In Part One, we took a look at how PA diagnosed the issues that it is legally obligated to-- well, the states don't have to solve their problems. They just have to submit a report on how they're going to pretend to solve them. Other states kept it short and sweet, but PA cranked out a massive 200 page monstrosity. We still have 100 to go, so I'm just going to hit the highlights.
We're now going to look at how PA proposes to Fix Everything.
Fixing the lack of high quality personnel
What kind of hose do we need to fill up the teacher pool?
* Develop and hand out programs and guides to teach administrators how to better select teachers.
* Better marketing. No mention if this would include "reduce amount of time we spend talking crap about teachers and teaching profession.
* I kid you not-- give all poor and minority school leaders a copy of The Chicago Public Education Fund's School Turnaround Leaders.
* Get human resources department to tell colleges what they want.
* Get schools to use the proven program Philly Plus. Um, yeah. Right.
* Help poor schools from using so many emergency certifications by having more meetings with them. Really.
* Work on better certificate reciprocity with other states, the better to poach them.
There's another category about creating a deeper pool further down the page, but the bottom line is that these folks have not the slightest idea why the teacher pipeline is drying up. Even a simple questionnaire for college freshmen (Why aren't you an education major?) would tell them more than they know now.
Getting student test scores up in poor schools
* Get great professional development to teachers in poor schools. Because nothing makes us better teachers than more PD. Also, remind poor schools that PD is really, really important, just in case they forgot. Or were too busy trying to do their jobs to remember how much they love pointless meetings with strangers who have no idea what they deal with.
* To help with this, the plan lists a bunch of specific topics that schools should get for their PD. Because identifying their own needs and priorities would be silly. Harrisburg knows what you need to be learning, teachers.
Fixing inequitable funding of PA schools
* Pass a budget that funds schools equitably. Is that all it takes? Well, heck. Piece of cake!
Not enough data about teachers
* Collect more. Because who doesn't want to help the state know more and more about their professional life. As a bonus, all this extra love and attention will undoubtedly make the profession more appealing.
Reporting on success
Once these solid and specific plans start to pay off-- no, I can't type the rest of this sentence. The state is proposing more professional development, more marketing, and lots of meetings. This will somehow bring our non-wealthy non-white students up to the same level of educational achievement as the white and wealthy ones. In my considered professional opinion, this is a dumb and inadequate plan that avoids asking or answering any hard questions at all.
Despite all that, the state has a plan for sharing the news of success when such news arrives. Executive summaries will be sent to stakeholders, who should share them. The state is going to set up a website! They will even share information on twitter and their facebook page!! If any new cool social media turns up, they'll use that, too. My state government has the same plan for sharing the success of a major mandated federal program that I use to get my family to our annual Fourth of July picnic.
Ephemera and Surprise Ending
In the first part of my look at this, I posited that the state is actually trolling the feds. I'd like to resubmit that theory.
Because next up in this report we have mailing lists and contact information, as well as a chart showing the various dates at which Stuff Happened , plus meeting agendas. The meeting stuff further suggests that either 1) the stakeholders pulled this report completely out of their butts with little thought or 2) the stakeholder organizations sent representatives who had no actual work responsibilities and so could fart around on this report all day or 3) the report was whipped up by some Department of Ed interns and the stakeholders just signed off on it. I suppose we could consider 4) these stakeholders are just the fastest, smartest, most efficient worker bees ever. But that's not the one I'm leaning toward.
But I'm cheating because I can see Appendix E, a report dated April 2015 that reads like a rough outline of the finished report, but without any authors.
This report is about 85 pages long, and a real journalist would plough through and check to see what, if anything, was actually changed by the stakeholders (who, you will recall, started meeting in April). A quick spot check suggests the answer is "not much of anything."
So somebody at PDE whipped this up, grabbed some reps of various groups to get together and pretend they were writing the report, and then somebody attached every single piece of paper they could find, creating a 200-plus page monstrosity. I like to imagine this feisty intern sealing the envelope or pressing send while he smiled and said, "Suck on that, Arne." Of course at the other end of the process was some other federal USED intern who took one look and shook his head and called our Pennsylvania intern a bad name.
What ultimately emerges from looking at reports like this is a sense of low-level government functionaries passing around pieces of paper that allow their bosses to make one claim or another while the paperwork itself never enters the sphere of the people who actually do the work.
But now the state and federal departments of education can both pretend that they have Taken Bold Steps to address the problems of equity and poverty and race in our country, thanks to a report that nobody will ever read and which will never have an actual real positive effect on anything. It is truly kafkaesque.
In a few months, the House and Senate may hammer out a shared version of an ESEA rewrite. Will it include the requirement for this stupid, pointless exercise? I don't know, and it won't matter.