By December 13, 2013 Uncategorized 2 Comments

The temperatures may still be quite chilly outside, yet within the smoldering cauldron of school reforms, the temperature is increasing at a steady and predictable pace.

In the preview for my series of future posts related to the ruination of the teaching profession by the education deformers, I made reference to the boiling frog analogy. The current implementation of the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness (TLE) Model by the SDE is a perfect example of this process.

The next phase of “raising the temperature” for teachers will be this spring’s roster verification process. This is discussed in the OSDE’s December 2013 TLE Newsletter. The roster verification process is also the subject of today’s excellent post from okeducationtruths HERE.

As their post discusses, the “non-profit” out-of-state organization that will be overseeing this process for our state is the harmless-sounding Battelle for Kids. What a clever name. Remember it has to be good for teachers and schools if it has the words “for kids” in the title, right?!

The bottom line is that information like this must be shared and discussed with educators across our state. The water is getting warmer and many are unaware. We MUST begin NOW to write letters to the Governor’s office and to our legislators, while working simultaneously with colleagues to mobilize a loud and unified voice to halt the implementation of this harmful legislation, specifically the quantitative measures of TLE.

If you recall, the original TLE legislation (HB 2033) was passed in 2010 as part of Oklahoma’s efforts to receive Federal Race to the Top (RTTT) grant money—money of course we were never awarded. Nonetheless, the TLE law remains in effect and the qualitative component (50% of evaluation) is operational this year.

However, in May the legislature extended the deadlines for implementation of the quantitative portions of TLE until the 2015-2016 school year. The biggest stumbling block for state department leaders in developing these rules and guidelines is figuring out how to address the nearly 70% of teachers who do not teach in a tested subject. The fact that no other state has figured out how to do this fairly and accurately will not stop our state from trying.

The two quantitative components are Other Academic Measures (OAM), that will make up 15% of  teacher and principal evaluations, and the value-added (VAM) portion which will count 35% and will be tied to student test scores. I will be discussing both of these pieces in detail in part four of the series coming soon. Additionally, I will be sharing some of the outcomes of similar systems in other states that are farther ahead with implementation of VAM schemes. Suffice it to say, it is not a pretty picture!

This is a topic that needs to be discussed in schools across our state over the next few months. I will be talking about it extensively in this blog. For now, I want to share just one of the absurd examples of what is happening in our state relative to implementation of these new measures.

Each month, the TLE Newsletter spotlights a school or school leader for recognition. Here is this month’s TLE spotlight:

The TLE Office would like congratulate our Spotlight School of the Month:

Oologah-Talala Public Schools!

Mr. Robert Schornick, Oologah High School principal, recently shared his thoughts about the possibility of using Twitter, a popular social media source, as an Other Academic Measure (OAM).

Mr. Schornick states, “I am entertaining using Twitter and/or Edmodo because of the capability to establish Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) among teachers and to showcase teacher success. I was thinking of using the number of ‘tweets’ or ‘posts’ and/or the number of ‘followers’ as my OAM.”

He adds, “I think it would be a great opportunity to share with other administrators the power of social media, and its impact on school reform. If used appropriately, it can change the way we gather and process best practices used across this nation.”

Supporting his notion of using social media to promote collaboration, Mr. Schornick references NASSP’s Breaking Ranks II in which the authors challenge every school to be a “…learning community for the entire community. As such, the school will provide the resources to ensure that the principal, teachers, and other staff members can address their own learning and professional development needs as they improve student learning.”

Connecting social media to NASSP’S conceptual framework of schools as community PLNs, Mr. Schornick says, “I am confident that this can be re-worded to ‘Identify the Academic Area of Focus’ to establish the initial step in the OAM. Or, do I focus on using Twitter or Remind101 as a means to increase school-to-home communication with parents and students. There are so many ways it [using Twitter as an OAM] can be spun.”

Congratulations again to Principal Robert Schornick, Superintendent Rob Armstrong and the other teachers and leaders of Oologah-Talala Public Schools for exemplifying superior educational leadership and being named TLE Spotlight School of the Month! Go, Mustangs!”

Please know my intent here is to illustrate the absurdity of this system and NOT to be critical of Principal Schornick in any way. I also applaud him for his efforts to improve communication and collaboration via social media. Robert is like most of us—he has learned to “play the game” no matter how ridiculous the rules are because he is a professional. I have never met Mr. Schornick yet suspect he is an excellent principal and educator.

However, if it were not for the state requirement of creating some kind of measures for the 15% OAM, does anyone believe that Principal Schornick would be using his valuable time tracking the number of tweets he is sending or the number of followers he has on Edmodo?

Of all the important functions and responsibilities that a school principal manages on a daily basis, does anyone believe that actively monitoring the number of tweets is a useful or meaningful measure of leader effectiveness? Again, I am NOT saying that using social networks to support communication and collaboration is not a valid objective. I obviously do it myself, as do many of you. That is not the point.

My question is this: where is the direct nexus between this measure and the improvement of teaching and learning at Oologah-Talala High School. And, how can we really measure its effectiveness? In short, is there any evidence that this initiative will have a positive effect on student achievement or even help Robert become a more effective principal.

It does illustrate well the absurdity of what teachers and principals are being asked to do with this new TLE system. Every minute we will waste doing something like this, in addition to the many hours that school leaders will devote to working with teachers to develop and track these new measures, is time taken away from more meaningful school improvement efforts.

Yet THIS is what our SDE is holding up as an exemplar?

Please keep yourself informed and talk about these issues with your educational colleagues. We are being “boiled alive” and must act before it is too late.

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