In this age of accountability, the level of stress and frustration that teachers experience generally comes to the forefront in April and May during or just prior to the testing window. Teachers are so focused on helping their students that, by the time our state testing window arrives, they are emotionally and physically exhausted and for good reason. My growing concern is that this level of stress is now present in October and there is no respite in sight. When I sit in Sunday school, in my office, or at football games with teachers who are on the verge of tears, I feel burdened to voice their concerns.
Allow me to list the requirements that we as educators are facing this year. Durant ISD is implementing the new Common Core Standards, the new Teacher Evaluation system, the new Administrator Evaluation System, the new social studies standards, and the new science standards. We are also dealing with the new End of Instruction testing company (scheduled to be replaced in the spring of 2015 with the PARCC assessment), the new Oklahoma Criterion Reference testing company, and adding the Oklahoma Writing Test to the already crowded testing window this spring. As the instructional leader of this district, I do not believe that these initiatives are completely unwarranted. However, I do believe change needs to be implemented on a schedule that does not impede the ability of teachers to teach. Mandating all this change at one time is detrimental to the morale and effectiveness of our educational system.
Perhaps the attitude and comments from some of our state board members may shed further light on why educators’ frustration levels are increasing.
Bill Price – State Board Member, Oklahoma City
“It doesn’t add to the process to have this myth produced that superintendents needed to be brought to the table”. “It is just appalling to me that instead of trying to figure out how we can improve the school system, instead we are attacking the messenger.”
Notice that Mr. Price believes that superintendents being consulted on educational issues is a myth. The state of Oklahoma is fortunate to have educational leaders at each district who consult with teachers frequently to provide the best possible opportunity for professional growth and students’ success. Keep in mind when reading that comment, only one member of the state board of education has a background in education. To suggest that these professionals educators (teachers and administrators) should not be consulted when making educational reforms is ludicrous.
Lee Baxter – State Board Member, Lawton
“This A-F system is not perfect, but by God, it’s going to be A-F, and we’re going to have it.”
Schools are not opposed to accountability. They have been subject to public accountability for years and welcome the opportunity to share our success and opportunities for improvement. As a district we require our teachers to test the students every 6 weeks to determine the level of competency for each student on the material taught at that point. Administrators are then required to report that information to the central office, along with plans to address any deficiencies revealed in the data. The current controversy at the state level revolves primarily around the new A-F report card. In and of itself it is a good idea, but in need of some refinement. The request was made for this to be a trial year for the report to better address issues with the report card, this question has repeatedly fallen on deaf ears.
Bill Shdeed – State Board Member, Oklahoma City
“There are 520 of you. That’s got to be a national record. It takes a lot of money to keep most of you all up. What are you doing to help us other than coming out here and bellyaching? Let me tell you, it’s got to change.”
Schools are not opposed to either change or hard work. Mr. Shdeed asks “…what are you doing to help us other than… bellyaching?” Let me answer that question for our teachers. In July, we held a 5-day common core boot camp to aid our teachers in the implementation of the new curriculum. Five days of professional development have been added to the school year to increase teacher effectiveness. District benchmark assessments are administered to students during progress reporting periods every six weeks in addition to regular classroom assessments. These benchmark assessments are aligned with Common Core and PASS objectives to provide ongoing feedback for teachers to adjust learning in the classroom. The assessments were created by teachers and are monitored by teachers and administrators. Durant ha contracted with outside educational consultants to work with educators in order to provide more resources for teachers. School days are being “flexed” to allow time for remediation and opportunities for enrichment during the school day because students do not attend summer school or after school opportunities. As a district, DISD is implementing Common Core a full year in advance of state requirements, and our elementaries are two years ahead of schedule. Furthermore, we are accomplishing these tasks in spite of the state removing all professional development funding from our budget while district federal and state funding decreases.
Finally, and perhaps most alarmingly, we are seeing teachers who love children, love their profession and view teaching as a calling, contemplating leaving the most influential position in a child’s life next to parenting. Not only is this mass exodus from the profession harmful, the prospect of young men and women entering the teaching profession is undermined by the current practices of our state educational leaders and legislators. The adversarial attitude that exists in Oklahoma must change before the students suffer due to the rigidity of the adults making the rules.
W. Jason Simeroth, Ph.D.
Superintendent, Durant ISD