Introduction by Janice VanCleave
The emperor in the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes ” by Hans Christian Andersen reminds me of many Texas school administrators. The emperor like school administrators paid a lot of money for something said to be spectacular. Like the emperor, school administrators don’t want to fess up to the fact that they were scammed. They don’t want to look foolish are admit that they were gullible enough to purchase a product because it would give them more power. The emperor bought a suit of clothes said to be invisible to people who were stupid, incompetent, and unfit for their positions. Texas administrators purchase products said to give administrators more control over educators resulting in better state test scores. The emperor wore his new clothes in a parade where a child shouted that the emperor wasn’t wearing clothes. The child told the truth while others were afraid to.
In the following article a Texas teacher is shouting out the truth about Texas School Administrators. Are they really gullible like the emperor? Are is there some personal gain for their actions?
No Place for Politics, Installment 2:
Administrators’ Crutches Cripple Teachers and Students
by Fil Barnes, science teacher.
There are a great number of “best practices” in teaching. If you last long enough, you cycle through hundreds of them, always with your administration being sold on the undeniable fact that THIS ONE is THE answer to everything that is wrong in the classroom.
Never mind that the total time that administrators spend in your classroom often amounts to less than one class period per year; they really have no idea what is right or wrong. How would administrators fare under the same stipulations? My question does not make me popular.
Most recently, “The Fundamental 5, The Formula for Quality Instruction,” which could easily be mistaken for either a Marvel Comic or an 80’s rap group, has dominated the scene. If you follow Texas education, or Texas CSCOPE Review, then you know The Fundamental 5. If not, you can find out how it is presented to administrators here. If you are a teacher in Texas, you have probably had this formula drilled into you during endless hours of training, likely on your own time. The ”
I do not doubt that there are administrators who use this tool in such a way that it is useful. I applaud those who have had the integrity to speak out against the system. Unfortunately, I know from experience and from an extensive network of friends in other districts (another development of being around long enough), that a large percentage of educators misuse tools such as The Fundamental 5 and CSCOPE. I know, the Fundamental Five and CSCOPE are not from the same source (at least, not on the surface) and are not designed to do the same thing. For teachers it all does boil down to one thing. The fact that the above listed training module refers to these practices as a cheat sheet should be enough to show that the real intent is not to improve teaching, but to make the administrators’ jobs easier.
I will not pretend to have all of the answers, but it is apparent that dumbing-down the administration is probably not the best solution to the problems with Texas education. Read the comments on the educational blogs allegedly from administrators. You will often find them rife with grammar and spelling mistakes. Maybe some administrators do need easier jobs, but trying to simplify what should not be a simple task – evaluating teachers – is not going to help students learn. This ideology has been quite pervasive for nearly a decade now. Have we seen any improvement in that time?
At least four of these amazing five cure-all prescriptions are good teaching practices. They are, of course, not new and used to be taught in college education courses. 1. Posting daily goals (the simplified version of “Framing The Lesson”); 2. allowing students to discuss the information in small groups; 3. having students write about what they learned; and 4. providing reinforcement have been utilized for decades.
My only caveat to these is the misuse of reinforcement as an extrinsic motivation. A desire to get gold stars quickly replaces a desire to learn. The suggested verbal reinforcements presented in training, such as “you are smart,” and “I am proud of you,” in the long run will do more harm than good. I am always proud of my students, just like my own children. If they do not do as well on the next assignment, am I no longer proud? Are they no longer smart?
None of this is new. It is, however, too simplistic to really develop good teaching practices.
The Power Zone is a bit of a question, since this seems to be defined as staying in the middle of the room (at least, that is what several teachers have been documented for NOT doing). The ‘Power Zone’, defined as the middles of the room, has caused many teachers negative evaluations. But a question arises. Are other experts wrong? Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion, recommends staying on the perimeter of the room, so that easy eye contact can always be made. Lemov, a well-recognized authority, includes similar strategies to the Fundamental Five along with 44 more. The sheer number of suggestions is a clear indication that there are no easy answers.
It has been documented that training for administrators in these programs instructs them that more experienced teachers will resist following along.
In how many other professions do you see a philosophy like that?
What do you think would happen?
I am no expert on other professions, but I would suggest that the entity which made the suggestion would not last very long if the profession were engineering or medicine! By all means, let’s weed out all those experienced professionals! That is exactly what has been happening in education for several years. It will continue to happen until the public outcry reaches Austin.
Experienced teachers have been critical of these systems, because we recognize them for what they are. Both The Fundamental 5 and CSCOPE have some useful information, which used in the right way (I cannot say the correct way, because I do not believe it to be the way that they were intended) can help guide new teachers to limited success. The overarching plan for both The Fundamental 5 and CSCOPE is to simplify the administrators’ job.
I have yet to speak with a teacher, new or experienced, who found PDAS (Professional Development and Appraisal System) too complicated an evaluation system. Apparently, administrators need these crutches to help them succeed. Do not believe that teachers being intimidated through documented infractions for not being on the same page as others using CSCOPE or for not being in the Power Zone helps a teacher to improve. Neither does being asked to become immediate experts on complicated subjects, usually without the use of textbooks, help students to learn.
Next time, I will discuss exactly how evaluations occur in most districts. Not only did it not get simpler with the advent of CSCOPE, it created a whole new level of “mid-administrators.”