Friday, April 26, 2013

Paul Herdman and Vision 2015: It is all the teachers' fault ....

That's the conclusion you could reasonably draw from Paul Herdman's op-ed piece in today's WNJ.

In his latest new "Five Step" program for improving education, Herdman effectively says that Delaware education has failed to live up to Vision 2015's lofty goals because the teachers we have are not good enough.

Step One--according to Herdman--is "recruiting the best" teachers.  In Herdman's view this obviously means that the teachers we currently have are not good enough to do the job, and should be replaced with unlicensed temporary help from Teach for America, Vision 2015 devotees from the Delaware Leadership Project, and ... "scouring the country to find top teachers and leaders to serve in our highest-need schools."  In other words, if you are already teaching at Highlands, or Warner, or Richardson Park, or Bancroft, you are a loser that we plan to get rid of just as soon as we can find somebody better.  (Hear that, Mike Matthews?)

Step Two is "improving teacher training."  Ironically, as I have pointed out before, there is exactly ZERO research suggesting our problems stem from the teacher training programs in Delaware, but since Vision 2015 is not working, and since Paul has decided it is the fault of our teachers, then he also needs to go after our universities (specifically UD, DSU, and WU), wherein he comes up with the idea that these programs are flawed because our new teachers from these schools are not 100% drawn from the top-quartile of our graduates.  Has it ever occurred to Mr. Herdman--apparently not--that one of the reasons this is so in Delaware is because our teaching universities take their charge quite seriously, and there is very little grade inflation?  You earn an A, you get an A, but a B in a teacher education program is nothing to be ashamed of.  Still, I love that the answer here is pretty much NCLB for teachers--we will continue to legislate unfunded mandates until all teachers improve to 100%.

Step Three--Force all teacher collaboration to fit our model.  Oh, you can read the almost completely content-free paragraph, but that's what this means:
• Providing support and feedback: The state continues to work with hundreds of educators to develop a clear framework for what good teaching and learning looks like. Additionally, every teacher is getting time to work with their peers every week and develop plans to improve. And in the case of the 28 schools in the Vision Network, educators are crossing district and charter lines to talk about how to reach all kids.
By the way, how long should it take to do that?  You've been trying to figure it out, Paul, since 2007.

Step Four--We are going to implement our teacher bonus system no matter how many teachers and how many districts point out that it is divisive and unsupported by research, because that's how we do it in industry.

Step Five--Pay more consultation fees to collect data that, while it doesn't actually drive our decisions, does make good window dressing.

These steps, Herdman assures us, will be "transformational."

You want to know why this is particularly offensive--aside from blaming our existing cadre of teachers for everything that is wrong in the system?

When Vision 2015 started, years ago, the leaders (including Herdman) set out their agenda then.  They hope you do not remember it, because there were some elements in it that are quite at odds with what they are currently pursuing.

Remember these objectives from 2007?

"A statewide research-based curriculum so that all Delaware students are learning at the same high standards"
This has been replaced with the Common-core curriculum that has virtually no research base behind it, and which even its creators admit will not be transformational.

"Annual license renewals for all early child care and education providers to ensure consistent high quality"  
That was really important in 2007 (it was their second goal), but it has since disappeared.

"Increased coordination across service agencies for children from birth to age 3"  
That was important in 2007, that recognition that poverty and early childhood was significant.  But it was also too expensive, so we're better off pretending it is all the teachers' fault.

"Advancement [for teachers] based on skills and performance, not seniority, with student achievement as one measure of performance"  
The only consistently retained goal in the whole Vision 2015 plan.

"Bonuses for schools that meet or exceed agreed-upon goals for improvements in student achievement"  
This one reveals the height of current hypocrisy.  The original Vision 2015 plan called for bonuses paid to schools for achievement, in recognition that it actually takes an entire school to educate a child.  Ironically, six years later, education reformers are trying to withhold millions of dollars from the Christina School District for trying to do what Vision 2015 used to say it thought was important.

"New professional development centers to encourage the sharing of information and best practices."  
Really?  And where are these professional development centers that were deemed so important six years ago?  Where are the plans to create them?
"More supports to help new teachers succeed, such as realistic course loads, assignments and class sizes" 
Strangely enough, six years later, reducing class sizes, realistic course loads, and all that are no longer a priority for Herdman and Vision 2015, because--you know--it is all the teachers' fault and we can't afford those Minner Reading Teachers, anyway.

And, finally, the BIG LIE of Vision 2015, and the reason that you must NEVER look behind the curtain.  Here's what Vision 2015 told us in 2007 was absolutely ESSENTIAL for public education success in Delaware:
"State funding high enough so districts and schools do not need to rely on local referenda to meet Vision 2015 standards" 
Where's that one go, Paul?  Colonial is making plans to cut 78 teachers if it cannot pass a referendum, but in 2007 you promised schools that you would increase state funding dramatically.  Appo just lost a referendum which, according to you, would no longer be necessary because you were going to insure so much better state funding that referenda would never again be necessary.  Governor Markell has repeatedly cut the state share of education, and he is your political leader, so guess what?

Increased education funding by the state is no longer important because we've figured out that it is all the damn teachers' fault.

Vision 2015:  finding new ways to blame Delaware teachers for its own failures.


pandora said...

Wow! Talk about an overly simplistic, lazy point of view.

I have been extremely pleased with 90% of my children's public school teachers. They have been amazing.

Scott Gesty said...

Great write up Steve. You need to get this stuff in the Newspapers.

Nancy Willing said...

Glad you got this out so early. It needed saying and Kilroy is preoccupied with Pencader bailout.

Hube said...

Couldn't have said it better myself, Steve. Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

"More supports to help new teachers succeed, such as realistic course loads, assignments and class sizes"

I agree with this. New teachers are set up to fail with learning how to handle a classroom, dcas, etc PLUS all the reformer bs that comes with data coaches, establishing data based metrics, writing IEPs, etc that actual teaching is about 50% of the schedule.

DE Teacher said...

As a Delaware teacher, on a daily basis, I feel defeated. Teaching children is hard enough. The goal used to be to help them succeed. Now I must make the succeed, as if I have the power to overcome all their problems and/or reluctance to learn. I don't need extra money as an incentive. I need smaller classes, strong administrative support, and for the children to get the help they need (food, supplies, counseling). Standards and testing are fine, but you don't fatten a sheep by weighing it. I don't know how many more years I can survive taking the blame for society's problems. I became a teacher to help children. Now it is a game that I feel like I can't win.

Anonymous said...

Steve you bloody well need replaced.
What you preach is blasphemy.