Forgive this blog post for being a semi-disjointed rant but I just spent the entire day in a classroom without air conditioning on a 95 degree day. At the end of the sweat fest, I engaged in two infuriating email exchanges which led me to conclude that in the game of accountability- tag teachers, you’re it!
First, I have been trying to resolve the issue of a lack of textbooks for my world history class. Social studies classes were slated for new textbooks this year but because of budget cuts they decided to only provide American history teachers with new textbooks since there is an EOC associated with the course. Over the past six years, our supply of textbooks has dwindled to barely a class set for most world history teachers. No problem, my students have ebooks! I told my students they will have to access the electronic version of their textbooks via their student portals to do their homework. Only my students were not able to access their online textbooks this year. It was never a problem in the past, so with some super sleuth district email investigating I managed to track down a few of the bureaucrats who’s job is it to provide teachers with textbooks. Apparently, since our contract with the world history publisher has expired and the district did not buy many new textbooks from Holt, we have lost our online access. I was instructed to issue whatever textbooks remained at my school to students. I explained that I only had a class set of textbooks and there were no more textbooks at my school site so I would not have any textbooks to issue to my students. Because there is probably some law saying that the district must provide students with textbooks, he was very clear in his email to respond that of course teachers are given textbooks to teach their courses. Let me do the math for district dude, no virtual textbooks + no actual textbooks = no textbooks!
Soon after this absurdist exchange, I was sent a cheery email from the Florida Department of Education’s liaison for teachers saying welcome back to school and here’s a video instructing you on the wonders of the Florida value added model! (If you have an extra 12 minutes of your life to waste and are curious about how the FLDOE is selling the Florida VAM to teachers you can click http://www.fldoe.org/committees/sg.asp and scroll down to videos, “Information for Educators, Incorporating Student Growth”). I will take this as a sign that the state is finally preparing to release the VAMs from last year and this is a last minute propaganda film to convince teachers about the sound science used in the value added model. This comes after last week’s lawsuit in which a judge declared SB 736 and the Florida VAM procedurally invalid. I responded to the FL DOE’s email and to my surprise I received an immediate email declaring that the 2012-13 evaluations will continue to use the Florida value added model because it was simply too late to come up with a better evaluation system for the current school year. I then asked when and how the state was planning to release our VAMs and why it has taken so long to release this information when our student test scores have been available since May. I did not receive a response to this email. I then contacted the spokesperson for the FEA who confirmed that even though the judge ruled against SB 736, last year’s Race to the Top evaluation systems will also be used for the current year. I was told that we cannot file a lawsuit over the substantive portion of the law until the first teacher is fired because of the new teacher evaluation system (this may be coming as soon as next summer).
So…tag teachers, you’re it! You will be the only ones held accountable in the whole system. You will deal with cramped classrooms, no air conditioning, no textbooks, and a judicially declared invalid evaluation system but you must be held accountable. Our children’s and our nation’s future are too important to wait for a fair, valid, and understandable teacher evaluation tool to be created (apparently no one is concerned about teachers’ futures or the children of teachers’ futures). You will be held so accountable that you can even be fired over the test scores of students you have never taught! Unfortunately teachers, a few of you will have to lose your jobs before VAM and the new teacher evaluation systems can be subject to a court of law. On the bright side, you will probably win a huge financial settlement which may ease your transition into a new career where you are respected, compensated, and not held accountable for every ill that plagues modern society.