Despite Opposition, Board of Education Approves Controversial Teacher Prep Program

We must stop this travesty in CT. Please read and share.

Please watch the testimony given today and ignored.

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CEA Educational Issues Specialist Michele O'Neill was of many who raised concerns about Relay at today's State Board of Education meeting. CEA Educational Issues Specialist Michele O’Neill was one of many who raised concerns about Relay at today’s State Board of Education meeting.

In spite of serious concerns raised by teachers, CEA leaders and staff, state university deans of education, and community members, the State Board of Education today voted to allow the controversial Relay Graduate School of Education to begin operating in Connecticut. Relay provides a shortcut to teacher certification whose methods and outcomes have repeatedly been called into question.

“Relay teachers do not receive the same training other teachers do,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen. “Instead, they are given a crash course in teaching that focuses on increasing student test scores, not student skills. There are no do-overs for the students whose classrooms are managed by unprepared, inexperienced teachers who weave their way into the profession through these dubious, subpar teacher training programs.”

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A Lone Teacher Talks Back: An Educator on the Impact of Teacher Evaluation

As far as Poetic Justice is concerned, all metrics need to be eliminated from the evaluation process. This may be a radical thought in this age of teaching reform, but it is not a radical idea to those who are pure educators.

This is what a valid teacher evaluation checklist would look like if I were in charge of my own building. This is what my own personal self-evaluation looks like:

1. Are the children safe?
2. Are the children the focus of the classroom?
3. Does the teacher recognize and respond to the individual needs, strengths, and giftings in the class?
4. Is the teacher helping, not harming her students?
5. Is each student regarded as more than a data point?
6. Is the teacher connecting content to the life experiences of his students and their collective situations?
7. Is the teacher sensitive to the backgrounds and cultures of her students?
8. Is the teacher striving for synthesis of content into her students’ learning schema?
9. Is the teacher doing much more than just delivering prescribed content to a prescribed time table?
10. Is the teacher using her own teacher created lessons and materials?
11. Is the teacher respecting and cherishing student voice?
12. Are writing and reading considered a joy by the teacher and by the students?
13. Is there present a pedagogy based on love, joy, and compassion?
14. Is the teacher actively growing in her own professional development?
15. Is the teacher sharing and contributing to her colleagues successful practice?
16. Is the teacher aware of her craft as an art as well as a science?
17. Are ALL assessments used to help the student and to inform instruction?
18. Is there a holistic dimension to assessment taking into account cognitive as well as affective domains of learning?
19. Is creativity regarded by both students and teacher as the highest form of learning?
20 Are the children safe?

This checklist is is direct opposition to the findings at this weekend’s Network for Public Education convention report and is in opposition to current evaluation systems. Poetic Justice is not saying all data is irrelevant; I am saying that data is only one small part of a teacher’s toolkit.

I left a career in the business sector expressly because I wanted to help children. I wanted to devote my life to the welfare of humanity not to some corporation’s bottom line. Today’s approach to teaching and learning is far more dehumanizing than even the approaches I experienced in business. At least in the business sector, the customer was always considered and any harm to that customer could result in litigation.

My plea is for those in educational power positions, to please consider the harm being done to children and teachers when only metrics are considered important.

 

Please join a FaceBook page I administer with the Walking Man – Dr. Jesse Turner Teachers Are More than Test Scores.

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It’s Common Sense not Common Core by Stacy Stelmack Biscorner

It’s Common Sense not Common Core by Stacy Stelmack Biscorner

I’m a good teacher. I know how my students learn best. I know this because I talk to my students like they are human beings. I greet them with hugs and smiles every day. I take time each day to have a morning meeting, where two to three students get to share something. Maybe it’s that their dog was hit by a car and died last night. Or maybe one of them is sad because everyone is talking about making Father’s Day presents and his dad is in prison and he won’t be seeing or spending time with his dad.

What company out there is coming up with ways to add relationship to the CCSS? What will that look like? Will there be a required statement to make at the beginning of each day? “Good morning student A.” Will the kids have barcodes on their foreheads so they can be shoved through the lunch lines faster and get back to class for the next assessment?

Guess what? When I went to college, it didn’t prepare me for what I would face when I stepped into my classroom that very first day 14 years ago! Nothing could have. You see, when working with human beings, young, developing human beings, there is nothing inside a college textbook or any lecture even the greatest professor could give to prepare for that. Why? Because EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT.

I don’t buy into the notion that every kid must learn the same exact thing in the same exact order at the very same rate of speed with the very same words. Differentiate, but use a script, they say. Uh, that doesn’t sound idiotic at all. Use various methods of delivering the lesson, too. What would that be? Reading the script to the kids as a listening comprehension activity? Or having all the students read the scripted lesson as a reading comprehension lesson?

Bottom line here is I’m a good teacher. I know what each of my students need because I TALK WITH THEM, not at them. I work WITH them. I read WITH them. Every single child is unique and learns differently. So how much sense does it make to teach them in a common way? Teaching kids to live healthy lives in an unhealthy way is insane. It makes absolutely no sense. I’m very able to assess and evaluate my students without a rubric on a clipboard in my hand.

Believe it or not, I have found that it works to ASK, not tell my students to explain their thinking and show me either verbally or in writing how they know the information. It also works pretty well to give kids CHOICES. Let them show the way they solved a problem ANY WAY THEY CHOOSE. There’s more than one way to show proficiency and understanding.

Again, Who would have known that having a caring relationship with students and creating an environment where it’s okay to step away from the 15 page lesson plan and use the professional judgment you worked so long and hard for is a great way to foster a love for learning. That it would encourage students to feel safe and willing to take risks. Most importantly, it would actually raise achievement scores because teachers would be allowed to use their intuition, their gut feeling, their professionally trained brains instead of a script.

The lesson plans that are being required are not only ridiculous, cumbersome, and insulting, they are robbing children of what every competent teacher knows their students need most.

Students in poverty? Newsflash, they don’t care about doing well on a test. They can’t. Their little minds are consumed with worry that they won’t get to eat dinner. Their worry isn’t that they won’t get a good score. Their worry is they won’t get to see their parents because they both work two jobs and their older siblings, if they have any, will be caring for them.

Kids don’t need CCSS and all the testing that comes with it. Kids need teachers and all the love, care, compassion and security that comes with having him/her. My students don’t need me writing 15 pages of lesson plans each week. They need my stress free mind, my present, face to face interaction. They need me to be aware of what makes them happy or sad.

My students care about what I know because they know I care. I find time to ask about my students’ interests outside of school that could be embedded into a lesson. How many good teachers go strictly by the written plan? I don’t. Why? Because I’m constantly taking the pulse of my students and if what I have written in the plan is too easy or too difficult or not going well, I ditch it. I teach by reading my students’ cues, facial expressions, body language, etc. If I had to keep reading off a written piece of paper, I would miss all of the things that matter most. Here’s the lesson that this country needs to start implementing all across the country:

It’s common sense, not common core our teachers need the higher ups to implement.

Oh, and another thing. I’ve seen some pretty bad teachers with some beautifully written plans. Which teacher would you rather your child have? One who writes lengthy, detailed, meticulous lesson plans including each CCSS the lesson addresses, but has really no rapport or relationship with your child, or the one who spends extra time thinking of ways to help your child feel confident and excited about going to school?

There’s no time for recess, gym, art or music anymore, either. But that’s an entirely different subject I’ll address some other time. If I didn’t have to spend two hours every night documenting proof to show I know how to be a good teacher, I’d write it tonight.

And does that flawless lesson plan guarantee that the teacher will actually use it? Engage students? Assess by observation and discussion? No, because there’s a script for that.

Wouldn’t you rather your child be with a teacher who can multi task like no tomorrow, move around the room talking to and observing students working, and assessing with their brain instead of a rubric?

This isn’t to say there’s not an outline of the daily/weekly plans. There is an outline, but the teacher is forced to spend the hours writing long, drawn out lesson plans trying to prove she’s worthy of her job. This insults her deeply, by the way, because of all the voluntary training and PSD she attends trying to improve her craft. Which teacher would you want? I want the teacher who acts as if my child has a living soul, a beating heart, and who wants to build a relationship with my child built on trust and understanding. One who knows that my child isn’t like all the other children.

My child, and all the children in the class are special, unique and shouldn’t be spoken to by a robotic adult who treats him as if he’s the next part on the conveyor belt of the public education system.

My child is not a machine. My child needs a relationship, not rigor. Do away with CC standards and codes. Do you really think the teachers have time to memorize them? Do administrators have them memorized?

Will anyone even do anything with the lesson plans, other than glance down at it just to make sure all the teachers obeyed the demand?

Wouldn’t it make more sense if teachers put those hours into making fun activities that will make a lasting impact and excite the students to start exploring and creating and finding real world purposes for their new knowledge?

It’s common sense, not common core our teachers need the higher ups to implement.

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Why are URBAN TEACHERS being TRAINED to be ROBOTS?

I am re blogging this piece from my friend and fellow activist Jennifer Berkshire – EduShyster.  This is just about the most horrifying expose on what I can only call “Professional Undevelopment” that I have ever read.

When I first read this, I was sure it was a piece of very clever satire. Unfortunately, I was wrong. This is how we make the “achievement gap” a national program – we make sure our high performing districts have freedom and choice, while we make sure our urban low performing districts treat their students like trained seals in a zoo.

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Please read and share EduShyster’s story far and wide.

“I am not Tom Brady”
Why are urban teachers being trained to be robots?

By Amy Berard
*Give him a warning,* said the voice through the earpiece I was wearing. I did Tom Bradyas instructed, speaking in the emotionless monotone I’d been coached to use. But the student, a sixth grader with some impulsivity issues and whose trust I’d spent months working to gain, was excited and spoke out of turn again. *Tell him he has a detention,* my earpiece commanded. At which point the boy stood up and pointed to the back of the room, where the three classroom *coaches* huddled around a walkie talkie. *Miss: don’t listen to them! You be you. Talk to me! I’m a person! Be a person, Miss. Be you!*

Meet C3PO
Last year, my school contracted with the Center for Transformational Training or CT3 to train teachers using an approach called No Nonsense Nurturing. It c3powas supposed to make us more effective instructors by providing *immediate, non-distracting feedback to teachers using wireless technology.* In other words, earpieces and walkie talkies. I wore a bug in my ear. I didn’t have a mouthpiece. Meanwhile an official No Nonsense Nurturer, along with the school’s first year assistant principal and first year behavior intervention coach, controlled me remotely from the corner of the room where they shared a walkie talkie. I referred to the CT3 training as C-3PO after the Star Wars robot, but C-3PO actually had more personality than we were allowed. The robot also spoke his mind.

No Nonsense Nurturing
If you’re not familiar with No Nonsense Nurturing or NNN, let’s just say that there is more nonsense than nurturing. The approach starts from the view that no nonsenseurban students, like my Lawrence, MA middle schoolers, benefit from a robotic style of teaching that treats, and disciplines, all students the same. This translated into the specific instruction that forbade us from speaking to our students in full sentences. Instead, we were to communicate with them using precise directions. As my students entered the room, I was supposed to say: *In seats, zero talking, page 6 questions 1-4.* But I don’t even talk to my dog like that. Constant narration of what the students are doing is also key to the NNN teaching style.  *Noel is is finishing question 3. Marjorie is sitting silently. Alfredo is on page 6.*

Robot moves
My efforts to make the narration seem less robotic—*I see Victor is on page 6. I see Natalie is on question 3*—triggered flashbacks to Miss Jean and Romper Room. All that was missing was the magic mirror. But even this was too much for the NNN squad in the corner. *Drop the ‘I see’* came through my earpiece. All this narration was incredibly distracting for the students, by the way, to the point where they started narrating me. *Mrs. Berard is passing out the exit tickets.* *Mrs. Berard is helping Christian.* *Mrs. Berard is reviewing the answer to question 4*

*Tell them you are like Tom Brady*
The students were also perplexed by my new earpiece accessory. *Um, Miss, what’s that in your ear?* they asked. I looked over to the three adults in the far bill-belichickback corner of the room for my scripted answer. *Tell them you are like Tom Brady. Tom Brady wears an earpiece to be coached remotely and so do you,* was the response. I never would have said that, and mumbled instead *But I’m not Tom Brady. No I’m Tom Brady.* The students, who could hear me, but not what I was hearing through my earpiece, were more confused than ever. At which point I explained to the students that I was being trained by the people in the corner who were telling me what to say via their walkie talkie. I’m all for transparency and simple answers to simple questions.

What kind of message does this send to students? I wondered. That their teachers are so incompetent that they need an ear piece and 3 people sharing a walkie talkie in the corner to tell them what to say?

What kind of message does this send to students? I wondered. That their teachers are so incompetent that they need an ear piece and 3 people sharing a walkie talkie in the corner to tell them what to say?

Joyless joy
I struggled to adopt the emotionless monotone that NNN required. I was told that my tone was wrong. My voice was too high, and that I came across as too happy—I smile a lot; I celebrate a lot, including every two weeks when the flowers on my cactus bloom, again. When I asked the NNN trainer to elaborate on what she meant by my tone being off, a critique she delivered just hours after meeting me for the first time, her response included a full blown, and exaggerated, impersonation of me delivered in front of my behavior intervention coach and assistant principal. When her performance was done, the NNN trainer winked at me. *But don’t lose your joy,* she said.

Mountain pose
I was told to stand in mountain pose and not to favor one leg over another. I C-3PO-3was told not to cross my legs. My body language must be in no way casual (or human). And I needed to stop conveying so much excitement at the students’ accomplishments. After one session of C3PO training, I was told that I was too happy that a student had legible writing. I shouldn’t praise basic things that should be expected. Another time I was chastised for pointing out to a child: *Woah, this is great. This is your best work so far this year!*

*Don’t turn*
I felt awful after that critique, like I had let my students down with my excessive enthusiasm. I went back and apologized to them. The student whose handwriting I’d praised said it had made him happy to be complimented. *I didn’t take what you said in a bad way.* *Just be yourself,* another student told me. *Don’t be who that want you to be. Don’t become like the rest.* You see, the students were old enough to see what the school and the trainers wanted the teachers to be and what their teachers were becoming.

They begged me not to turn.

Amy Berard grew up in Lawrence, a half a mile away from the Guilmette Middle School where she taught ELA last year. She was let go at the end of the school year after administrators determined that she was not the *right fit* for Lawrence.

Here is the link once again to the EduShyster blog post.