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Guest Column

June 15, 2013

Who's really benefiting from education reform?


If you are a teacher, you are increasingly treated as a worker on an assembly line, with the students treated like products for market. Starting next year, in most elementary schools, you will be required to use scripted lessons, purchased by your district, for math and ELA rather than using your experience and expertise to plan and deliver lessons.

You might feel deeply resentful about being asked to teach to the test, but you had better do it, because 40 percent of your evaluation will be based on those scores. Veteran teacher Ken Sider commented: “The shame of this movement is how threatened teachers feel, and how common it is for test preparation skills to dominate the classroom. Teaching, in the traditional sense, is devolving before our eyes.”

If you are an administrator you feel the strain too. This year, teachers in all but four states, are being evaluated using the new Common Core standards. This despite the fact that materials for teaching these standards have not yet been produced.

You are now required to observe your teachers twice per year, read reams of teachers’ self-evaluations and hold formal pre- and post-observation conferences. Like many administrators, you may lament that you don’t have time to interact with students anymore. One local district was forced to hire an extra administrator simply to complete the observations.

As a teacher educator, I see the frustration and dismay among colleagues and students as we grapple with preparing for the edTPA. In addition to the three traditional paper and pencil tests already in place in New York State, edTPA requires that student teachers now take two 10-minute videos of themselves teaching, write 35 to 45 pages justifying their pedagogical decisions, and pay $300 to Pearson — where temporary workers will evaluate their fitness to become teachers.

If you are a taxpayer, you are footing the bill for all this. For example, in Oneonta we had to hire substitutes as graders — because the rules now dictate that teachers cannot be trusted to grade their own students’ tests.

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