Don’t NECAP me, I’m SLO

[image: joyhog.com]

I’m having writer’s block–It’s ironic to make that statement as I’m writing, but I’m sitting here looking at a copy of the Common Core State Standards for inspiration.  That, in and of itself is a problem. You see, I need to come up with some SLOs in order to keep my job teaching.  For all those who are not teachers, I’ll explain.  SLOs, or Student Learning Objectives, are a key part of the new teacher evaluation system. If I can’t measure “student growth” using these SLOs, I will be asking if you want fries with that. The NECAP is the old test we used to use to measure growth, but now we’re going to have a new one now, the PARCC.  As in, “It’s a walk in the…”

I’m still trying to understand all the acronyms.  I’ve formally studied five languages and can swear in two or three more.  Still, I’m having a tough time keeping up. In addition, I have an advanced education. One would think I’d be intelligent enough to comprehend. It appears not. I’m staring at these walls of data and acronyms that were surely created by The Daily Show–come on, what educator wants to hear “SLO” in the same sentence with “student?”  I want “quick” at the minimum. And NECAP is what my Irish ancestors did to people they didn’t like during the Troubles. PARCC is where I want to go to drink a beverage until I can wrap my head around some of the elements of ed reform.

At heart is the issue of “rigor.”  In the Old Days, I had to take three masters’ classes to prove I was smart and continuing to learn. Learning was the measure of the professionalism we had to exhibit as teachers.  I had to have a masters’ degree, then I had to learn more. It was expensive, but I love learning. So, I learned and learned.

But teachers with advanced degrees are expensive, so someone found a study that said that advanced degrees might not correlate with educational success and they found another way to measure me.

It was decided that we should be able to design our own plans, that they should be individualized. The problem was that nobody would commit to what actually counted on that plan when I called for help, so I did twice the amount of hours required and finished a year and a half early. I guess it wasn’t “rigorous” enough. As luck would have it, it was determined that that whole system was, in fact, not “rigorous” and it was defeated like every bad guy who dares to oppose Chuck Norris.  Mine didn’t count. It is currently being used as a doorstop because I’m afraid to throw it away.

I asked the question, “So, you’re saying that for exceeding expectations set by my bosses, and by coming in far in advance of the deadline, my work is not going to count? That doesn’t make sense. I should get a reward.”  What makes sense doesn’t matter, because once it has been established that rigor is missing, rigor must be found. End of subject.

Now, we have a new system.  On the surface, it looks okay–a million evaluations and conferences a year–like a picnic with a rubric.  I was  looking forward to seeing my evaluator get a new pair of track shoes and run marathons, because that’s the distance that would be mathematically necessary to finish that number of evals.  And since the new system barely gives him time to eat Easy Mac, I think the running might do him good.  In either case there are so many rubrics and matrices that my mind is exploding.

I’m looking forward to honest feedback from an evaluator I truly trust–that part’s exciting, but I’m still having writer’s block when it comes to translating the 101 paged instructional manual into documentation.

In the mean time, I’m witnessing the following unintended consequences in the field of education:

1. Inconsistencies.  On one hand, I have to do a ton to be evaluated and certified, but other pathways like Teach For America can bring educators along a different path with far fewer hours of regulations. It’s creating a lot of hard feelings systemically.

2. Resentment. Good people are leaving the field and taking advantage of other opportunities.  Many who have options, because they are good, are taking those options. We are losing good teachers.

3. Difficulty training new teachers. Student teachers report teacher reluctant to accept them because teachers are afraid a student teacher will ruin “their numbers.”  This is a real fear–the numbers effect evaluations.  “Reluctantly” is no way to train the next generation of teachers.

4. People deciding against teaching. One new teacher reported to me that four of her original cohort of a dozen or so decided not to teach because they “didn’t like the bureaucracy.”  Again–we are losing good teachers. These people had other options.

5. Out of touch programs.  An excellent potential teacher was released from a teacher prep program for his essay response to “What is your philosophy of teaching?” He said that his philosophy was not important until the basic needs of the student were met. It was a brilliant, albeit political essay about meeting the needs of the underserved in society first. Once that is done, we can teach. I wished I had written that essay myself. He’ll be a rock star IF he can get through the red tape.  And certainly once he learns to write SLOs.

6. Gaming the system and grade inflation. People are choosing easier goals. They are inflating tests for SLOs, saying. There are all sorts of tricks.

These are scary trends. I love teaching, but I don’t like the constant reinforcement of my  friends saying, “Why are YOU teaching?  You could be so successful.” Because by the definition of society, I must not be successful, since I teach.  Heck, I had one person ask me if I had proper university credentials and another say I probably taught at some charter school teaching my students to march in lock step and pass rote tests because I dared to refer to my kids as my “scholars.”  No wonder we can’t reform education.  We have a bunch of SLO people NECAPing each other.

So, I’ll go PARCC myself on the couch for a bit longer and see if I can come up with something I can spend the year measuring.  This will determine whether I will be asking all of you if you want fries with that.  Follow me on Twitter, and I’ll be able to tell you which register I’ll be on when the time comes.  Maybe I’ll supersize that for you.

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12 thoughts on “Don’t NECAP me, I’m SLO

  1. Great post. I agree with so much of it. I know last year, I had an intern who was not the brightest, and I found myself worrying about her effect on my kids scores (and hating myself for thinking that way). Sometimes it feels that I’m so busy jumping through hoops that there isn’t any time left to do all the things I’ve done for years that helped the kids be successful.

    • You’re so right–I’ve been spending more time creating a system of data measurement, I could have been investing time into student development. I agree that we should constantly assess our plans and adjust them, but in all honesty, we can use numbers to prove anything we want–heck, economists do it all the time:)

      • Yes, my students were complaining recently because I spent 20 minutes explaining how to use the benchmark data tracking sheet that we are now required to have them keep. I can indeed play the numbers game, but what about the kids? While adults play games, they are losing out.

      • I’m with you on this–I’m going to give a “benchmark” test knowing I haven’t taught the skills, then I’ll continue to measure them all year. That’s 40 minutes of my life administering a test that I know I didn’t teach the skills for them to have mastered. I guess I can say sacrificing that period will help me know how MANY skills I’ve taught them, but I’d rather teach an outstanding lesson.

      • Isn’t it ridiculous. I just wrote about my students’ reaction to this a day or two ago. Our benchmark tests are a bit shorter, but I have to give 12 of them (not counting any of my own) during the year, but they won’t actually be any use until test 5 or 6 when I can finally see a pattern (and suddenly have to go to remediation with students who apparently weren’t getting Benchmark 1).

      • I remediate as follows. Kid flunks X, I reteach, make an appointment, and the allow kid to redo that or something equivalent. Usually have individual time w kid, an inspirational speech, etc… Then, kid eventually is proficient. When we had to measure the effects of retesting on increased proficiency, I had no data because they end up being proficient because I always retest/redid… The argument against this is in the real world your boss will fire you. My counter is that in the real world you’re not 14–18.

      • That’s pretty much what we are required to do, except mostly during class time. This gets interesting as far as juggling teaching the rest of a class, extra instruction for the kids who failed, and finding time to retest when we have so many assessments already. I just can’t bring myself to test a kid more than once within the same class period.

  2. I usually do not leave a bunch of remarks, but I read a lot of responses on this page Dont NECAP me, Im SLO | Café Casey.
    I do have some questions for you if it’s okay. Could it be simply me or does it look like a few of the remarks appear like they are left by brain dead people? 😛 And, if you are writing at additional online sites, I would like to follow anything fresh you have to post. Would you list of the complete urls of your social sites like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

    • Always happy to answer questions… I think these topics are important in education, and although I use the vehicle of satire to get the point out to dialog, I’m quite serious about education excellence. I appreciate that all my blogging friends have honored me with discussion on this and other posts. It’s what helps the learning continue.

  3. Undeniably believe that which you said. Your favorite reason appeared to be on the net the simplest thing to be aware of.
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    Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

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