Making Myself Useful (and other items)
(I’m a bit rushed…driving to Indiana in…36 minutes. More on that in a minute.)
Churn ‘n’ Burn and Spin Me to the Door
There are two short things I read this week that I believe are connected. The first was an article in Education Week from early in April called When Teachers Are Treated Like Widgets, Education Suffers. It was written by academics who are tired of all their studies getting messed up because they can’t get stable control and experimental groups of teachers to measure anything for even a couple of years. In one multi-year study to test improvements in science curriculum, 42% of participating teachers had moved within or outside the school in the first year.
The authors note that churn in urban schools (teachers moving to different positions within schools, to another school, or out of teaching) is just background noise for most concerned parties. In other words, most parties are not concerned. The authors recognize that churn is not only bad for them and their studies but that it is not good for kids either. “…teachers are shifted around so often that they can’t develop mastery of a grade and subject, or develop stable professional learning communities to support their work.”
Churn was particularly bad in the last school where I worked. We lost about 45% every year due to the terrible working conditions created by the administration. The reading proficiency level of students matches the teacher attrition rate…and she was Principal of the Year. (The good news is that education reform doesn’t have to make sense.) In the elementary school where I taught for two years, I taught 6th, 4th and 2nd grades as a new teacher. WTF?
Another article I read this week was by a graduate of the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School here in Washington, DC who is now completing his freshman year at Georgetown. (I taught for one year at Chavez, but at a different campus.) He’s had a rough year at Georgetown and spends a lot of the article blaming his DC teachers, mostly in elementary school and middle school. The article is a little bit endearing, but mostly it is self-congratulatory.
…I’ve only got 24 minutes…trying to articulate the connection between these two…and there is another article I was reminded of from years ago by Sara Fine.
(I can’t find the link right now…it was in the Washington Post, 2007-2009?) The link has been graciously provided by an alert reader and friend of Ms. Fine’s. I taught with Sara for one year at Chavez. She was very young and she is very smart. And a wicked violin player. (Or cello?) I didn’t know her well personally, but she was a person who exuded teaching. And Chavez wrecked her.
I’m driving to Indiana in…14 minutes…to help in the cleanup and hopefully rebuilding a little from the tornadoes that destroyed the towns of Henrysville and Marysville in southern Indiana.
I’m not sure what we’ll be doing. I think they are still primarily in cleanup mode even though this happened in early March.
One reason this post is rushed is that yesterday we hosted a gathering in support of David Grosso, independent candidate for an At-Large seat on the DC City Council. David is running against a Democrat who makes more money as a lobbyist than he does on the Council, a Republican (yawn) and a Green. (Yeah! Go Green Party. But c’mon.)
If you are in DC, check out Grosso.
….just a couple minutes left…
It’s testing time. Here is a post from last year that people seemed to like about testing called Circus for Grown Ups. Enjoy it for the first time or rediscover its goodness anew.
OK…I’m on the road. See you when I get back.
UPDATE: Been in Indiana for four days now. We’re in extreme southern Indiana, just a few miles over the Ohio River from Louisville, which is rapidly filling up with the Kentucky Derby approaching.
This is a place that was not doing well before the storms. There are a lot of people out here with nothing. We’ve been chainsawing, working at a community aid distribution center, and going out to individual homes/foundations to clear debris, get trees off trailers, etc. It’s hard to imagine how these towns and some of these families will bounce back. More on that later.