Rat Race to the Top

My high school principal has just announced that our state (Maryland) is now one of 10 winners of RTTT. Our county will be getting $22 million for Professional Development, assessment and evaluation.  Fantastic!  More NGO’s, 501c3’s, and burnt out teacher-administrators will get a good chunk of change for their latest schemes to make the world safe for democracy, or is it to teach and reach all children and graduate them into the ranks of the army, the reserve army of labor (the massive unemployed) or McDonald’s? 

What this means is that teachers will be stressed out even more with testing, evaluating the tests, and workshops on how to administer and evaluate the tests.  Perhaps equipping each school in Maryland with a full bar would go a long way in improving the data.  Happy teacher. Happy student.

What’s missing?  In the funny sign at the church it says CH_ _ CH; the answer is UR.  (Not something I particularly endorse but I love word play.)

In the soon to be well-endowed schools what’s missing is the student. His and her real needs are not in the equation. Testing the student does not make him or her achieve. Evaluating and reforming the test only increases the speed of the wheel in the rat cage.

Here’s what I’d like to see happen in our schools with the additional $22 million.

1.  Hire more teachers, even if it means bringing in portable facilities.

2. Shrink class sizes with these new teachers.  One of our luckier Spanish teachers only has 47 in his class.  He got off easy.

3.  Restock the book room with new books and enough for the students to take home, not  by sharing a class set that’s short a dozen or so.

4.  Make sure all schools have a working library. I’ve taught in 3 high schools in Baltimore that didn’t even have one.  Put A People’s History of the US into the History curriculum.

5.  No more unrealistic quotas for reams of paper per quarter. No more waiting years for a simple lock to a closet and basic school supplies. Regular update of computer warranties.  You know this list is endless. 

6.  Fix the damn leaky faucet in my faculty bathroom that’s been leaking for more than the 2 1/2 years I’ve  been here and don’t say that it’s contracted to a company in Louisiana that went out of business.   

7.  Put AC in every school so when it comes time for the dreaded state assessments in May the students are not taking it in a pool of sweat. And, if the school fails the tests, don’t fire the teachers; get rid of the tests. Come up with assessments that are a combination of realism, rigor, and humanity.    

8.  Wire our schools so using computers and the internet is not based on who signed up first for the one computer room and will hog it for a whole week.

To all the youngins out there in colleges in training to be teachers. Re-evaluate your life’s goals. Do you want to be of a profession that sees you simply as a purveyor of data? Do you want to be evaluated for your ability to teach your students, reach your students, inspire your students, or to get their raw numbers higher than your colleagues, ‘cause one of you is gonna get furloughed, and your mortgage is higher than theirs?

It is a race to the top and the rats are winning.

Myles Hoenig is a veteran of the Prince George's County Public School system in Maryland, USA. He's a long time activist for social justice. He lives in Baltimore. Read other articles by Myles.

2 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on August 31st, 2010 at 7:58am #

    Here’s what i would abandon: all compulsory schooling. Kids who voluntarily attend classes should not ever be criticized-blamed-belittled; thus, abandon all rating. This act appears as blaming-condemning-belittling! Is it any wonder that there is so much victimization in the world by people who themselves have been victimized and thus rendered mean-uncivil-unsane.
    As per plan by the tiny minority of people? Make them hate one another while they laugh all the way to the bank unmolested and even praised!
    Just look how mean so many posters are on all sites on internet. And they do it in name of truth:justice-knowledge-peace, etc.! tnx

  2. mikel weisser said on September 6th, 2010 at 9:46pm #

    Thanks for an honest voice about the crisis in ed these days. My wife and i teach in AZ, in different districts, each of which is reeling with the impact of state budget slashing ed spending in addition to everything else that makes the crisis in ed these days.
    Assessments, whether funded or not, aren’t for the benefit of the student or the teacher and they don’t really help admin that much but that is who they are designed for. Grants have to appear to look efficient so they come with a list of mandates that outstrip all the value of funding in the first place. Each new funding sources expects its own level of accountability and so comes with its own set of hoops for schools to jump through. In the end, they are merely a way for admin to appear to be more on top of the intangible thing that happens or doesn’t happen in classrooms: learning.
    Pols consistently SAY they care about ed and the children are the future, etc. but again and again they fund the project at such levels that cannot sustain good teaching. I’m not talking about individual pay, i’m talking about size of work force. Hoenig is right in pointing to class sizes, a very basic expense in good education that politicians always act like is expendable. Cutting staff increases class sizes, which decreases student performance. This is repeatedly proven, yet politicians act like the formula is non-existent when they want to pretend to care about governmental austerity.