a conversation between two teachers about something that an administrator did that they didn’t like, this person was running right in there to let the administrator know.
But unions are the problem. Or something. Believe me, there’s a lot more, but let’s end with one more way to manipulate teachers–denying them supplies unless they get with the program:
Another thing I wanted to mention was in regards to student supplies. We don’t really get any because it’s all supposed to be a digital curriculum so they don’t really see the need for paper and pencils…
I have to buy everything. I’ve had to buy…tape. I mean we don’t even get tape half the time. I have to buy my own printer ink to print with. None of that is available…
We have been told by our the administration team at our school that, if you want us to start buying you stuff and you want — Dr. Esselman’s name was dropped — if you want Dr. Esselman to come in and give you the things that you need, you need to make sure that the SCL model looks good when she visits our site.
So the next time you wonder why I distrust education reformers, it’s because the reality diverges from the rhetoric.
And, yes, I have serious doubts about the two school takeovers in Boston–which have the added bonus of being privatized.