Tuesday, October 15, 2013

It's All the Same, Only the Names Have Changed

Many Different Initiatives in Education: There are plenty of places to talk about standardized testing, the "Common Core Learning Standards", modes of instruction, creating "SLO's", "LAT's" and calculating a score based on a rubric. Those places are public forums, online webinars, faculty rooms, Board of Education meetings, and PTA/PTO gatherings. Except for Sunday...

My sister-in-law (a high school math teacher in the Rochester area) and I were waiting in line for the Port-a-Potty at the Buffalo Bills game talking about all of the above as she has re-entered the profession after a couple of years off raising children. I was telling her about how K-8 teachers are dealing with the new curriculum, the new assessments, etc., when the man in front of us turns around and asks if we are both teachers. He explains that he overheard us and that he is a Physical Education teacher in the south Bronx. For the next twenty minutes or so we had a pretty lively conversation about students, outcomes, expectations, and testing.

It turns out that every educator is going through the same thing everywhere in New York State. The interesting take away for me was that the conversation always came back to kids being happy and not too stressed through all of these educational changes. While my sample size is pretty small, I can say that good teaching is still good teaching and big hearts are big hearts. I just wish that the Bills had ended up winning the game!

We all have opinions about testing, the new standards, and the new evaluation system. I have been a superintendent for a long time compared to many of my peers. When an initiative truly is not working, there is usually enough pressure from the inside to make the initiative change. My fear when something is being evaluated such as the new Common Core Learning Standards or the assessments that go along with them, is that too much negativity spills out too quickly and the people making the rules (in this case the Commissioner and Board of Regents) dig in their heels and go underground.

Last week the Commissioner held one of five listening sessions downstate and things got so contentious that he cancelled the remaining sessions. His reasoning was that special interest groups have overtaken the conversations making the conversations unproductive. If this remains, parents, students, and advocates just lost a great way to get to the Commissioner. This will leave larger, more crowded, Commissioner controlled forums, as well as letter writing and e-mail sending.  Not sure if those forums are as effective. I hope he continues with the listening sessions. I think the Common Core Learning Standards are here to stay, but I do sense weakness in standardized testing. As I have stated earlier, I am waiting through this next testing cycle before I offer an official opinion on paper.

Science Teachers Named Master Teachers: Congratulations go out to high school science teachers, Sam Gervaise and Kathryn Annan, who were designated as New York State Master Teachers by a governor's commission. They will work for four years to spread their joy and knowledge of teaching to younger generations of science teachers. To read an article about this, click here.

Enjoy the week!  There are a lot of events on the calendar as we head into the end of fall sports and activities. Winter practices start in about four weeks believe it or not!

Thanks for your support and see you around.