Peter DeWitt is a wonderful elementary school principal in upstate New York.

He is sensitive, caring, kind, and devoted to his students.

He is outraged by what the State Education Department has done to his students and their teachers.

You can feel his barely contained rage in these words:

I don’t want to sound arrogant but most school leaders know more than the state education department does…where teachers and students are concerned. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t find professional development and learning opportunities for myself and for the teachers I am honored to work with every day.

Unlike state education commissioners who lack real educational experience, I have spent eighteen years in public education as both a teacher and a principal. On top of that I taught graduate education courses and do a lot of professional writing, but to the state education department I will probably be seen as ineffective or developing.

You know what?

I’m honored to take the title. If ineffective or developing means that I focus on the whole child and don’t push test prep, than I would rather be where my scores take me. I will stand beside my teachers who get low scores based on assessments that were flawed long before they were ever given. Better yet, I’ll make a wager that my teachers are better educators than any state education commissioner ever was. Why? Because I believe in their ability.

Imagine that! A school leader who believes in his teachers.

That must really be news to the people at the State Education Department. They don’t believe in the teachers of their state, nor the principals, nor for that matter, the children.

It wasn’t always that way, DeWitt writes:

Former state education commissioners had the strength to give us the results so we could do item analysis. We had the opportunity to see where we could improve. Perhaps some teachers could improve how they taught reading comprehension to students or getting their students to find the main details. We don’t know that information any longer, because we aren’t allowed to see where we went wrong…or fathom that we could possibly have gone right somewhere.

And why the wait for these results? Our students took the test in April. They weren’t given a break between ELA and math. They weren’t afforded the same lapse in time that the state education took to deliver the results. Apparently the state education department can take a break. They can take four months to correct the tests and release the results…all during the summer when teachers aren’t working. They wait for school districts to make a plan so that they can completely turn schools on their heads and make them come up with a new plan. They release the results just before the new school year to negatively affect the school climate.

Why the wait? Because they want us to look like we fail.”

And he concludes by identifying who really failed: Not the kids, not the teachers:

Let me ask you…as a human being would you ever force children to take a test that is much too difficult for them? It’s over 80 minutes long…three days one week and three days the next, and then have the gull to make the excuse that this was just merely a new baseline? A new baseline that also happened to be tied to teacher and administrator evaluation for the first time?

In the End
I’m angry. I’m angry that we can work hard to innovate by flipping our classrooms, faculty meetings and parent communication and none of that matters. I’m angry that I continue to have teachers step outside of the box…very brave teachers, and get pummeled because their children did not do well on state tests…that they were never supposed to do well on in the first place.

I’m angry that we share professional articles and buy into what the most brilliant minds in education tell us to do and our professions and the education of our children have been undermined for someone’s political gain.

I am tired of people who expose our students to accountability and mandates that they would never expose their own children to all because they are out to prove that somehow we are failing. It’s not our public education system that failed us this week…it’s our state education department that failed us.

Is this not institutionalized child abuse? Is the abuse of power by officials in Albany less reprehensible than Tony Bennett’s grade-fixing?