So like every other nerdy, seasonally unemployed, schoolteacher, I spent the later hours of last night wading through recent developments concerning Round Two of “Race to the Top”. You know..the Department of Education’s grantwriting-intensive version of the “Gong Show”, in which teams of education officials in each state try to put enough lipstick on the pig lips that is K-12 education in that state for fabulous cash prizes.
So one surf link leads to another, and pretty soon I’m at this blog that, Amsterdam street windows-style, shows State-by-State all the application and such for Round Two. It is a most depressing site, perhaps no aspect more of a downer than the realization that all these people are doing all this thinking around the country just to hump for some cash.
And, trooper that I am, I go from there to check into the New Mexico application process. There I see links to a number of “meeting notes”, “comments and suggestions” and “transcripts”. My favorite link is to the transcript of a meeting held April 26th. Attendees include a bunch of PED folks, Union people, a few non-PED state officials and a “private citizen”. The topic is how to strengthen the teacher accountability plank of the next New Mexico grant.
Reading it was somewhat fascinating to me, a person who inexplicably finds obscure things fascinating, but after a few minutes I found myself not only ready to go to sleep, but prepared to never read anything about K-12 education ever again. More than anything, I was struck by the disarming realization that:
- I understood about 98% of what was being said;
- 100% of what was being said referred to lipstick on pig bullshit;
- That lipstick on pig bullshit constitutes a job description for those involved in public education who aren’t in the classroom;
- Having a non-classroom job in public education is even more depressing than I thought.
Don’t get me wrong…I don’t think the participants at this meeting are bad people. And money is good. Having a meeting to try to get money is good. But the disconnect between what happens in a classroom and the topics discussed at this meeting have literally ZERO to do with one another. For example this exchange from Albuquerque AFT Union Head Ellen Bernstein and PED Secretary Veronica Garcia:
Ellen Bernstein:….Our NM system says you have to be competent in all nine areas every year. The question we had is should we within a level talk about the fact that some teachers might be unsatisfactory, proficient or distinguished or exceeds proficiency, extinguished. Secretary Garcia: Currently? Ellen Bernstein: I don’t think the three-tier system needs to be revised (but) the evaluation system within the three-tier system. Need what does it mean and no duplication. We have fleshed out, principals and teachers both need to understand this better. I don’t think that they’ve understood well or used well. What does it mean if you don’t make it? How many of these before you’re on an improvement plan? We don’t want exceptional to read like you’re a Level 1 teacher. What does an exceptional Level 1 teacher look like? This is some nuanced work.
Now it takes a while to dig through the obscure references, but pretty much any teacher can shovel around and figure out what’s being said above. Eventually. And when that eventuality happens, your typical APS teacher has got to start laughing. I mean, they’re talking about the Professional Development Plan (PDP) process. They’re talking about it like it means something. Like it might constitute an important part of a teacher accountability mechanism to get this federal money. Like PDPs are some dazzling proof, some evaluative Rock of Gibraltar, that we can build upon to create a merit pay system.
Oh. Oh dear.
That is so not even close to classroom reality. That is as close to classroom reality as “The Biggest Loser” is to your typical night at a Golden Corral. Using PDPs as a basis of anything beyond some sort of 1950s-era military bureaucracy handwritten, everything in triplicate, masturbatory exercise in paperwork is giving PDPs WAY too much credit.
It’s flabbergasting. And when one realizes that it is utilization of things like PDPs upon which jobs are centered and grants for tons of money are written, well…then it’s just so depressing.
So it was late last night that I grew despondent and decided…you know what? I don’t think I’m going to spend anytime this Summer of ’10 researching anything having to do with K-12 education. In fact, I will neither read anything on K-12 education nor write about it. Well, after this little blogpost, that is.
That includes the upcoming SBA testing results in August. Or news on the lucky states that join Round One winners Delaware and Tennessee in getting that Race to the Top cash.
Instead, I think I’ll just ride a bike around the country a bit. Maybe look at an Internet page here or there to get an idea on which road to bike down next. We’re having a education-free Summer. We’re having 11 weeks of PDP-free thought.
I feel better already.