Under Attack or Just Under Accountability?

As a new teacher it's probably not my place to comment on the state of education in NYC or across the country. After all, could I really have a fair idea of all the conflicting pressures and nuances of education after just 11 weeks (but who's counting?) as a teacher? Probably not. I only mention this because I know that some of my opinions seem to be at odds with the conventional wisdom/accepted practice in my school and throughout the system.

More to the point, I'm a big fan of Bloomberg and Klein's aggressive education policy. For a system that's so clearly in shambles, it seems the best thing that can happen is a shakeup across the board. Bloomberg is clearly trying to accomplish this by increasing accountability for administrators and teachers and providing economic incentives for teachers and students. I'm not saying I agree completely with all of Bloomberg's measures or that I believe they'll fix what is a very complicated and systemic problem. You have to respect creativity though, especially when it seems like mediocrity and failure are entrenched throughout the DOE and ingenuity is in short supply.

Unfortunately a lot of teachers see Bloomberg and Klein's bold and broad measure and feel like they're under attack. And it's hard to feel otherwise. The stakes on the standardized tests keep rising (evidenced by student scores accounting for 30% of the new report cards and student progress on tests accounting for another 55%). Then there's the omnipresent threat of the "rubber room" and articles like this from Thursday's Times about new efforts to remove bad teachers from the classroom. A noble goal of course, but when you're working in a struggling school (especially as a new struggling teacher) and seeing little to no progress in your kids it's easy to feel like you might be targeted as one of those bad teachers.

In the end I'm still siding with Bloomberg and Klein and I hope the UFT and my fellow teachers aren't into any sort of "You're either with us or against us" ultimatums. I do have a few questions for them though. First, when the teacher turnover rate is such a problem and the city is hemorrhaging teachers, wouldn't it be better to invest in turning bad teachers into good teachers instead of removing them from the system altogether? Next, was it really the best strategy to unveil these report cards so bluntly and stubbornly? Parents, students and educators felt blindsided. Wasn't there another way?

Finally, accountability for students, teachers and principals is great. What about for parents? Obviously we can't fire parents, but isn't there a way to provide more services and incentives to parents so that my students come to school with a meal in their bellies? Not to mention chronic absenteeism, lateness, not having access to books at home or anyone helping them with school work. I do the best I can with the seven hours I have with my students. I could use a little help when they get home though.

Comments

IMC Guy said…
I totally agree with your last paragraph. I wish there was a way we could give parents a grade.

Wouldn't it be shocking to parents to find out that they got a D in parenting on their child's report card?
melissa said…
I think the real issue is that the people who want to make a difference are often encouraged to lay low so it makes the ones who just gave up (ie-incompetent-worn-out tenured folks) look better. It's a situation of not rocking the boat, while simultaneously keeping a look out for your own best interests. It's terrible because the kids, in the end, suffer, and grow more distrustful of the very institution (education) that's meant to help them out the most.

Keep fighting the good fight, take care of the children and keep your head up.

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