Wednesday, July 30, 2014

BATS and Arne

There's not a lot for me to add to Mark Naison's account of the meeting between six BAT representatives and several Department of Education reps, including Arne Duncan. You should be giving that a read, if for no other reason than it represents a moment when the USDOE paid attention to teachers that they themselves hadn't chosen to talk to.

There are just a couple of moments that I want to highlight.

First, Marla Kilfoyle expressed her concerns about the Department's new policy of testing students with disabilities into a magical state of Not Having Disabilities. 

Secretary Duncan deflected her remarks by saying that the Department was concerned that too many children of color were being inappropriately diagnosed as being Special Needs children  and that once they were put in that category they were permanently marginalized. He then said “We want to make sure that all student are exposed to a rigorous curriculum.”

So... we're afraid that too many children of color are being mislabeled as having special needs, so rather than fix that, we're just going to operate on a new assumption that students labeled special needs don't actually have special needs. This is perhaps not the most direct way to attack that particular problem (we might start by checking to see how big a problem it is).

Then this, in a discussion of VAM and school closings, leading to the subject of teacher evaluation.

They two officials [one communications guy and an intern] had no real answer to what Dr Wiliams was saying and deflected attention from his critique by insisting that we needed to hold teachers accountable by student test scores because there was no other way of making sure teachers took every student seriously and helped all of them reach their full potential.

It's not that we didn't deduce this already, but there's your statement. Teachers are the problem. We don't want to do our jobs and the only way we can be made to do our jobs is with threats, because that's the only thing we will possibly respond to. 

It would be interesting to climb in my time-space machine and ask that un-named intern exactly what sorts of threats got him to take his interning position. Or is he perhaps interning away because he believes in the work and thinks he's Doing Something Important that uses his skills and knowledge to their best advantage. 

No matter. As long as the assumption in DC is that teachers will only do their jobs properly when cajoled and threatened, fire to their feet and boots to their asses, we are going to get policy designed to punish teachers. 

I have no idea what might actually come out of the meeting, but it's certainly heartening to many folks to know that some unedited unfiltered words were spoken in a DOE meeting room. That, and a face to face meeting, is no small thing.


  1. I have been a teacher for 14 years. It is amazing to me how often this department of education simply insult teachers wholesale and en masse. The beatings have continued; has morale improved? Find me the teachers who don't take every student seriously or desire every one to reach his or her full potential, and count them. The percentage will be miniscule. Just because a student does not reach his or her potential does not mean the teacher is at fault. My first question after I read Mark Naison's account of the meeting was, "How many years of teaching experience did these 'Department of Education' officials actually have?" They sound like people who have never worked in a classroom before. Unfortunately, the fact that the comments from these government bureaucrats were so empty, ill-informed, and out-of-touch is not surprising. Look at Arne and his track record.