PLN on Twitter: Gateway to a NEW World
In teaching you are not working with colleagues daily, you're working with colleagues rarely. As educators we find ourselves day-in and day-out among children, adolescents and/or young adults. That's the profession. The job is to teach the students in class. It's also a profession that takes the highest level of unmitigated commitment. It's a profession that depends on self-motivation, self-monitoring, self-direction, self-set standards, self-imposed goals and a whole-lotta self-less-ness. Let's face it, in the world of teaching, you're by yourself.

Because teaching is such an isolated profession it often falls under scrutiny. The Department of Education and politicians at the national, state and local levels impose upon teachers requirements, standards and/or benchmarks on student achievement to substantiate effective teaching. As such, standardized testing is imposed to "ensure" student learning ("sarcasm" just in case it wasn't obvious). That's fine, some mode of data gathering is needed and typically the external requirements fall far short of our self-imposed standards anyway. The disconnect in the education system is that outsider imposed standardization coupled with an isolated working environment drives Educational Professional Development (PD).  Without going off on a long rant about teacher PD troubles it's suffice to write that it has BIG issues. We've all endured our time wasted at bad PD work shops. PD needs to be teacher driven. The goal here is to provide a self-cure to the PD woes, not list its countless problems.

Stand Up Against Educational Inequality and Over-Testing
On April 4th in 1968 the world suffered a terrible loss when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was taken from this earth. However, in his death he left us with the mission of carrying forward his legacy: to ensure an equal education for all citizens, promote strength of character and an end segregation. Most famously the I Have a Dream speech encapsulates his mission when he eloquently told the world of his hope that his "...four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." One wonders what this greatest of men would think about todays educational reform movement that promotes children be judged on the almighty test score rather than their values, morals and ethics.  Within that same prophetic address Dr. King espoused his hope that one day "...little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers." One wonders what this mightiest of leaders would think about the existence of the segregation of todays special education and poverty laden little boys and girls from those charter and voucher school little boys and girls. Public Education in the United States is founded upon the concept of teaching ALL of its citizens to be compassionate, well rounded and participatory citizens of the future.

0-59% Contains Greatest Range of Growth?
Data in the world of education today has become perhaps the hottest, most trendy of issues. It is used to show the success of a particular school, an entire school district, the effectiveness of a teacher and, of course, to determine the learning of a student. As a veteran of twenty years teaching grade 8 U.S. History myself I truly know the value of standardized tests from personal experience: for the most part it allows me to compare and contrast one student pool against another from year to year. The data allows me to analyze areas of my daily instruction that are successful or that need more attention as it pertains to what that test is focused upon. After decades of analyzing Social Studies standardized tests in the State of Michigan I have found there to be one constant: the inconsistency of these standardized tests...

PictureCartoon by David Sipress
Misguided; this could be the best way to summarize today's United States' lawmaker mentality that considers a test score to be the proper and best way to evaluate student success, as well as, teacher performance.  Already, we are starting to see the fallout of this ridiculous methodology. The Atlanta Public Schools are perhaps the best known to date to be cited in the unethical quagmire surrounding high stakes standardized testing but in reality the problem will only fester if this educational course of action continues.

Recently, in my own backyard, the Detroit Free Press developed an article on the increased pressure placed upon educators to ensure that the students under their supervision score well on standardized tests. In this survey 29% of the educators polled feel pressure to cheat. While this statistic is both alarming and angering to me as both an educator and parent; I am more SADDENED than anything! The pressure placed upon educators is due to the fact that state funding for the school/s depends on these scores, as well as, in many cases meeting AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) to prevent the building from being closed down. Now in the State of Michigan the stakes will be even higher in the years to come since Governor Snyder signed into law a new teacher tenure law in July.  This law can ultimately lead to a teacher being identified as "ineffective" if students under their instruction perform poorly on a standardized test. If an educator is deemed "ineffective" they can be dismissed if subsequent evaluations show that no improvement occurs, that is, if they are not laid-off first.  ALL the "effective" teachers will maintain employment ahead of those that are "ineffective" when downsizing of staff is needed to meet budgetary restraints; years of prior teaching success has no merit any longer. As much as I wholeheartedly disagree with everything associated with standardized testing I am saddened by the long term effect/s on students and the teaching profession...