Opine I will

I am a retired elementary school teacher just trying to do the right thing

Archive for the month “May, 2013”

APPR- Annual Professional Performance Review or A Pathetic Plan for a Race

As our academic year comes to a close, teachers all across New York State are wondering whether or not HEDI will be preempting their end of year celebratory send off. In years past most of us looked forward to started anew in September. We looked forward to summers when we had the time to develop new units of study, get some reading done, maybe earn a couple of professional development credits, and possibly work in a summer program. Some of us also use our summers to recharge our batteries, get our bladders back to a normal schedule, and perhaps reconnect with our own families. In all cases we also looked forward to greeting those new faces and new challenges every September.

Unfortunately, for some of us HEDI will force us to wonder what happened, why has the ‘game changed’ and will we be forced to switch channels. Will our lives be turned asunder, will we be labeled ineffective?

New York State’s new teacher evaluation plan is based on APPR, an annual professional performance review. This review will either rate teachers as highly effective, effective, developing, or ineffective. This rating is based on several indicators- 20%-25% will be based on the New York State tests in Language Arts and Math, 15%-20% will be based on a local district selected assessment, and 60% will be based on 2 observations and the presentation of ‘evidence’ of a teacher’s professionalism. Today I find myself gathering ‘evidence’ that will serve as proof of my professionalism. Our district, much like many across the country have decided to use the Danielson Framework for Teaching as the tool to measure teachers. Even though I have heard rumors that Danielson, frowns on using her framework as a measuring tool, she has entered into deals with other companies and publishers that have developed computerized programs so that administrators can merely use their I pads to walk around and check off whether or not you have meet the rubric’s ambiguous criteria.

Take a look at Domain 1 and Domain 4..
Domain 1Planning and Preparation

1a Demonstrates knowledge of content and pedagogy
1b Demonstrates knowledge of students
1c Setting Instructional outcomes
1d Demonstrates knowledge of resources
1e Designing coherent instruction
1f Designing student assessments

Domain 4 Professional Responsibilities

4a Reflection on teaching
4b Maintaining accurate records
4c Communicating with families
4d Participating in a professional community
4e Growing and developing professionally
4f Demonstrating professionalism

Pretty open ended requirements you might say. But take a look at what that evidence could be for one sub category…

1d. Demonstrating knowledge of resources

Students and the classroom teachers are highly respectful reflecting genuine warmth, caring and sensitivity to students’ cultures and levels of development. Students themselves ensure high levels of respect.

Brings additional resources to curriculum/lessons …, SMARTBoard, newspaper and magazine articles, trade books, film, video streaming, etc.

Brings people from the community into the classroom to enhance instruction

Utilizes instructional websites to enrich curriculum/lessons

Ordering resources such as books, magazines and audiovisual materials

Evidence is district subscription to online encyclopedia (World Book) Book talking, book sharing and book displaying

Now here’s the rub. We are required to provide tangible evidence for each and every category. We are expected to put together a portfolio that proved we are effective to some degree… Hence HEDI.

Why do I have to prove my worth now. Administrators have march in my room so much this year, I even considered putting in a work order for a revolving door. Haven’t they witnessed my craft? Parents have met with me, and have seen the outstanding growth of their children, yet I still must gather evidence. I’ve been observed, I’ve attended meetings, I’ve been to workshops, I’ve shared articles, I’ve mentored other teachers and I still must gather evidence to fulfill the HEDI requirements. My question is why? Why must I now provide this? Haven’t my administrators seen the evidence already?

I refuse to gather my own evidence. I’ve offered to hand truck my filing cabinets down to the office, where any administrator can look for evidence. I’ve asked my principal to meet with me and I can show her anything she needs to prove my worth. Thank goodness she agreed to that.

That’s why I believe APPR is nothing more than A Pathetic Plan for a Race. Race to the Top is a failure.

Still setting it straight!

The response  to my post I need to Set the Record Straight has been overwhelming.  The level of support and words of encouragement shown by my readers and colleagues throughout the nation demonstrates the importance of communicating in this new digital world we find our selves in. I have refrained from updating on my predicament in hopes that everything would be resolved, and the proper apologies and record straightening would  happen.  Unfortunately I am starting to believe that these apologies may never happen, and once again adults will have failed to set a proper example for the children whose lives we touch every day.

That said, it’s time for an update;

Just to recap, I was accused of posting a Pearson test question on Twitter. I was placed on administrative leave, escorted out of my room by my superintendent of schools, ultimately escorted out of the building and ordered not to return until New York State ruled on my guilt or innocence . Twenty four hours later, NYS ruled I did no wrong and I was informed that I was no longer a threat and could return to my classroom.   I have been demanding a public apology from the Superintendent, as well as my school board. To date that apology has not happened.

I have since learned that the very same math problem that I was accused of copying, was published in Long Island’s largest newspaper several months ago and in our high school paper two weeks before I posted it.The same problem is also given as an explicit example in the Common Core Standards as well. So much for the intensive investigation my superintendent allegedly performed!

Over the past two weeks I contacted each member of the school board personally and stated my case and requested a public apology. Each and everyone of them ignored my correspondence, until I received a very curt response from the Board President, who basically claimed the Superintendent did what he had to do. My student’s parents, in the meantime, have rallied to my cause and have embraced me in ways I can’t even express without getting emotional. They too have contacted the same Board demanding and apology on my behalf as well as my student’s behalf.   By the way several of these parents are now candidates for the school board.

Last night our school board had their regularly scheduled meeting. I sat in the front row patiently waiting for my turn to speak.  When the public comment session began a parent came up and told the board that teachers should be respected, and that the recent actions from the Superintendent should be addressed. He drove home the point that his community was one that embraces teachers and supports them anyway they can. Without naming names he drove home his message that I was treated poorly. He ended to a standing ovation from most of those in the room.

I then approached the podium, and explained how much I loved teaching. I was expecting to be shut down at any moment however, I reminded the board I even went to this very same school as a child, and that I consider myself a part of this community with a long history within it. I explained calmly  how I was removed from my class, escorted down the hall, given orders that forbade me from even returning to my room for any personal possessions without an escort. I explained how my students had to face the 6th day of extensive testing that lasted 540 minutes without the emotional support of their teacher. I explained how teachers should never be treated they way I was, how my Superintendent did a terrible job investigating the accusation and that my removal from the classroom was unwarranted.

I also expressed my own personal displeasure with the board that they failed to respond to my correspondence with even an acknowledgement of receipt. I explained employees should never be treated they way I was. As I spoke, I looked every board member in the eye, my Superintendent never looked up. I notice nods of approval and signs of their own uncomfortable standing.   I closed that the board should have said, we are sorry for what you went through and that the public should recognize that I did nothing wrong.

I then sat down.

There was an uneasy silence for a moment, then I noticed most of those in the room stood up and applauded my comments.

The meeting was called to a close, not one board member spoke up. Nothing! No acknowledgement! Nothing, meeting over!

I stood there in stunned silence then a board member approached me, apologizing for my predicament. I politely thanked him, but also told him that his  apology really wasn’t worth anything, unless he made it from the table during the meeting. He then informed me that its not over, the board has some serious work to do and to be patient. I accept his word on that for now.

Another board member then approached with a similar message. As I scanned the room, I noticed parents lecturing board members and demanding a wrong me righted.

I also promised those two board members, that I’m not done. I will continue argue for an apology that is due.  A board member explained to me that  we are all aware teachers seem to have targets on their back lately and that’s unfortunate. I politely agreed and explained how it’s even more important that our own superintendents shouldn’t take shots at that target as well.


The bottom line.. teachers have become our nation’s scapegoats. I refuse to accept that, I refuse to be treated like I am an indentured servant.  We are professionals, we are highly qualified, we are well educated, we have our nation’s future in our hands. Stay tuned…






Teaching has nothing to do with the Common Core

This is not a story about the Common Core, this is a story that demonstrates what teaching really is. Teaching is not about tests and teaching is not about teacher rubrics. Teaching is not about college and career ready nonsense for third grade students. Teaching is  this…..

Janine Bonura is one of the best teachers I know. Despite having 28 students in her third grade class,  she somehow achieves success in each one of her students in remarkable ways. She shared with me this wonderful narrative.

The following is  a reader response from one of my third grade students who came to me in September as a non-reader and non-writer.  This student was adopted from another country at the age of 3 years old.  At the age of 5 years old it was discovered that she was deaf.  She had never heard a sound!  Interventions began right away but the gap in all areas was significant.

Reader Response from a third grade student after reading Fly Eagle Fly

During the story I realized that I used to be someone who couldn’t read or write or count.  So when I was 5 years old my mom and my dad teach me so, so hard, but I didn’t get it.  One summer my mom got me a tutor and then another tutor.  So my two tutors worked on me so, so hard and I worked so, so hard, but I couldn’t get it.

One day I was practicing so, so hard and then I got it!  My parents were so proud of me.  When my tutor heard she was happy.  When it was my first day of school I felt like it was too hard.  So I tried and I tried to use my brain but it was so, so hard.  My teacher said I should never ever give up.  So I kept trying and I knew I couldn’t ever give up.  Then I got it!  My teacher was so, so happy that I never gave up.  I got it!

Over this school year I have watched as this little girl began to grow in her speaking, reading and writing skills. The growth she has made across all areas has exceeded all expectations!  She has truly begun flying this year!  It has been a joy watching this happen and knowing that I along with so many others had a part is helping her take flight!

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

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