Friday, May 02, 2008

Good Ideas For Inhibiting School Growth (iv)

In addition to pretty much making a sloppy mess of the first two days of state testing, next accuse one of the more talented and ardent teachers* at the site of intentionally sabotaging the testing process by encouraging students to guess, leave portions of the exam incomplete, and generally perform as poorly as possible. Claim this teacher asked students to skip questions on last March's state writing exam, allowing the fact the assessment consists of a single question, impossible to skip, to inform this claim not at all. Cite as motivation this particular teacher's discontent with recent mean-spirited, absurd, and unprofessional HR decisions and his desire to lead a cabal of teachers in ruining five years of sustained school growth as protest of said mean-spirited, absurd, and unprofessional HR decisions. Make sure stuff like this becomes the focus during state testing.

[Past good ideas: (i) (ii) (iii) ]

*This particular teacher's resignation is available upon request, by the way, and there is no need to engage in the type of character assassination and credential threatening courses of action that have colored all recent interactions with individuals who had the temerity to bust brains and asses to dramatically improve the worst middle school in the county, demonstrate the possibility of district-based reform based on investing in human capital, and provide one of the few legitimate, non-fabricated sources of positive p.r. for this particular school district.


Blogger KauaiMark said...

The politics of "CYA" working it way down the system usual.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since my readng of blogs is sometimes spotty, I may not have the right context for poper inference. But I gather that you have a principal who is guilty of these apalling, unreasonable, and ineffective behaviors.
When I look around my district, I see more administrators and more bad administrators than I've ever seen in education. People who disliked life in the classroom have become principals and district superintendents who see themselves as experts in every area of education. Their lack of actual expertise causes them to make bad decisions and their arrogance and natural protective instincts cause them to blame others for the consquences.
This is why I don't understand your support for merit pay and getting rid of tenure. It will give more power to these ambitious people who will sacrifice good teachers - as you are seeing happen in your own school.

10:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for the spelling errors on my previous post. That's what I get for writing before I put my contacts in.

10:41 AM  
Blogger TMAO said...


I was being oblique on purpose. Previous installments of the "good idea" series focused on the actions of the VP/ Police, and their attempts to bolster personal ineffectiveness with the fear-mongering and intimidation of children. This one is more about what happens when district leadership, having set sail upon the type of power consolidation usually reserved for the denouement of a Godfather movie, listens to the wrong people and abandons even a distant connection to common sense.

You may be right about the merit pay thing in certain places. But not everywhere, not all of the time, and the potential benefits dramatically outweigh the harm of the potential detractions.

I've also been thinking about pathways to autonomy. How do we create conditions where district schools can become more autonomous (over budget, teachers compensation, curriculum design, etc.)? What conditions need be met to earn this autonomy? Might merit pay exist as a site-based benefit to be earned, primarily earned by the administrator? There's too much here to shut down just cuz there's some poopy principals, poopy VPs, and despicable superintendents running round.

3:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think maybe some folks look to charter schools for the autonomy you are speaking of.
i have no experience as a teacher; but as a nurse i have seen the exact scenarios.... those that leave the trenches actually go into management and just screw it all up.

4:31 PM  
Blogger TMAO said...

There's a dichotomy. Charters are granted the autonomy without having to do anything to earn it, and very little to justify its continued existence. District schools on the hand, never earn it, no matter how well run. I think we can do better on both fronts.

4:35 PM  
Anonymous David C said...


Fellow TLNer here...
Sorry to hear it's coming down to this kind of mess. Your frustrations sound sadly familiar in today's educational world (see Bill Ferriter's blogs on testing, for example). For your anonymous friend who asks about merit pay and changes in tenure, I would emphasize that those kind of changes would hopefully be produced through collective bargaining - call me an optimist, but it's starting to happen here and there. And if we are wise in that process, it would produce some broader and more valid criteria that would protect fine teachers such as TMAO and others. A bad year of testing would have to be held against other indicators of success over a longer period of time. And proving one's "merit" or "performance" would require more than test scores.

6:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To deny merit pay because it would give power to bad administrators comes across as hoping two wrongs will make a right. There are better solutions to administration issues than limiting options for teachers.

1:36 PM  
Blogger TMAO said...

Man, we drifted far off-shore on this one, huh?

I was just saying I'm getting accused of some lame shit I did not do, and we ended up in merit pay. How'd that happen?

9:38 PM  
Anonymous Clint H said...

@TMAO Why does this blog always have to be about you? :)

Seriously, you could always vote with your feet. Sometimes I feel that schools use the professionalism of their teachers against said teachers. It's almost like we enable this sh*t.

Tell the admin why you're leaving, tell your students why you're leaving, tell the parents why you're leaving. I've no doubt you'll have other schools knocking on your door with job offers.

Of course, that's easy for me to say... Good luck, whatever you decide. We'll all be reading...

3:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

excuse me.. it's me one of the anon. "lurkers" who really dig this blog.. for the writing, the soul, the hope/insight, and frustration.. all that.
but did i miss something?
are YOU leaving the school?
were YOU the teacher "blowing" star testing?
please forgive me, i am a bit confused as i go back through the writings.

12:02 PM  
Blogger TMAO said...

Hi anon (Pamela):

I am the teacher who was accused of intentionally undermining student performance on the California Standards Test. I've recently been able to stop laughing long enough to vehemently deny these accusations.

9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok. got it.

p.s. do you ever read mark morford in sf chronicle ( or sfgate)?
same warped/intense/brilliant take on issues.
he isn't education focused.. political.
i guess this will just grease your trip to d.c.....

10:13 PM  

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