Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Teacher Squeeze

Imagine you went into work this morning and everything had changed.  Your office was still in the same place, but there was a note on your door to see the boss.  You go down the hall to see a number of people clustered around your boss's door.  People appear confused.  From the back of the crowd, you're informed that all of your old work assignments are being recalled and new assignments will be provided in their place.  The new assignments are completely different than what you had been working on before and you are told that you will need to approach them differently than you had before.  Instead of reading certain reports, you will be writing them.  Instead of writing others, they are to be read.

Your work-groups have been reconfigured with new people taking on different roles.  Accounting will be performing legal work.  The attorneys are assigned to marketing.  Payroll is in charge of the holiday party.

"Ok, ok, I think I can handle this," you say to the person telling you this, "how long will the orientation period be?"

"This is the orientation," you're told, "and you will be evaluated on how well you pull it off."

If you will forgive a bit of hyperbole, this situation is very similar to what our teachers were asked to do when Common Core was implemented last Fall.  I will leave the merits of Common Core for discussion at another time, but it is well-known that this new program fundamentally changed the curriculum in ways that required teachers to change the way they teach while being told "this is the orientation."  Like trying to change your shoes while running full speed, our teachers were set up to fail.

Maryland School Assessment tests, existing under the same "this is the orientation" premise, have not been revised to reflect the new curriculum.  Nevertheless, they are set to be administered this March.

Donald St. George with the Washington Post reports that State Senator Nancy King and Delegate Eric Luedtke, both from Montgomery County, have submitted emergency bills that would direct the Maryland Department of Education to seek a waiver from federal testing requirements so that the spring testing cycle could be skipped.  St. George reports that State Superintendent Lillian Lowery opposes this bill:

Lowery has vigorously supported the MSAs and contends that the tests remain useful for professional development and other purposes, in spite of misalignment. Next year, the MSAs will be replaced by tests that align with the Common Core.

We have to stop and think about what we're doing to our teachers, both here in Howard County and across the state.   This testing imbroglio is only a symptom of a larger problem and must be viewed in the context of wages that, for the most part, have been frozen since the economic downturn.

Cost-of-living Increases have not kept up with inflation and step increases aren't much better.  Under the 2010-2011 pay scale, a Howard County teacher with 8 years of experience makes $10,000 more than the base salary of $48,464 that they made on day one and that's only if they were with the 65% of teachers eligible for step increases year-to-year.

My question is this: How is morale maintained?  How would you feel under similar circumstances?  Is this fair to our teachers?  Is it fair to our students?

I would submit to you that 2013-14 has been extraordinarily tough year to be a teacher.  Living with one for the past two months, I can tell you that their work day is often longer than mine, taking phone calls, grading papers, and designing assignments well past 7 pm.  And now, all of their work, all of the investment they have made in their students, will be arbitrarily tested on subjects that were not taught.

The Howard County PTA and Superintendent Foose have both asked the State Superintendent to apply for a waiver.  It seems like the right thing to do and the money saved should be put into professional development so that "this isn't the orientation."  If we're going to implement Common Core, let's do it right.  This is more than policy.  This is someone's job.  Someone's life.  And if it happened to us, we would be outraged.

That's all for today.  Have a great Wednesday doing what you love!

Note: Blog Party TONIGHT at Turf Valley.  For a really "ace" analysis of the local blogging scene and more about the blog party, check out MM's post here.  Unfortunately, I have a Community Foundation Board meeting at 5:30 pm tonight, but will try to make it out for whomever is at the party past 7 or so.  I will also try to get bumper magnets over there for whomever wants them!