Lessons to Learn

Now_WhatThere were consequences to our actions. There are lessons to learn.

What should we be doing while we wait until June to receive the regulations that will guide the implementation of the new law about APPR? While we do know some things about the changes, we don’t yet know enough to start the construction of a new APPR system. What should we do in the meantime? Well, there are a couple of lessons that we should learn.

Lesson #1: We should learn that there are consequences to our actions.

Many, but not all, districts manipulated the guidelines of the previous APPR system in ways that led to the inflation of scores that angered the Governor. Agreeing to use absurd conversion scales resulted in meaningless and inflated scores for teachers and, to a lesser extent, principals. The awarding points for the mere submission of an artifact, no matter what the artifact was or what it said about a teacher’s performance, has come back to haunt us. In fact, it looks like the new APPR law forbids such artifacts. We gamed the system; we beat it. We forced it to produce summative evaluation scores that suggest all teachers and principals were effective or highly effective (even if we knew that this wasn’t really true). Now we see some of the consequences of our actions.

To be clear, the system that was designed by the state was severely flawed. None of the previous APPR systems got it right, and the changes that seem to be in the new law (although we need to wait for the regulations to be sure) looks like they will make a bad system worse. We have to admit, however, that we made bad, local systems in the midst of the bad, state system. This has consequences.

The Governor didn’t like the fact that we naturally took advantage of the flaws in a human capital-based, old-fashioned, pre-Deming approach to evaluations. It seems like we are being punished.

Lesson #2: If you’re not part of the solution then you’re part of the problem.

Another lesson we might learn from this is that to argue and complain and demonstrate without any viable, improved alternative makes matters worse. It’s been said many times: If you’re not part of the solution then you’re part of the problem. The same holds true for social media. Noise, without constructive suggestions, is just noise. There were many demonstrations of displeasure to the Governor’s education proposals. Yet, very few concrete alternatives were offered. In the absence of viable improvements, it’s gotten worse.

As educators, we have to learn our lesson. An all-out defense of the status quo, ironically a status quo we didn’t like in the first place, inflames things. Throwing a temper tantrum and refusing to take federally-mandated 3-8 tests without the offer of a better solution will surely exasperate the situation. We’ve sunk to a new low in education and I shudder to consider what we are now teaching our children: mainly, when you are asked to do something you don’t like, just refuse to do it. Importantly, we can’t just point fingers at others and assign blame to others – we own some of it and until we recognize that and act accordingly we’ll continue to teach the wrong things to our children.

There are other education items being considered by our government at this time. Charter school caps, credits, and other things will soon come up. Unless we offer viable alternatives, we’ll continue to get what we’re getting — which is going from bad to worse. Have we learned our lessons?

Craig,-Jeff_WEBJeff Craig
Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Support Services
JCraig@ocmboces.org

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