I met with our local school district Superintendent and Chief Academic officer today to try to find some answers that had been gnawing at me for the past few weeks regarding the future of our education system. Namely how our local school districts will deal with the federal, state, and political pressure surrounding them. I hear from the political side daily, so I wanted to tune out that side for a day and hear what is happening on the ground within these schools.
I’m a firm believer that if you are unsure of an answer, you go directly to the source, and our community is blessed with a Superintendent who has an open door policy to his office. With all of the rhetoric and finger-pointing between political parties, state office holders, and lobbyists, sometimes as a mom, I find my head squeezed and stretched like that little green Gumby guy I grew up with! (imagine how our children feel)
I decided I wanted to find local answers on the impact of the new standards to our district, and I wanted to find out how the assessment process would impact our students and teachers. When I left, my head was spinning! Before you continue reading this blog, just for fun, try something. Go to your next meeting with a blind fold on, pick up a folder full of teaching material and try to run your meeting with the information you were given in that folder. Now, keep in mind, at the end of the meeting your job depends on your meeting participants passing a test that was written by an outside source. You are not sure who wrote it, but you just better hope your group passes it.
Indiana adopted new standards. Those standards were released in July. Now assessments must be adopted before school starts right?
Guess again, those assessments are not ready yet.
Our children will be given the “said assessments that are not ready yet” in March of this school year.
Our teachers have gone back to school, some are weeks into their teaching, and have no idea what assessment tool will be released in the spring! They are blindly teaching our kids, as the politicians, state Superintendent and school board argue, and guess what, the schools will be graded on how they did teaching to the blind test.
Will there be a new ISTEP? PARCC-like assessment? Another type of test sold by the latest and greatest text-book company? It’s all up in the air. Our teachers received the brand new standards in July, scurried to prepare their lesson plans according to the new standards, and I can see them all on their knees right now praying they are teaching them in the right order. (remember they take the test in March, and school is out in May)
Here is the kicker… they’d better hope they have taught it right because if not, they will be graded as a school and district, and teacher evaluations directly linked to the test will determine teacher continued employment and raises. Friends, this is why we asked for more time during the standard creation process. This is also why we asked the education round table to take us back to the 2009 standards so we could gradually ease into brand new sparkling Indiana Standards that could be properly assessed.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know the “politics” of this. I am writing blindly. I don’t know if it’s a GOP issue or a Democrat issue. I don’t care to know at this point. I know there is a feud, but to be honest, I have not looked deep enough into the politics of the situation to know where everyone’s position is. I’m a pretty political person (OK, I’ll say it, I am a proud Republican), so I usually research what “side” stands on what issue. I didn’t do that with this post on purpose. I’m writing just as a mom with a lot of questions.
I cannot imagine being a teacher these days. My heart goes out to them. It seems they are darned if they do, and darned if they don’t. Everyone loves to point their finger at our teachers and the failing school systems. I may be a simpleton, but it seems to me, if we are going to move forward with these new standards, we should give teachers some time to actually teach them before we pull a blind assessment out on them and our children. This would give our politicians and school board time to duke it out and find the RIGHT assessments before we shove them down our children’s throats. I do believe teachers should be held accountable, and I have no problem with a grading system. My issue here is timing. I don’t believe the world will end if we give them a year to find their footing.
- Call your children/grandchildren’s teachers and thank them for what they do for our children. Let them know you are on their side, and you have their backs.
- Get involved in your local school districts. This is where the battle is. This is where your voice can be heard. They need encouragement. Most of them only hear from you when you are angry. Give them your voice and your elbow grease when you don’t have anything you need from them. Find your place at the table BEFORE you have an issue. Then when you do need to call them with a concern, the door is open. (I know it’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.)
- Meet your Superintendent for coffee. Get to know him/her. It’s one thing to try to follow the political battles, it’s an entirely different situation to know what they are going through on the ground. Educate yourself.
- Don’t be afraid to hold the politicians accountable for their decisions. Respectfully educate them on what is happening on the ground in your district. Most of them do not know, and have never stepped foot in a classroom.
- Think globally, act locally. The battle is at the local level. Get involved in your school district. They will be choosing curriculum very soon. Get involved with this process. Yes, I would rather be at the beach too, but my children deserve this sacrifice. It may seem like the bureaucrats at the federal and state level hold all the keys, but they do not. We will continue to push for local control over our education system, but right now, take advantage of the power you do hold on the local level.
- Above all, pray for your children, their teachers and our leaders. I asked my teenagers this week what pressures they faced. I felt like my gut was kicked in when they began to tell me what they go through on a daily basis. They need us to engage now more than ever before.