Teachers Need to be involved in Decision-Making

In the game of education, there are many players: students, parents, teachers, administrators, district officials, state and federal politicians.   Too often, the group that has the most contact with the students, the teachers, is not part of policy decision-making.

For example, sometime beginning in the late spring, the Glendale Unified School District went ahead with a major endeavor, signing a five-year contract worth $3.4 million with Massachusetts-based Curriculum Associates to use their i-Ready diagnostic testing program, evaluating each kindergartner through 12 grader three times a year.

What was quite startling about all this was how few of the major stakeholders were in the loop, including some administrators.

Glendale Teachers Association President Phyllis Miller said that GTA was not part of any discussions about this program as well.

Just as the Common Core standards seemingly came out of nowhere, so too has i-Ready that no one knows with certainty will benefit students.

The difference between the rollout of Common Core and i-Ready was that GUSD carefully involved teachers in introducing the new standards over a three-year period; the systematic testing came like a “Bam!” a la celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse.   In the past, the district has piloted new programs before committing to them.   Not this time.

Product Marketing Director for Curriculum Associates Susan Arcuri claims that there have been positive results in Glendale.   It’s a mystery how she came to that conclusion considering testing has just begun.

Miller said that many teachers who have used i-Ready say that the test itself is taking much longer than what was expected.

Where I work, the reading test is currently being administered, taking two class periods to complete. If that holds true for the math test, that would translate to a loss of 12 hours of direct instruction in arguably the most important subject classes.

And don’t forget the time it takes school administrators to organize the computer labs and monitor the testing, time better spent elsewhere.

It’s understandable the district wants to do something to help students perform well on the new Common Core based assessments.   The idea of providing teachers with individualized data to help shape future lesson planning sounds ideal.   The problem is that it is not practical.

Any teacher watching an i-Ready presentation espousing its benefits could inform upper management of this.   How are teachers going to find the time needed to analyze the data and then to modify lessons to meet the needs of each student? If a teacher were at the decision-making table, these legitimately difficult questions would have arisen.

One would have to make quite a convincing argument that spreadsheets of colored graphs is preferable to lessons taught by a qualified teacher.

Often overlooked is the analysis already occurring in the classroom on a daily basis facilitated by the expert in that field, the teacher.   Teachers don’t need third party testing results to understand that a student has difficulty understanding a Shakespearean passage.   They discover it through their lessons and assessments.

I have had the privilege of having thousands of students spend time in my classroom. I’d like to make an impact.   But the effect I could have on a child gets further diminished with each hour of standardized testing.

Teachers are very possessive of the time they have with their students so there needs to be a strong reason to justify taking that time away.

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