The poem below was written by Holly White, an English teacher and parent. I asked her to explain why she wrote it, and she did. Oh, when you read the poem, you will come to the acronym HEDI, which means “highly effective, effective, developing, and ineffective,” the ratings given to teachers based on test scores and observations.
Holly White writes:
“After graduating from Colgate University in the small town of Hamilton, NY, I was given the opportunity to stay in Hamilton and pursue my career as an English teacher. I have taught at HCS, the community’s P-12 public school, for 14 years. I’m proud of our creative and talented students, of our incredibly dedicated faculty and staff, and of the broader Hamilton community that supports us.
“As a teacher, and as a parent with two children in elementary school, corporate education reform is often on my mind, especially during testing season. One evening in early March, I was reading a few Dr. Seuss books to my children. I paused in the middle of the book “Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?” after reading the following passage:
Out west, near Hawtch-Hawtch,
there’s a Hawtch-Hawtcher Bee-Watcher.
His job is to watch…
is to keep both his eyes on the lazy town bee.
A bee that is watched will work harder, you see.
Well…he watched and he watched.
But, in spite of his watch,
that bee didn’t work any harder. Not mawtch.
So then somebody said,
“Our old bee-watching man
just isn’t bee-watching as hard as he can.
He ought to be watched by another Hawtch-Hawtcher!
The thing that we need
is a Bee-Watcher-Watcher!
“After tucking my kids into bed, I still couldn’t shake the image of the Hawtch-Hawtchers lining up to watch the “lazy town bee.” I pulled out my laptop and–attempting to channel Seuss’s use of verbal irony and absurdity–wrote for the next four hours.”
A Portrait of Education Reform, Inspired by Dr. Seuss
We said students would be proficient, all 100 percent!
But the year 2014, it came and it went…
There’d been little improvement after 12 years of tests,
So we searched till we found the most “rigorous” ones yet.
What those teachers must need is more accountability,
Then they’ll surely work harder, every he and each she.
As soon as they hear about APPR,
They’ll take their feet off their desks, make their lessons five-star,
And strive to earn back the public’s trust
(A tough task, since they’ve been treated with scorn and disgust).
Once they know that we’re watching, and changing cut scores,
And counting all the 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s,
They’ll teach and they’ll prep and they’ll drill for the test,
They’ll strive for a HEDI score that shows they’re the best,
They’ll cut back on art, science, creative writing
(The things they say students find most exciting).
They’ll overcome all of those pitiful excuses:
Poverty? Absenteeism? Hunger? Abuses?
Learning disabilities? Disobedient teens?
And kids who don’t read, but just stare at their screens?
Each student is different, learns at his own pace?
What’s that you say – learning isn’t a race?
No more excuses! With 40 minutes a day,
They can mold kids and shape them in every which way
(They can start in first grade, which is no place for play).
And all the while, schools’ funding will slow,
Because the harder we make things, the better they’ll go.
Each student will succeed, a year’s worth they’ll grow,
They’ll all factor trinomials and use “soak-a-toe”
If their teacher works hard like a real go-getter,
If she only works harder and faster and better…
But here I must pause in this poetic pretense,
(It’s been hard not to laugh while spouting nonsense).
Silly teachers, good luck being “highly effective,”
The system’s designed to say you’re flawed and defective.
The problem is, as by now you can probably tell,
Who’d want “reforms” if they knew teachers were doing well?
That just like most doctors, nurses, and crossing guards,
Most teachers are competent and already work hard.
What would happen to Pearson, McGraw, hedge fund investors,
Charter schools, EMOs, boards of directors?
Education’s a great source of new revenue,
The possibilities abound, and profits accrue.
But please, keep this between us; no one else needs to know.
As long as no one speaks up, then onward we’ll go…
by Holly White, HCS teacher