Today I’d like to discuss some of my experiences as a classroom teacher as well as a Reading Consultant. Though I still love teaching, I write about some of the frustrations I face even today as a substitute teacher.
Working in education, I experienced many changes. Most recently, my state struggled with the “quick fix” bullet for increasing student achievement scores, especially in reading. As a Reading Specialist certified K-12, my involvement with this endeavor was active. I watched school districts increase their student and district scores only to drop off a cliff a year or two later. Why did this happen?
There are many reasons, but I want to mention those I feel are most important. First, research shows that at least 75% of the building staff must be implementing the strategies studied before substantial improvement can be realized. In the three districts with which I worked closely, usually 95%-100% of their staff who attended the professional development sessions participated in the implementation of each strategy studies and learned. However, after I left the districts after 3-6 years, administrators no longer required using these best practice strategies. Very few teachers continued to use them on a consistent, regular basis, and no consequences occurred if the strategies weren’t continued. Even if a few teachers used them, they used them randomly and no longer used them on the best practice recommended amount of times per strategy. A sprinkling here and there does not best practice make. So much for the 75% use b the staff…
Part of the reason the teachers quit using these strategies they learned (and saw positive improved student improvement for all students, including special educated students) was due to administrators. They mistakenly thought since state levels were now achieved, they could move on to something else, not realizing these strategies needed to continue being embedded throughout the curriculum each year. Whatever new direction a school district headed, these strategies and best practices needed to join with the new concepts studied.
Remember when administrators mandated “whole language” as the new direction? They mistakenly thought that meant no more phonics! Without professional development and building goals set for a 3-5 -7 year plan, every teacher did their “own thing” and students suffered most with the inconsistent, pick-and-choose styles of each teacher, not even consistent across classrooms within the same grade level! As a result for several years students did not learn phonics and suffered tremendously. Also, no clear teaching objectives were used daily since teaching manuals were abandoned that contained the concepts grade level teachers needed to be teaching their students throughout the year. School administrators mistakenly believed colleges taught pre-service education students what needed to be taught and at what grade level. Chaos resulted…
After twenty years of teaching, I decided to retire. I was concerned about the strong government involvement and control over the curriculum content. I worked in classrooms teaching educators how to instruct students using research-based strategies, and together we produced improved results.
However, with all of the new politically-correct content, required additional assessment documentation, and conflict between grade level transition expectations (e.g., early childhood and established kindergarten standards), teachers suffered from “curriculum constipation” – always adding, but never eliminating anything. The produced additional stress on top of regular everyday pressure of showing student improvement. These pressures from local administrators, school-board members, state, and federal evaluators took its toll on teachers. The joy of teaching students disappeared from their faces.
This stress teachers carried impacted students also. I witnessed students ushered from room to room for intervention support (sometimes 40% of their instructional day), frantic and harried staff just trying to survive and accomplish and comply with all the regulations, expectations, and extra documentation requested daily, weekly, and monthly. Students were now categorized as those at grade level, those needing intervention, and those needing extreme intervention. They were no longer Jenny, Shane, and Kim, but products needing refined, some extremely so. This does not include the students receiving special education support.
Does this experience resonate with anyone reading this post?