Count on Trolls

This wasn’t what I set out to write today but this is where I have ended up. Today marked the day that Diane Ravitch’s Reign of Error hits newsstands nationwide.  I haven’t read it but I have read some reviews. This morning, while reading Ms. Ravitch’s own account of her stop in Pittsburgh, one of the commenters posted a link to a review of the new book. I wasn’t on full troll alert so I followed the link

Turns out, after a few seconds of heart-stopping anguish, that it wasn’t a troll at all.The site is obviously satirical but not that far off of what some believe. The site is called Last Stand for Children First which at first blush sounds like another public education hate site. Read on my friends, critical reading and thinking are important 21st Century skills. From the billionaire CEO, Myron Miner, who taught in the tough inner city of Boca Raton to the Chief Education Director whose only apparent credential is that he played hoops with Arne Duncan in Australia to the notoriously fictitious Rep. Jack Kimble from the mythical California 54th, Honorary Director. We even have a Sigma Chi representative on the BoD.

It was a bit scary at first because I wasn’t quite sure whether it was real or not. Statements like these below aren’t all that far from some of the things we hear in public education:

On Ravitch’s new book: “While I didn’t actually read Ravitch’s book, I think I’ve gotten a pretty good feeling for what it’s about by reading the cover..” from the CEO of Last Stand for Children First

On improving teacher quality: “Our research has shown that the best teachers to motivate inner city youth are white, fresh out of college, and preferably from a privileged background.”

On improving the curriculum: “Too much of a child’s day is taken up with classes like music, art, and social studies, which are not even tested.  These classes have been created by teachers unions trying to create jobs and give teachers prep periods.”

And their tribute to billionaires: “Billionaires have the clout to influence public policy in a way that few other people can. There is no better way to democratize education in this country than by bringing the voices of CEOs and hedge fund managers into the equation.”

As well as a common man’s understanding of statistics “Nearly 25% of all American high school students in 2008 scored in the bottom quartile of state standardized tests in reading and 10% scored in the bottom tenth in math.”

Not sure who is responsible for this but, “Well Played, Sirs, Well Played.” I’ll be back!

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Trust Me ;)

“Integrity has no need for rules.” -Albert Camus

This week the graduate program led us to the topic of trust in the workplace. In my estimation there probably couldn’t be a timelier subject for educators. Not sure that it is the same everywhere but trust is no where to be found in the Pennsylvania Department of Education. I had an unfortunate conversation last week with a teacher in our building. Noticing that the implementation of the PA Common Core Standards had been pushed back a year, he wondered if it was due to the new teacher evaluation and PDE thinking it may not be fair to evaluate teachers on an assessment that contained new content. I laughed out loud. I wish I would have held on to some of that naivete that allowed me to think that PDE had the best interest of teachers and schools at heart. I say it was unfortunate because I probably should have held back but I didn’t. I assured him that if PCC was pushed back it had nothing to do with teachers, it probably had to do with money. I had lost my trust in my “employer.” Not that I work directly for the PDE but don’t all of us answer to their mandates?

I don’t believe my distrust is misplaced. Recently the Bureau of Assessment  the long arm of the PSSA, determined that beginning this year, all teachers who administer or proctor the standardized assessment will be trained by a computer module that will be completed online. This job was previously completed by the building principal or school assessment coordinator. Apparently there is no trust in the way that was being completed. (Read: we are all cheaters or at best half-assed at our jobs). In addition we received a communique from PDE telling us exactly how we must discipline our students if they are caught with cell phones during the PSSA or the Keystone Exams. You know, because if they don’t tell us, we don’t have the capacity to use our common sense. They don’t trust the administrators who are responsible for the results.

One more, just for good measure. Currently in New York and California administrators must undergo “calibration” training sessions in order to assure that there is interrater reliability when using the Framework for Teachers. Oh, how I wish I was kidding. It’s coming to Pennsylvania too if it is not already here. You should read the article in the link. I don’t think I can explain it any better.

I know what you’re thinking: “What’s so bad about making sure that everyone is seeing the same thing?” Well, the problem is that we do this everyday. We have a vision for our school and believe it or not we work hard to make sure that we have the best schools that we can have. We definitely don’t need a non educator telling us how it should be. Bill Gates is an extremely intelligent guy but he never spent a day with 30 teacher and 500 kids. He is the hero of calibration. And we feel like the trust is gone. 

I could go on. Tom Corbett’s assault on PSERS not to mention education funding in general. Michelle Rhee’s, another non educator, report card for public schools. Jeb Bush’s Cheifs for Change, Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top and his RESPECT Project. Corbett is the only teacher in the group and the knew pretty early that he couldn’t do the job. There’s not even any indication on the PDE website indicating that Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis ever taught. But why does that matter, Arne Duncan never taught.

Trust? Trust who? It does make sense to rebuild education from the outside. I would want a lawyer telling my doctor how to improve my health and the doctor would be a great help in expanding the mechanical capacity of my mechanic. I think the dentist should critique the local cop during a ride along or may he can go with the fire company. 

Like my grandfather used to say, “You can trust a dog to watch your house but you can’t trust him to watch your sandwich.”