Friday, November 8, 2013
Tennessee BAT Tales- Installment Two
I changed schools last year to be closer to home and to work in the community in which I live. Previously, I was driving an hour each way to a job I loved, but the distance got to me. I teach middle grades math, which I have taught for 15 years. My current school is a rural, preK-12 school with relatively high free-and-reduced numbers. The teachers before me, who have been let go or reassigned, left students unprepared to meet the demands of the relatively complex concepts in our curriculum. Last year, my students’ TCAP scores were not good, and I am now in a position where their scores MUST go up significantly in order to save my teaching license. The ramifications of the very bad scores are humiliating and demeaning. I have learned that a number of the ‘special’ considerations I work within are a result of the quest for additional RttT funding. Let me try to delineate some of these ‘special’ things: I am not allowed to teach any student that scored ‘below basic’ on the TCAP, resulting in having to split two grade levels between myself and another teacher rather than each of us teaching a single grade level. She got all the so-called ‘low’ kids, I got the rest. I have to be evaluated umpteen times by, not just one, but two administrators during every evaluative observation. One from my building, one from central office. The two evaluators observe together and collaborate on their judgment and rating of me. I have to meet with the county-wide math coach weekly for discussions and, supposedly, non-evaluative (ha) informal observations. (Our math coach was probably in middle school when I started teaching.) In addition, I am told I have to administer the PARCC pilot in the spring and was told how ‘lucky’ I am because I get to see what the questions/problems will be like, etc. As a result of my questioning and concerns about the so-called PARCC pilot, I am told the same security parameters will be in place as are in place for TCAP. That includes the teacher NOT seeing/reading the test. OK… so they lied about that one. Also, PARCC is going to be administered via computer but, after asking more questions, I was told the PARCC pilot will be a paper-and-pencil test. How is that a pilot test if the pilot test and the actual test are administered in a completely different format? Furthermore, the online PARCC test will have a four-function calculator embedded in specific items that are calculator-allowable. How will that be accomplished in a paper-and-pencil pilot test? They could not give a definitive answer. I also inquired about how the results will be used and if there will be an evaluative component of the PARCC pilot. The response I got was that the results are not used in any evaluative capacity, but are sent off to be scored by some unnamed entity, which I assume may be Pearson? I don’t know, but the response was vague, at best. What is the point of administering such a test? I want to know EXACTLY what is done with those results, but it’s apparently a well-guarded secret. OR, is it one more thing that hasn’t been carefully planned and discussed? Our district admins jump on the Haslam-Huffman bandwagon with whatever they propose or suggest. Many, including me, believe they aspire to ranks of BOE in Nashville. Our admins have conducted numerous closed-door tongue-lashings, whipping people for questioning decisions, or voicing any kind of disapproval of their policies. Many personnel changes have occurred that were done with a footnote from district admins, telling those affected not to question the change. They were basically told to ‘shut up, suck it up.’ They are tyrannical bullies. As you might guess, morale is in the gutter. Trust is a thing of the past. Teachers are leaving or making definitive plans to leave and pursue other avenues. They aren’t just leaving our school or our district, they are leaving the profession.