Monday, April 8, 2013

We need a sharper look than that.

I was going to write up a post critiquing former Secretary Reville's assertion in Clive McFarlane's column today that what schools need is more time, but this post looking at the research on extended learning time covers that ground pretty well. I'll only add that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education under Mr. Reville required that Level 4 schools add time, and Worcester schools (I can't speak to if this was true statewide) added extended blocks of math and ELA, which is not the sort of time that is found to most make a difference.
I'm more troubled, though, by what he says about the MCAS and other such measures:
“With the wrong leaders and poor professional development people often mistake the means for the end, but the fundamental logic persists,” he said. “We ought to have goals. We need to measure progress, and we ought to hold people responsible for their share in the production of progress. Good teachers know how to keep this in perspective.” 
"...know how to keep this in perspective..."
The teachers are keeping it in perspective, and they know just how important it is at their schools.
Teachers have seen three principals in Worcester lose their positions due to MCAS scores, more statewide, and even more around the country. Teachers have spent hours in professional development analyzing, charting, discussing, plotting what the MCAS (or MAP or Dibels) numbers are and how they could go up again this coming year. Teachers have sat in lectures from those higher up as they hear the "bad news" of what's coming. Teachers have seen their union cave on the use of these numbers in their own evaluations, even as there is no data available to demonstrate that this (whether it's done through value added or student growth formulas) is an effective means of demonstrating their abilities. Teachers walk into school every day past data walls that chart how each child did on MAPs (or MCAS or Dibels) this past fall, this past winter, this spring, and know well that each point is watched, statistically significant or not. Teachers have to show to their principals how what they are doing in their classes contributes to the all important numbers game that the state (and nation) is playing...or teachers know that they might well lose their jobs.

It isn't the teachers that have their perspectives out of whack; it's the national culture on education that has their perspective wrong. It just has hit the classroom.

And for more on this, I would suggest reading this column in The Atlantic on the need for a new code of ethics in teaching. 

1 comment:

Matt LaBarre said...

Outstanding column! I've become very leery of national "education experts"---who choose to ignore things like language differences among families ...economic and cultural differences even within staff can be blamed for MCAS scores in a part of any city where a high percentage of adults don't speak english is beyond common sense..that's what we lack..common sense..