Up to this point, I have used my platform to discuss the varying aspects of my graduate path into online communication and web design. I have stayed away from the venting negative topics that on occasion irk me. But this is one instance where I am making an exception.
Since leaving the freelance writing and design world eight years ago, I have invested my time in teaching high school English. I know people are tired of hearing about the shortcomings of public education and the trials of teacher accountability, so I’m not going there. Think what you will of those things. One observation I have made, and have heard so many other teachers make independently, is that if something makes sense or seems logical within the school system, then you probably have it wrong. Doing the opposite of that which seems logical is an ongoing theme.
This week I read an article in the Tampa Bay Times with a headline that caught my attention, “Browning announces new plan to cut 175 Pasco school jobs.” Although I teach in Hillsborough County, Pasco is right next door. After skimming through the article, all I could do was put my head in my hands. The jobs they are talking about cutting aren’t teacher jobs, just media specialists and IT jobs at school. So I should be relieved for my fellow teachers, right?
Here the catch: the state has made all high-stakes testing computerized – FCAT, end-of-course, FAIR, and on and on. The transition to Common Core State Standards with it’s accompanying PARCC testing will only increase the number of computer-based tests. As a teacher, I cannot take my class to the media center for research or computerized project work because the media center is mostly closed for testing. All computer classes have to be shifted into non-computer rooms for the testing on a regular basis. There are not enough computers to accommodate all of the current testing demands.
One of the most reliable facts of life in a high school, is that on the first day of a new computer test, the system will break down. There is more than enough to do for one full-time IT person and one media specialist just in dealing with each teacher computer issue daily on outdated computers, much less maintaining the computers for high-stakes testing. Now Pasco County wants to meet the increased demand for high-stakes testing by removing these necessary resources to maintaining computer viability. How does this make sense? What are they thinking? And will anyone in the state see this as a conflict with what they are trying to do?
As I am heading into an online career, I can’t help but wonder at the discrepancy between how we are educating our students and what will be expected of them beyond high school – in jobs and higher education. It has been almost 20 years since the National Education Commission released its 1994 report on Time and Learning called Prisoners of Time. The report highlighted the deficiencies of our education system to meet the needs of our students. Read it. It’s worth the time. It discusses why our students are lacking in the United States, and what we should be doing about it, but aren’t. It rails against the archaic system of education that has been based on the same clock and same calendar for 150 years, while the world has changed exponentially since then. It talks about how we are not preparing our students for globablization — and it was written in 1994!
And yet we still take a step backward when we should be charging headlong into the challenges of preparing our students for real life. I am almost ashamed of being a teacher, and that is not right.