Thursday, February 20, 2014

Investing, not testing is the way forward

     The insistence/consistent focus on evaluation of teachers as the number one priority, combined with the denial of the role that funding and wealth play in student outcomes, is narrow-vision, uninspiring, and either dishonest or disingenuous.

     Imagine a person (and/or a group of people) who had never ran on a track team, worked with a track team, maintained a track/field....suddenly being appointed authority over that area of athletics- in a school that had struggled to compete with wealthier neighboring district teams. The mission is stated as "close the win/loss gap", but the subtext is made clear in meetings, statements, the refusal to fund the necessities: trim costs. Pretend that a good track team is your priority in all memos, meetings, discussions, but spend less and redirect/place blame on athletic department staff for continued difficulties and losses to wealthier neighboring teams. The track is in shambles, dangerous to run on-not because the coaches and staff don't know how to do their jobs-but because the district can't/won't pay to resurface it. The hurdles, sand pit, pole for the vault...not useful for serious training to succeed/win/compete with peers. Because the area is a low socio-economic area, the students live in homes and with families that can't always provide square meals, comfortable beds, economic/emotional stability...the things that send a ready student/athlete to school.

     So what do the non-track, my friends bought me this job, I'm empowered to set policy but have no real connection to the day-to-day workings of track coaching/managing in a real school with challenges team suggest? What do they INSIST IS THE PRIORITY AND VOW TO FIRE ANY WHO DON"T COOPERATE?  


     That's right. Stopwatches. Forget the track, the equipment, the health of the kids, the involvement of the staff who really know what they're up against and have the experience to deal with it. Stopwatches.

     Suddenly more stopwatches, and to make sure the ones your budget dollars were diverted from the resurfacing for are reliable-some different stopwatches to turn time into a "value added measure"! There are protests from experienced coaches and runners that start coming from all angles, the crumbling track surface, the hungry kids, etc... you paint these as the protests of the unwilling and greedy and insist that more stopwatches is the best investment in order to find bad coaches and athletic department staff to fire when the track teams in struggling schools don't produce the wins that wealthier schools in neighboring districts produce.

     Not as many wins, not as many college-bound athletic scholarships...clearly, stopwatches will produce better outcomes, and if the stopwatches show less than desired improvement, we can fire athletic department staff...a win win! Sound data and consequences that matter.

     Does this sound a little ridiculous? I hope so. But I have been involved in a discussion with NYSED associates with an outcome describing that regulations saying ALL PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICTS and available to ALL STUDENT POPULATIONS really mean "if your district can afford it" or "if you're lucky enough to be wealthy or live in a wealthy area". It wasn't an unpleasant conversation, but an affirmation that it is the result of the unfortunate state of school funding in our state. "College and career ready" is for those lucky enough to be born into it, or attend a school able to/willing to provide it.

This is what YOU are accountable for, Governor. Not stopwatches.

     My suggestion is stop posturing and railing against unions, then own up to the impact poverty, joblessness and lack of character/morality in economic and education policy has on the most needy. There are people who know the daily struggles of an increasing number of students impacted by the crumbling condition of the track they are expected to run on. They are REAL EDUCATORS. Don't blow our money and place such reverent reliance/trust upon stopwatches (sold by eager stopwatch companies springing up everywhere these days).

I have metaphored long enough. Investing, not testing. That will get you results.

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