Last night I heard another teacher share another disappointing story. Cindy, a Physical Education teacher in a high school was helping students prepare for job interviews. She advised them to dress up for the potential employers and go clean-shaven if they could. She was yanked out of her school and re-assigned to another high school.
Teaching in the Halls
A better story recently heard was about how an art teacher was having trouble connecting with an autistic child in a large classroom where he did not feel comfortable. In the hallway, by chance, she had an opportunity to connect over a magazine outside of the principal’s office. She convinced him it was not too long to read, and later found him reading the whole thing.
What Data Sharing?
Finally, a district has test data for 17 out of 145 students for one grade level in an elementary school. Since this district spends 37% of the school year on testing (69 days out of 186 days!) but has a large amount of missing data, the decisions they make with this data is called into question.
I have heard many of these stories and they only confirm my opinion that we are doing schools wrong. We hold teachers responsible for boosting student learning as measured by test scores when the conditions under which this accountability is enforced are deplorable, un-professional, mis-managed, and demeaning. The numbers coming out of the buildings are ridiculous, inaccurate, and mis-measured. How can anyone trust these numbers? Why has the National Assessment of Educational Progress test shown very little change over the last fifty years? Poor conditions where inaccurate numbers are collected make this fake accountability. And yet, as the second story shows, teachers still try to connect under these conditions. Our level of frustration with fake accountability, the failing oversight schools especially in high-need areas and the rapidly decaying infrastructure of K-12 education is quite high.
What could a more realistic, more accurate measurement and a more true accountability system look like? It would look like a reduction of standardized approaches to teaching and learning, testing and assessment. True accountability would also improve the capacity of schools to really teach the increasing variety of students in a way that really supported attainment of achievement and learning goals. The data collected in a true accountability system would be more accurate of what students were learning, and that data would be shared in a more transparent way that supported community agreement that kids were really learning.
To use a phone analogy, the school system currently looks like rotary phones and land lines, teachers look like mobile phones and students look like 5g information gatherers. We are not behind, we are simply not in the game of the impending technology metaphor of 5G. More realistically, we are two generations behind where students want to be and learn right now. It is time to wake up, revolutionize school systems, and turn the environments of learning into powerful and supportive places for every student from every background. Where to start? Ask teachers what to do, accept their answers, and support them and the improvements they recommend. Now.