Monday, November 17, 2014

Bad school administrators, from counsellors on up, are NOT being identified.

This week I listened on NPR to a glowing account of a "new" teaching method. The story presented this teacher as one who embraced the "Common Core." Gee, I'd like some Brownie points for having used this technique in my classes (I retired in 2008). I hate it that so many teachers who had classroom skills way ahead of imposed "changes" are not credited with being good teachers. In my short 17-year career I saw teachers whose skills and subject knowledge were superb and I saw teachers who couldn't have passed the Freshman Composition class I took at Amarillo College (Amarillo, Texas). I once went to the teacher, the head of the math teachers in my school, for some help in understanding a graph in my social studies book. She hadn't a clue. As I left, the head custodian came up and said, "I kept sweeping outside her classroom listening to you too. Let me see the graph." She then proceeded to explain it to me.
I saw nothing in my 17 years that changed the opinion I formed within the first year I taught - the main problems with American education all point to lousy, lazy administrators. I NEVER received a thorough teacher evaluation, except from fellow teachers in Career Ladder. I never heard of a teacher fired for incompetence even though I must say that the overall competence I saw in action was a distant second to the Amarillo radio where I worked for 5 years - KGNC. The entire staff of that station (in the eighties) was smarter, more efficient, and better managed than any other place I worked in my life.
During my teaching years I saw things involving misuse of funds and mismanagement that appalled me. I discussed these things with teachers I met from many parts of the US and they always nodded and said, "Oh, yes. These things happen in my school and district, too."
Only once for about three years did we have a counsellor who had all student schedules ready for teacher use before the student's first day. We would often give pre-tests to students, as ordered, and then lost these students as schedules were finalized. The counsellor/s would not change the pre-test information. At the end of the year I was accountable for the progress or lack thereof even though I did not teach those students!
If a teacher smiled, jollied the administration along, and never raised a fuss no matter how outrageous a situation, they were a good teacher. If a teacher complained, they were not a good teacher. If a teacher in good favor incorporated ideas from the latest inservice training, they were praised. If a teacher was in bad favor with the administrators, no one noticed that their students were learning.
A teacher who was a former lawyer sued the district for not following requirements of English As A Second Language students, and in my district a huge percentage were in that category. The district lawyer fought that battle to a standstill with her superior skills. It took years because the teacher was correct. He lost on technicalities. Who paid her? You did, American taxpayer, because my district was funded by federal dollars. This woman was paid her hourly rate while she drove to board meetings, too - a 3 hour drive each way! You paid for that.
When the state changed curriculum around I went from teaching American history to World history. The school provided NO textbooks. I wrangled some old high school books, way above my 8th graders reading level. We used the graphics mostly.
When the district ended the practice of providing materials through the warehouse we bought our own. I hated it when they took my chalkboard away and I had to buy those expensive dry erase markers instead of chalk.
After several years of 2-hour blocks for "language arts" and after a loss of a couple of teachers (not to be replaced), the district permitted the principal to change back to 1 hour of language arts. Test scores dropped. These lower test scores were cited as one reason the middle school was failing and the district came within a hair's breadth of dissolving the school and putting kindergarten through 8th grade all together in three locations. I asked, "How will you handle sports?" Oh, each school will have it's own team. I responded, "We only had 12 eligible football players by the end of this season. You won't be able to field a team." Idiots. In my district, hell anywhere in the US, students and parents would come out in force if the kids couldn't compete in sports.
Once I pestered the state auditors until they provided me with the information I knew was true based upon statements from retired and nearly-retired districts. The district, almost every year, failed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars into our Social Security. They deducted it all right, and then, of course they spent that money.
I sat at a board meeting where money was being allotted to tear down old buildings. One board member asked about a particular old, stand-alone gymnasium which was still much-used. "Oh, we're not tearing that down yet." They just wanted the money allotted to use for God-knows-what.
I could go on, believe me. But my point is that we are following a ridiculous pathway with education. We are federalizing what is Constitutionally a state matter. States were already failing to oversee schools adequately and now they are following federal laws and mandates that have NOTHING in them to reform the problems. The problems are called Superintendents, Financial Officers, Principals (thank God many schools still have good ones, no thanks to the federal reforms), auditors, and the concept of federal mandates.
There is a reason why Republicans and many others want to focus on teachers as the bad seeds of education - all they want is to provide their corporate friends with a non-unionized, kiss-ass workforce for the next growth industry - privatized education.

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