A reader sends a description of a teacher’s life in Louisiana, where a new state law changed everything, including tenure, evaluation, charters, vouchers, and whatever else the reformers could throw into a law that was passed without input from educators or any deliberation:
So here in Louisiana we get ready to start the new school year, having spent the summer at “mandatory” conferences and training; middle schools are sending many teachers to become AP certified, math and English teachers have spent their summer in classes 5 days a week for STEM training, CCSS classes abound with little information and three full days of “in-services” await us before we see students. That alone will kill any motivation that remains. So many teachers are exhausted and yet the demands for new and better programs requires 200%, last year teachers were requested to give 200% or find another position. Yet we have no idea what our value added scores really mean-some are told they don’t really matter if you’re a good teacher. Others are told that starting 2013-2014 the firing of the lowest 10% will start.
No one can tell us how the scores will help us improve, where our strong or weak areas are, what we need to change, how we relate to the rest of the state etc. Teachers want to do their best and take it to heart when we are told we failed our kids. Even though logically we know the value added scores are bogus, especially since the numbers are not given meaning with explanations and feedback. Emotionally it has been devastating and most discussions are about the fear of hurting our students again since we don’t know what to improve. Teachers express fear of getting caught up in this mess and losing their tenure knowing that there is no way in hell anyone will manage to get “highly Effective 5 out of 6 years” to regain tenure if we don’t know what we did wrong in the first place!
A student I taught in high school several years ago, both of his parents are teachers, commented that this value added stuff is like failing your drivers test but no one tells you why and then says you have to do it again but since you don’t know what you did wrong in the first place you just keep failing. He said his family had a pretty miserable summer trying to deal with all the stress and fear of trying to decide if they should change careers, move to another state, get another degree (both of his parents have masters degrees and are national board certified and have been Teacher’s of the Year. He said they stick up for their students and that is what gets them in trouble and they fear it will effect their evaluations. He is looking forward to going back to college just to get out of the house and that makes him feel guilty.
If you teach math and English at least the LEAP scores count for your area, science and social studies are the step children. Any idea of how motivated a middle school student is to pass a test they don’t have to? Why focus only on 50% of the core subjects for years and years? Supposedly highly educated people who should know the interrelationship between all the core classes made that decision! Now math and English CCSS are here, with lots of overlap to science and social studies whose CCSS are years away.
No one want to talk about what is really going to happen next year, everyone is afraid, discussion leads to anger and frustration and many just want to ignore it and think all this will go away. Talking about the mess gets many in trouble and the newspapers don’t think it is worth discussing except for an occasional article. The Shreveport paper had a short article about how parents could avoid the inconvenience of PTA/PTO involvement(Thanks Shreveport Times), Jindal is gone running around campaigning for an office he doesn’t have yet while ignoring the one he has and our students are depending on teachers to create the safe, caring, learning environments they need. And we will, because that is what educators do.
Not a surprise that FUD explains our state and many others.