May 23, 2016

Status Update

Since I wrote that letter...

I haven't quit teaching. And I still have no intention of quitting.

The elementary school that was at Level 4 (marking the district as Level 4) made great strides that year. But the school committee had already given up on them before the test results came back and handed management of the school to a private charter. I don't know how they're doing now but it was a source of intense frustration that the teachers at that school worked incredibly hard in a terrible high pressure environment, showed growth, and still all had to reapply to their jobs.

The high school reached Level 1 status (top tier) this year. Want to know the one thing that I believe had the biggest impact? We started to only give the tests to students who are prepared for it. The state says that we must give the English and Math MCAS to all sophomores. But they don't specify what the requirements are to make a student a sophomore. So we changed our requirements - students have to pass Algebra 1 and English 1 in order to be coded in the system as grade 10. And then we showed growth. Maintaining Level 1 status will be no easy feat as we have to continue to show growth toward the target of 100% proficiency. While I love that Massachusetts only requires three tests for graduation (science in grade 9, math and English in grade 10) I don't love that students have to take a math test that's primarily on Algebra in tenth grade since most of our students are taking geometry. I would rather have an end of course test for both 9th and 10th than spend a month in geometry class reviewing 8th and 9th grade content.

Administration still has far too many tasks. While our deans used to be able to build relationships with students, establish boundaries and be available for consult when I needed backup, they are far too often in meetings. The same with our department heads. A lack of trust and respect permeates our school culture and I believe that this is based in the fact that we spend so much time planning/reacting and not enough time engaging. Everyone is aware that it's an issue, but we need a critical mass of adults to stand up and say that we need to stop building the pressure and start stepping back to decide on our priorities. My priorities are building up students who are decent human beings and problem solvers. I don't need quarterly benchmarks to see if students are making progress toward those priorities. I don't need extra things, I don't need more content, I don't need more pressure. I need space to collaborate with my colleagues. I need time with my students. I need respect.

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