Wednesday, November 15, 2006

My Bad, I Thought I Was Supposed To Be Teaching

I got in trouble at school today. And I don't care.

My boss unexpectedly summoned me to her office where I was greeted by a big-wig from central administration. He handed me a report that indicated I'd made absolutely no use of a program I was directed two months ago to "utilize" in my classes (sidebar: why do people insist on saying "utilize" when a simple "use" will do? WHY?) and called upon me to explain myself.

The program in question is an online program based on the premise that students are customers of education and that the job of teachers is to prepare their customers to be competitive in the business world. According to their website, the program "utilizes the concepts of business management and applies those ideals to learning" by using (not utilizing? are you sure?) "performance charting to assess student learning."

Performance charting. Guess what that means, y'all. Data.

Mother. Fucking. Data.

Essentially, my kids enter data into the program

and the program graphs the data.

Then I'm supposed to check to make sure that each of my students is updating all nine of their "key performance indicators" (number of pages read in two hours, for example).

As I explained to the big-wigs today for perhaps the third time, the program has little (if any) instructional value, the kids find it as useless as I do, I have neither the time nor the technology to integrate the program into my daily classroom routine, and monitoring my students' use of the program is incredibly time-consuming.

"Every hour I spend checking to see if my kids have graphed their test scores is an hour I don't spend reaching them and teaching them," I told them angrily.

"I understand your frustration, Megan," my boss responded, "but I just want us to look good."

For the record, I like and respect my boss, and I recognize that she was in an awkward position. But you know what's not gonna look good? When all the quality teachers quit because they're so sick of fucking kids over in the name of data collection, and you're left with the teachers who can't do anything BUT collect data.


Flannery Alden said...

I'm with you on "utilizing". Pulease.

But I don't think you're going to win on the data thing. Looking good to the public is now something schools must do. I feel your pain, but I think it's here to stay.

lulu said...

Charter School baby! Come to Chicago; we'll find funding and start our own school. Wonderturtle will of course have to come too.

We will be completely non-data driven and will do really crazy, subversive things like giving them books and teaching them to think critically.

Phil said...

Lulu, you let me know when you are accepting enrollment. You can count my kids in.

Phil said...

And Megan, thanks for thinking about the kids education first.

vikkitikkitavi said...

This post reminds me of the last mega-corporation I worked for, and their super-retarded performance evaluation process. The people who got the raises and the promotions were those that learned how to game the system.

Basically, you come up with a lot of bullshit "goals." The goals have to be measurable according to their system, which of course is expressed in the form of an acronym: S.M.A.R.T. I won't go into the details of that, but you could probably make up your own nonsense and be pretty close.

Then every quarter, you have to officially determine whether you are on track with your measurements, which, of course, you always are, because you made up those arbitrary measurements yourself because YOU CAN'T MEASURE HOW YOU DO YOUR JOB THAT WAY, and besides, the goals were bullshit to begin with.

Maybe one day our federal and local governments will wake up and realize that those mega-corporations are not any less bloated than big school system bureaucracies, and realize it is not useful to look to them for models of how to improve.

Melissa said...

That seems like the biggest fucking waste of time ever.

wonderturtle said...

Good for you, girl! I think the more times you are called on the carpet in this BS educational climate we are living in, the better off you are, ultimately.

And as for the charter school, count me in.

Coaster Punchman said...

Vikki's mention of S.M.A.R.T. almost made me break out into hives. I hate all that corporate speak - what a bunch of bullshit. And to see that it's infiltrated the schools too is very disheartening. Bravo for continuing to tell them what you think of it.

Grant Miller said...

I like how you utilize voluminous words.

Big Orange said...


Meanwhile, while I agree that Flann is correct that this bullshit is here to stay, it doesn't mean we have to be HAPPY ABOUT IT and it doesn't mean we have to DO EVERYTHING SOME IDIOT TELLS US TO DO.

The last time I checked both my contract AND the mission statement of my school there was NO mention of having students chart their own data (OR of doing standards-based bulletin boards). I was hired to TEACH.

Oh, and Teacher 'Zine or maybe it was the NEA magazine did a story on why the average shelf life of a teacher is only 3-5 years. People who LEAVE teaching do so for the very same reason you're talking about.

Megan said...

Flannery - Well that's no reason not to bitch about it!!!

Lu - I don't know about Chicago, but a change in venues is definitely forthcoming.

Phil - Technically, that IS what they pay me for.

Vikki - The kids have already figured out that they can enter whatever freakin' data they feel like. And since the program emails their parents if they get a failing grade, they just log the passing ones.

Melissa - Yep.

WT - That's a good way to look at it. And yeah, I don't care about being in trouble here because I'm the one who's right.

CP - Thanks.

Grant - Hemingway would be so proud.

Big O - I love how the admins are always lamenting their rate of attrition but never actually asking teachers what makes them want to leave. You want in on the charter school?

eileen said...

PLEASE come back to us. We miss you and want you here . . . and there's no data to graph here!

Megan said...

You might have to fight Molly for me. Who's offering beanbag chairs instead of desks?