Peg Robertson is a teacher in Colorado and a national leader of the Opt Out movement (she co-founded United Opt Out). In this post, she describes what happens to teachers in schools that are supposedly “turnaround schools.” They are “gaslighted.” Anyone who has seen the famous George Cukor film of the same name knows what it means to be “gaslighted.” Ingrid Bergman’s husband wants to kill her, and he tries to convince her that she is going mad. In Peg’s school, teachers are told that they caused low test scores, and officialdom works hard to persuade them that they cause failure.
Gaslighting is such an insane reality to live in that it becomes incredibly difficult to focus on anything else except the ability to get through the day- it is designed intentionally so.
So let’s try to take a look at what’s really happening.
The first stage of Gaslighting is described as disbelief. Strange events, behaviors, and actions by others begin to occur. Perhaps you are told something that doesn’t seem true to you or simply just sounds bizarre. Perhaps someone you trusted speaks to you in a manner that seems fake, or staged.
In my case, the “disbelief” began with the supposed root cause of our turnaround status.
We were told: Students experienced lower-quality and less rigorous instruction that did not accelerate them to proficiency and beyond, because the CCSS was not used to guide instruction in all content areas.
Now, for someone like myself, who has spent hours upon hours researching and advocating for the end of corporate education reform this “root cause” at first, is quite laughable. We know that standards – good, bad, and ugly, in no way increase student achievement. Quite honestly, there’s no correlation whatsoever between standards and student test scores. This has been clearly confirmed by looking at NAEP scores and the standards used in the various states. So, simply put, it’s a lie.
And therein follows the disbelief. You are told a lie about this so-called turnaround status. And I can assure you that nationwide there is no root cause – in a school improvement plan housed on a department of education website – that will state the truth – the truth is clearly poverty and that has been confirmed as well. But in this gut wrenching fast move to privatize our public schools it is necessary to lie and necessary to beat people into compliance in order to cash in quickly – using policies which gaslight educators who ultimately must carry out these actions of educational malpractice.
So, you sit in disbelief at these lies. At first you think, okay, whatever, we can play this game. We’ll continue to do right by children behind closed doors and the policy makers can go screw themselves. That’s the first reaction. At this point you still believe you have some autonomy and you think you might be able to reason with the powers that be in order to figure out a way to “tweak” this to make it doable.
But then, the gaslighting process continues. The policy makers have a strangle hold on our public schools, and they will find various ways to continue to push forward their measures in a turnaround school. Perhaps they will bring in an auditor who interviews (interrogates) each staff member in an attempt to expose weaknesses that might confirm the so-called root cause. Perhaps they will bring in district personnel to dig through your data and observe your classrooms nonstop in order to, once again, find confirmation that your root cause is true, valid and that ultimately – you, the educators, are to blame for your low test scores. Perhaps they will bring in consultants, books, videos, or additional training to lead you to see how embracing their root cause will fix your failure. There are many ways they might move forward as they gaslight you. In my school, we were enrolled in the Colorado Department of Education turnaround program. We were labeled a Relay Leadership School and Relay indoctrination became the vehicle for our gaslighting.
This is a gripping story, and I urge you to read it all in total.