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May You Live in Interesting Times

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While purported to be a blessing the ancient Chinese proverb "May you live in interesting times" may be a curse. Teachers certainly live in interesting times but we are plague with much turmoil in our professional lives.
The seemingly endless discussion about designing national standards is one of the many inflictions cast upon teachers. I have been traveling extensively throughout the United States listening to academics, government officials, and policy makers talk about the need to implement a set of academic standards that will best serve the needs of over 60 million students. The goal is to homogenize 50 state standards and, ostensibly, provide a child in Arkansas the same level of education provided a child in Massachusetts.
Few people would argue that receiving a quality education is a birthright that should not be affected by birthplace. And I suspect that even fewer people would argue that the “race to the top” is a national endeavor considering the fact that we live in a global economy. But the very important discussions taking place concerning national standards is being held on a wobbly table. A table made unsteady because it is missing the teacher leg.
Teachers are being left out of the process of designing national standards and this is a recipe for disaster. Committees comprised of government officials, academics, and policy makers form an incomplete framework without the support of teachers. Teachers, after all, will be expected to implement the standards once adopted. The malformed thought that teachers should not play an integral role in helping develop national standards is just that: a malformed thought.
I can feel a palpable anger when standing next to teachers who feel ignored and marginalized by the committees designing national standards.
It’s time to let teachers help right a wobbly table.

7 Comments

I am very busy but loving reading your thoughts. I should add one more thought about the role of teachers, educators: Nation is like a boat, educators and teachers are like the tides of the ocean.

Tony brings up an interesting point - how can "committees" make monumental decisions regarding education but not include the educators, the very people who are actually doing the educating? Such a simple thought, such a logical thought, but one that has been largely (purposefully??) ignored and omitted. Throughout this year as a state TOY I have been astonished & amazed to learn that on many of our "so-called" education committees there is not one single practicing educator sitting at the table! How can this lead to good effective decision-making that will benefit our children? And how can these committee members expect their decisions to be taken seriously when they truly don't understand what it is that educators do every day? If they did - they would surely ask for our help and our opinions!

I just finished reading 3-4 of your entries and really enjoyed them. I look forward to reading more.

David,

I am happy to learn that you enjoy reading my entries. Thank you.

Seaton,

"A nation is like a boat" is a wonderfully colorful description!

Barbara,

As always, you complete my blog.

Thanks, all!

The hot issue of teachers not being involved with writing the National Standards (which 49 states have now basically agreed to endorse, mostly because federal monies will be tied to using them) is rapidly becoming less critical. The Committee will be winding up their work shortly--and voila! We'll have national standards--too late for any teacher input into the writing.

There are 60 people writing, then reviewing them. This snip from your co-blogger Anthony Cody's "Living in Dialogue" explains who's on the committee:

"So who makes up the two Work Groups? Of the 25 individuals on the two teams, (four people are on both) six are associated with the test-makers from the College Board, five are with fellow test-publishers ACT, and four are with Achieve. Zero teachers are on either Work Group. The Feedback Groups have 35 participants, almost all of whom are university professors. There appears to be exactly one classroom teacher involved in the entire process, on one of the Feedback Groups. "

It's not government officials and policymakers on the committee. It's the testing industry that's dominating the writing of the standards (and academics who are serving as content/review specialists). That's even more ominous. Because once the standards are in place, national tests will surely follow.

I believe the standards are being written because it's something that can be DONE--fixing what's really wrong is vastly more complex.

When I was first named as the 2009 Utah Teacher of the Year, a former Teacher of the Year emailed me and said, “Get ready for the ride of your life!” His words epitomize my experience this past year. It truly has been the ride of a lifetime.
Yes, there were many opportunities and overwhelming experiences. So what have I learned. I think if I were to sum up the greatest lesson of the past year, it would be the need for classroom teachers to seize the opportunity to inspire and guide the work of changing the image of the teaching profession.
As I have traveled the country, it has become glaringly apparent to me that policymakers (most often not educators) are engaged in the work of education reform and classroom teachers are not “at the table.” Excellence in teaching requires us to begin “leading from the classroom.” We need to be our own best advocates for policies, practices, and authentic accountability measures we know will work!”
Teaching is a profession, which is both an art and a science. It astounds me that those who are not teachers set policy and guide the work of education reform. I would never tell my doctor how to practice medicine or my lawyer how to practice law. I am continually amazed that there are so many voices telling educators how to practice the art and science of teaching.
We need to celebrate our accomplishments, exhort our expertise, and build relationships with policymakers. I would like to challenge each of you to become visible as the education experts, to engage in conversations, which will elevate our profession, to hold one another accountable for excellence, and to become the agents of change. Classroom teachers must be actively involved in the work required to guarantee a great public school for every child and “take back our profession.” We are the experts. I think it is time our voices were heard!

Hi, Nancy.

Thanks for the additional information from Anthony Cody's well-written essay. Your insight regarding the impending release of these standards explains why I have been listening to so many teachers lament the loss of their participation in such an important national education issue.

Best regards,

Tony

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