Tuesday, August 13, 2019

“My Apologies?” OR “I Really Need A New Line of Work.”

Let me first say, I did not attend my State Senator’s Office Hours to yell at some older ladies regarding their uninformed opinions on education policy.

I attended the Office Hours to say hello because my wife and I are in frequent contact with our representatives, and because I wanted to remind the Senator that I still have some reservations regarding Ohio’s New Graduation Requirement. I believe it was sold as a reduction in testing because it eliminates an ELA and the Geometry assessment, but it in fact conceals far more assessments in the Seals students must earn. Furthermore, in requiring the passage of Algebra & ELA II, assessments whose statewide passing rates according to ODE don’t crack 65%, students will find themselves without a viable non-tested pathway to graduation, & may even find themselves forced into military service in order to earn a high school diploma.

Now, I have far more issues with the new requirement, but I was unable to continue explaining myself because these women took it upon themselves as experts in the field of education, to attack me.

Their assumption was, that despite my advanced degree and more than 20 years experience in the field, that their background dictated a more informed and higher quality policy decision.

Both women believed that the key to a student’s potential success in the future is a passing score on a state Algebra assessment. The first woman was certain of this because she studied Algebra in high school and found it to be of great import in her career of choice. Without calling the woman old, I tried to suggest that her anecdote regarding the study of Algebra some 40 years ago (give or take) is hardly relevant today. According to the Algebra teachers that I have spoken with, the Algebra being taught today is not your Grandfather’s, Father’s, or even your older brother’s Algebra. Furthermore, not every student will be pursuing the same career as this woman. As a matter of fact, every time I hear the State Superintendent speak, he’s going on and on about how we’re preparing students for jobs that don’t even exist yet.

In the interest of not getting my ass kicked by the Math Department on the first day of school, let me say that I believe that the study of their discipline is wildly important from a perspective of content knowledge, and also in the development of analytical, problem solving, & decision making skills, not to mention potential applications in developing creative thought, communication skills, and collaboration. I do not believe that a passing score on the state’s Algebra Test proves the acquisition of many of these skills, and I’d venture a guess that my mathematical colleagues would agree.

The other woman who came after me did so with a wealth of knowledge gained because her husband was a local principal 30 odd years ago. She believed, first of all, that this graduation requirement was preventing some of the mistakes made in the 1980s. I was befuddled. Second, she suggested (as the woman before) that success on the Algebra assessment is the key to success. When I suggested that a “passing score” on the test doesn’t necessarily equate to mastery in the subject, she agreed with me. Then she said she didn’t agree. My hostility grew. Then she contradicted herself a few more times before expressing the need for accountability, that old saw which feeds the myth that public schools are failures, and means if teachers like me weren’t “phoning it in,” then maybe we wouldn’t have to do these things. I rolled my eyes. Finally, she insisted that education policy is set, and cut scores on state assessments are established, by teachers. I lost my shit.

While I’m not an expert on how things worked in the 1980s when this woman was gaining her educational expertise vicariously through her husband, I do know that the new Graduation Requirement was developed by Ohio Excels in collaboration with Fordham, a business advocacy group and right leaning think tank respectively. As a matter of fact, in supporting this requirement, the state legislature voted against the opinions of some of the major organizations representing educators in the state. They even ignored a plan developed by the Ohio Department of Education in favor of this model. (To be fair, I believe ODE is far too political and as such does not always act in the best interest of students and teachers either.)

And when it comes to cut scores on the assessments... these have been established by the State School Board, a body that might, at a given time, have a teacher or two among its members, and certainly not in the majority. But the cut scores related to the new Grad Requirement are going to be set by the Governor’s Executive Workforce Board in conjunction with ODE. To my knowledge, no teachers.

All of this is beside the point, and not even the among big picture problems I wanted to voice in a meeting with my Senator. 

Nobody contested the individuals who came to discuss transportation or gun rights. No stink was made when individuals mentioned medicinal marijuana or the availability of affordable health care. But it was somehow perfectly acceptable, encouraged even, to question the legitimacy of a teacher.

Did I yell at those women? Yes, I did.

Was that nice? Probably not.

Do I regret doing so? Not at all.

It is time for people to realize, be they average citizens or legislators, that your experience going to school, or even knowing someone who worked in one, does not make you particularly informed, nor does it make you an expert in the field of education. Yes, you may possess a poignant anecdote or two on the subject, which I will be happy to entertain, but your anecdotes are just that. Until you devote some time to the study of the profession and its policies, yours cannot be the final word on the subject. My apologies?

1 comment:

  1. this is so exasperating! thank you for continuing to fight the fight!