Are Race To The Top and Other Reforms Killing MA’s Education System?

While I often laud Massachusetts’ education system, I’ve also worried that, in the attempt to get Race to the Top money by embracing various education ‘reforms’, Massachusetts will have harmed its world class system. Well, according to some teachers in Massachusetts, the early reviews aren’t sounding good:

Only insights that “embrace” our purchased district-wide professional development may be communicated. Only teacher-leaders pursuing assigned leadership roles are even considered for exemplary ratings.

We accept a diversity of opinions and criticism, as long as they agree with us. Awesome. Here’s the reality of implementation (boldface mine):

1. We have to establish DESE outlined S.M.A.R.T goals. SMART= Specific and strategic, Measurable, Action oriented, Rigorous, Realistic and Results-focused (the 3 R’s), Timed and tracked.

2. Our goals have to be tied to our students’ progress on the state tests. Even the Health and Art teachers have to tie their goals to the MCAS (and soon to be PARCC)….

5. This portfolio is reviewed by a building administrator (my portfolio from last spring was looked at in early September). An administrator makes the call whether we need improvement, are proficient, or exemplary.

All in all there are 12 different documents that need to be submitted.

After a long back and forth with my principal last year, my final accepted goal was: By June 2014 common and formal assessments will have been identified, implemented and analyzed collaboratively providing evidence of student growth of at least 3-5% in 6th grade English language arts.


We are so short staffed and cut to the bone that I had one visit from an administrator all year and that was because he had a question about a student. I have no idea how any observational reporting by admin was done.

The truly sad part about this whole process is, my administrator clicks on a button in the program (MyLearningPlan) that says “proficient” and that is all that goes to the State.

The evaluation process sucks ass as well (boldface mine):

One of the big problems we have is that a lot of the Primary Evaluators have never had training or done the jobs of the people they are evaluating. We have a person in our school who has never been a classroom teacher responsible for evaluating teachers. We have a person who has never worked in a library or received any training in librarianship evaluating the librarians. We also have administrators with one or two years experience in the classroom, or with no degrees in the subjects they are evaluating the teachers of, serving as Primary Evaluators. The only qualification to be a Primary Evaluator is to hold an administrative degree.

Don’t forget about misallocation of resources:

I work in what’s known as a “Gateway City” in MA. These are primarily old industrial towns that have high immigrant populations and poverty rates. We are laying off staff, our facilities are falling apart, but it seems the data collection and evaluations are generating a whole new industry. A lot of MA systems are paying for software to manage the evaluations. This one is popular; I think our district will be spending $10,000 on it this year. Meanwhile, kids are rubber-banding and taping their English books together.

Books, something about books…. But I digress.

I hope I’m wrong, but I think education reformers might have damaged an excellent system–because why not re-invent the wheel–and make it a square one. And don’t forget to add some MBA-bidnessspeak bullshit.

Absolutely infuriating. Education reformers will be responsible for the de facto mild retardation of an entire generation of students (or at least poor and middle class ones).

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