Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What Would Jesus Do?

Since Charlie Rangel asked What Would Jesus Do? about the national budget. Yesterday, the CAPT scores were released to the public. I immediately punched in the address and checked them out because I taught sophomores this year and had looped up with about of my students from the year before.

In comparision to the state averages, our scores are still quite low. In comparsion to the year before, our scores increased dramatically. Time to celebrate right? All that talk about teacher effectiveness and how a great teacher makes the difference. Sweet. I must be great. And then I heard Charlie Rangel's question whisper "What Would Jesus Do?" with the four year trend I observed (chart provided).

In 2007-2008, I taught sophomores. That year, 63% of our students met proficiency levels in reading, with 26.5% of our students meeting the state's goal. In writing, 65.3% met proficiency and 33.2% met goal.

During the next two years, I did not teach sophomores, though in 2009-2010 year, I taught freshmen, who were this year's sophomores. In those two years, reading proficiency levels dropped to 55% and 56% respectively, and goals level dropped to 24% and 14%. In writing, a similar drop occurred. Writing proficiency went to 63.2% and 58.8%, and goals level went to 32.4% and 24.4%.

Then came this year's class. my responsibility this year, scored higher than last years. Our reading proficiency level rose to 61.8% and our goals levels came in at 31.5%. In writing, scores were just as good, with proficiency levels at 74.6% and goal levels at 36.7%.

By all accounts we improved dramatically. Except, doesn't the truth have to be told. I am in favor of school reforms, but we need to be honest about what is going on. The State of Connecticut will claim that their involvment helped to improve our scores--except that isn't precisely true. If reformers who blame teachers for student failure are consistent, they will praise the teachers for student success. Thank you very much!

However, the truth is that the 2008 and 2011 cohorts came into our building academically stronger and with fewer behavioral issues. While I would love to take full responsibility for the success, relative to other years, of those students, I, in good conscience, cannot. I do believe I am an effective teacher, I mean, I am highly qualified and all, but I recognize that my students came to me better prepared to learn from me. They played a part in their own success, I played a part in their success, their parents played a part in their succes, the State, um, played a very minor role in their success.

Ultimately, what Jesus would do, is be honest with the public. If Jesus were an educational reformist, he would tell us to go and sin no more. Meaning, he would stop comparing one cohort to the next when reporting about a school's improvement or lack-there-of. He would track the improvement of each cohort because that would be honest. He would give to Caesar what is Caesar's. Meaning, he would give credit to the right people at the right time.

Oh yeah, and he would teach us how to turn water into wine. Meaning, he would give us the miracle making power to transform common students into the most sought after in the world.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Dr. Adamowski

The Hartford Courant reports that Steven Adamowski will become the "Special Master" of Windham Public Schools. While I have never met Mr. Adamowski, the choice is intriguing on a number of levels.
First, what exactly will his role become over the course of the year. Adamowski is known for helping to turn around Hartford Public Schools, though the actual numbers are still not great. But it can't be denied that Hartford improved during his tenure there. However, one glaring difference between Hartford and Windham lies in the support of education by the town as a whole. In Hartford, everyone could clearly see a problem, and people were generally willing to explore change. That Windham has yet to pass an education budget speaks to the general feel among a loud and vocal part of the town.
Second, how will the district respond to Mr. Adamowski, who seems to have been given a great deal of control by the State. Because President Obama and Secretary Duncan have fostered an atmosphere conducive to blaming teachers for student failure (almost to the exclusion of all else), teachers are predictably wary of yet another outsider heaping scorn on them. Adamowski's relationship with Hartford's teacher union was contentious, especially considering his support of eradicating first in, first out policies--something that he and I would agree on.
Ultimately, I predict modest improvements in Windham unless the system itself is revamped completely. Unfortunately, Windham is too small to break up into magnet schools like Hartford did--though I envision an attempt to create smaller learning communities. Adamowski will bring with him the weight of the State, whatever that means considering the State still does not have an actual Education Commissioner.
I hope that Mr. Adamowski begins with more than just cosmetic shifts. He should recognize that after a year of being abused by the community and the local media, teachers need a leader who will cast a vision and bring hope. We recognize the failures of the past, but we want to enact the type of change that makes us a model of reform.