Dear Great Oakland Public Schools, National Council for Teacher Quality and the Oakland Effective Teaching Coalition,
These are my thoughts about your “Teacher Quality Roadmap” and your event tonight, March 20th.
You presentation was based on an analysis of exceptional, average and weak teachers.
The only brief explanation of how you determine who is an exceptional teacher, average or weak teachers was in the number of years a student’s learning increases within a school year (based on standardized test scores I imagine although this was not explicitly stated). They said that highly effective teachers can raised student achievement by 1.5 years in a single year, average teachers can raise achievement by 1 year and weak teachers raise it by less than 1 year. As a teacher, this definition of effectiveness in teaching seems ignorant at best and quite honestly, insulting.
How dare you limit the way you understand my students’ success to their numbers on an undetermined test? How dare you assess how will I invest in, am creative with, care for, discipline, instruct, evaluate, grow with, develop respect with, inspire and nurture my students with this single figure? Without any consideration of all of the factors out of my control and out of my students control? Without any assessment of all other kinds of growth that happen in my classroom, in my conversations with parents, in the after school and before school tutoring hours? These may not show up on whether the student progressed 1 year or 1.5 years.
When my students show up to school everyday to learn even when people are getting mugged outside at 7am in the morning, even when a middle school student got shot last week walking to school, even when family members are being deported and laid off, even when their mothers are dealing with domestic violence and they fear for the lives of their baby siblings, even when because they are undocumented this district refuses to pay them the stipends that other students get, when they have childcare to do at home, when the district just decided to cut the classes that teach their parents how to help them with homework — they are exceptional, no matter what the number they score on your rubric.
And when I show up to school everyday to teach even when I have far more students than I can possibly handle, who each have different language levels, who all need intensive emotional support, without enough working computers, with funding for supplies that takes months to come through, with job instability because of constant district cuts, dealing with the vicarious trauma of lock outs and supporting students through violence, getting paid less on average than teachers in any other district in the area, in a district that won’t even negotiate a contract with the teacher’s union and I continue to care and be devoted and dream at night about how I can be a better teacher and better serve my students– I am exceptional, no matter how these students score on your rubric.
And I am not the only one. I am not the 1 in 7 teachers that is exceptional (which GO claims in the number). At the schools that I have worked at, much more than 14% of the teachers are exceptional (as you defined it “making miracles happen”). Ask our students, ask our teachers, ask our parents, ask our principal. Perhaps, this number is so important to you because you want us to believe that weak and average teachers are the primary problem in education.
They are not. Why are you not addressing the fundamental epidemic of the UNDER FUNDING OF PUBLIC EDUCATION? Why would you put a slide in front of me showing that we are the lowest paid teachers in the area and then not demand greater funding? I know that the reshuffling of a few dollars to benefit a few and punish a few others will not make education a priority for this country, will not address deep levels of poverty and trauma.
And if it is true that teachers are so widely weak and average– then please make us better. Make us better by lowering our class sizes so we can focus on every student, make us better by having us teach in pairs (older teachers sharing their wisdom paired with younger teachers sharing their energy and original ideas), make us better by paying us extra to engage in deep and meaningful professional development outside of class time, make us better by paying us ALL better, make us better by addressing the issues of poverty, racism and trauma that make this work so hard everyday. FIGHT WITH PARENTS, TEACHERS AND STUDENTS FOR FULLY-FUNDED SCHOOLS that work with the community fight against these systemic injustices and build the kinds of schools and communities that we all deserve.
An Oakland teacher fighting with students and parents for justice in Oakland schools and communities