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EdTech: Has Tenure’s Time Ticked Out?

The Colorado State Board of Education in what appears to be an effort to achieve its place in the “Race for the Top” has decided to reform its tenure process and to institute a review process for teachers with tenure.

In bold move, Colorado alters teacher tenure rules

DENVER — Colorado is changing the rules for how teachers earn and keep the sweeping job protections known as tenure, linking student performance to job security despite outcry from teacher unions that have steadfastly defended the system for decades.
Many education reform advocates consider tenure to be one of the biggest obstacles to improving America’s schools because it makes removing mediocre or even incompetent teachers difficult.
Colorado’s legislature changed tenure rules despite opposition from the state’s largest teacher’s union, a longtime ally of majority Democrats. Gov. Bill Ritter, also a Democrat, signed the bill into law last month.
It requires teachers to be evaluated annually, with at least half of their rating based on whether their students progressed during the school year. Beginning teachers will have to show they’ve boosted student achievement for three straight years to earn tenure.
Teachers could lose tenure if their students don’t show progress for two consecutive years. Under the old system, teachers simply had to work for three years to gain tenure, the typical wait around the country.


Will this help?

So now what happens? Do teachers have to focus on preparing students to take tests only? Are they only focused on what makes them look good to administration and what may not be the right method for the students?

Has technology helped or hurt this process? A teacher friend of mine was saying in a meeting recently that one of her classes had to be put into a computer presentation format in order for it to be accepted into the curriculum. She was opposed to it and rightfully so given her discipline. It is all about the touch and feel of objects. So if the students aren’t touching and feeling the material how can they properly learn about it? Good point. Another teacher at the meeting was explaining that since this new generation of students (Gen-i, I like to call them – not a big fan of iGen – too much like a mechanical implement) lives in front of a computer and the educational founding father John Dewey believed in experiential learning – which is right? Well the answer seems to be both. No, this is not a participation trophy mentality answer; it is just that not one size fits all subjects. If students live in a world of interactivity et al shouldn’t their lessons be interactive? I have said this repeatedly but wouldn’t it be great for a student to pack up their chemistry kit and just bring it home everyday? All at almost no cost. Just think about how much more you would learn by being able to do a math equation visually. Imagine seeing the numbers multiply or watching something divide before your eyes – actual cell mitosis in front of you. Isn’t this why we have residencies at hospitals so that young doctors actually witness the procedure?

Is it a new version of “NCLB”?

Isn’t this new criteria and regulation just a passive aggressive form of “No Child Left Behind”? Do we really believe that every child learns the same way? Aren’t there people who learn visually and those that learn from repetition? You know we use to make left-handed people conform to only writing with their right hand. What was that all about – a modern day Salem? Are we looking for answers in all the wrong places? Each child learns differently, each person has different experiences to draw from. Yes, we need to make it uniformed to a level. Math is math and science is science and so on but critical thought and creativity is what made this country what it was (no longer is). Is it just that we think that the Buffets, Gates and Jobs were flukes? They almost all are visual learners, not to mention the numerous names form one of my last columns.

How do we include “inclusion”?

How will we teach the same when we have students with special needs included in the classroom? Are we going back to segregated classrooms? Was “inclusion” just a cost-savings measure? If it was why was it presented as being a benevolent approach? Was it al BS, and really for the bottom line? If it was I hope somebody is going to get real pissed. If these children were really just part of a huge cost-cutting measure and they weren’t given the education they needed that would be almost criminal.

How could we hold teachers responsible for teaching to a certain level if the tests are created for a specific skill set and then are given to students with special needs?

Should it be year-by-year – too close?

Again I like the reform to a certain level. Year-by-year may be too close of a time frame. Sometimes there are for whatever reasons cycles of students that are extremely difficult to motivate. Over 25 years in academia and I have seen this firsthand. For whatever economic or sociological reasons the hope or despair felt in the general public has an affect on the students. Sometimes it is just the “culture de jour”. You have an era of complete apathy, where no one seems to care about anything. Then you get a time of complete involvement.

Not quite sure what makes this happen. I believe it has a lot to do with pressures on the family.

Are we letting parents off the hook, here?

Speaking of family, where is their role in all of this? When I was going to school I vividly remember my mother sitting with me every night going over homework.

I can even remember one of the lessons verbatim – American History and George Washington crossing the Delaware. Reciting line by line from the text until I had it memorized.

After all these years teaching I don’t remember hearing that from students. Not blaming just trying to recall if I have heard anything like this over the years.

This is a partnership after all, isn’t it? There is class time and there is homework, the homework being supervised by the parents. As teachers we depend and trust that this will be done. It is re-enforcement. Without this reinforcement the lesson is typically lost and has to be repeated the next day. One day basically lost, which easily rolls into the next.

What will be the outcome?

If it is only “us chickens” then what will be the outcome of this new structure? Will teachers be teaching for the test? How does this help? Will the focus be – just that construct? I understand that critical thought and application will be used to construct these tests but where is the dimension of the learning? Will this be state structured or local or regional or cultural? At the end of this process what will be left? Will it be the best teachers or the ones who follow the guidelines only? Where is the academic freedom that usually causes growth and change?

Will we be generating cone heads?

Where else is this being used and is it helping?

I understand this process in business and I am all for bringing that mentality into the classroom but again just as everything else with moderation. The difference between a corporate structure and an academic one is simple. The classroom is like herding cats, especially today. There is no backup to what a teacher would want to do to ensure structure. This is not the way in business. If you have a subordinate that is causing problems you go through a process and try to motivate or eliminate them. Not so in academia. You can’t eliminate the students. You have to work through it. Sometimes this is not supported by your superiors and can cause total chaos in the classroom for all the students.

Case in point: two students, for not giving them the treat he/she had brought in for his/her class, assaulted one of my children back in fourth grade. This was not a case of not sharing these two students weren’t in the class. The students who did the assaulting clearly were not well mentally. By assaulting I mean a black and blue and swollen face. When I got to the school I watched as they jumped up and down in their chairs for no reason whatsoever. When the principal finally met with me he handed me an accident report. I asked if my child had fallen down stairs? I stated that this was an assault. He just handed me the report.

Needless to say he retired at the end of the school year. Trust me there are bigger problems going on here and the clock is ticking for everyone concerned.

More articles filed under Columns,Long Island Education

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