Elimination Of Tenure For Missouri Educators

Sunday, February 12, 2012

When I started teaching at the Mountain View -- Birch Tree / Liberty School District in 1979 -- 1980, student discipline and classroom control were optimum. We had good support from our administrators and very few instructional interruptions. Our curriculum and materials were diverse allowing for a broad course of study. We relied on the Iowa Basic Skills Test for our annual assessment tool. Education was fun, and we didn't worry every minute of the day about mastery because we were assured that our students would do well on their achievement tests at the end of the year, and they did!

And then came GOALS 2000 and NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND.

One of the first disruptions to education in the state of Missouri was DESE's brainchild - the old MMAT that accompanied GOALS 2000! The stated objectives for this assessment tool were so vague and convoluted, no one could understand where exactly the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was going with their utopian "cure all!" In-service after in-service, the question would be asked, "What does DESE have in mind? What is their final goal?" Invariably, we got so sick and tired of seeing the "expert" squirm and say, "Well, DESE hasn't really stated exactly what the end goal will be..., but trust us and follow along!" So, as all good "sheeple" are trained to do, we allowed the "blind to lead the blind," hoping that we would NOT ALL helplessly find ourselves in some bottomless ditch!

And then there was the "test" itself... Wow! What a wonder! The illustrations that accompanied the questions looked as though they had been drawn by a sixth grader. The pictures were all black and white with no distinctive shading. One of my favorite questions, regarding Missouri wildlife, depicted a very nondescript bird. The question asked the student to identify the picture of the bird. The possible responses included: dove, robin, thrush, etc. Well, without any coloration or shading provided, there was very little detail included in the drawing that would differentiate between any of the possible choices. One might say that answering the question correctly about Missouri birds was somewhat of a "wild goose" chase! To this day, I still have no idea what the correct answer was. If the teacher was not clairvoyant enough to ascertain what DESE wanted..., how would the kids possibly know? And, as I said before, according to most of our visiting experts, "DESE had no idea what they wanted either..." But Darn! All that busy work at the state level really looked good on paper... and also played well to the voters!

Unfortunately, because there was no clear vision at the state level, every six months DESE would tweak their "official" goals and objectives, which in turn required every school district in the state to rewrite its curriculum annually! It was ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE to have any sense of continuity for the classroom teacher or allow the students to build on their experiences from the previous year. Since our legislators had no clear vision of where they were going, instructors had absolutely NO IDEA of what to expect from year to year. We were simply groping in the dark. As we wrote and rewrote curriculum for our courses of study, the only benefit was the tedious time taken in repetitive drudgery that could at least be counted toward CAREER LADDER hours! Besides robbing our students of a balanced, broad education..., the public had absolutely no idea what the educational bureaucracy for the state of Missouri was doing to the personal lives of its teachers. Although I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT regret any amount of effort invested in my students' young lives after 31 years, yet it devastated my personal life. During my divorce, I heard my wife complain, "You robbed our kids of a father by spending too much of your time at school and far too little at home!" And she was EXACTLY right! But it wasn't the school's fault... It wasn't my students' fault... IT WAS DESE, a bloated government bureaucracy that micro managed every tiny... intricate... miniscule detail of our classroom work... simply to keep itself alive! And God forbid that we ever became proficient in any given area... or DESE would re-arrange the student population to skew the results against us... but in their favor! Having finally reached proficiency across the board for a large group of our students, we would then be told, "Yes, but when viewed from the standpoint of your free and reduced lunch students, your results really don't look that good!" So, once again.... back to the drawing board to rewrite curriculum late into the night! Although it is totally taboo for educators to say, "We weren't educating... We were TEACHING A TEST!" We had to! If our students didn't know a WHOLE LOT ABOUT VERY LITTLE, then the school and individual teachers would be viewed very critically as failing to "teach." Lack of accreditation for the district and individual job targets loomed large on the horizon... as DESE continued to perform its ridiculous dance!

And if GOALS 2000 and MMAT were not enough, then came NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND with its "new and improved" assessment - the MAP TEST! We were again assured that our problems in Missouri education were finally over... Now, the students would be expected to fluently write essay responses for each and every content area. Consequently, the bureaucrats had staged another unexpected "que de tat!" Where once students were only required to know and write "2+2=4," now a hand drawn illustration and half page essay were required to accompany the obvious solution! But what the idiots at the state level had not counted on was, "SOMEONE WOULD BE NEEDED TO GRADE THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF STUDENT CONSTRUCTED RESPONSES!" Oh dear! Who would do that... possibly another layer of bureaucrats???? And forget "objectivity" in grading all these different test responses.... With hundreds of different graders and scorers..., then hundreds of different "subjective" opinions would come into play as to what actually qualified as being "proficient." Yeah, right... rubrics would be provided! BIG DEAL! That little solution also made a lot of sense! Thanks DESE... mission accomplished!

And honestly, this educational fiasco that has occurred over the past 20 years was nothing more than "bragging rights" for the state of Missouri... It wasn't about substance! No, it was simply appearance when compared to federal education policies and competing legislation enacted by neighboring states. Honestly! Our legislators showed their hand when through their profound audacity they stated, "By 2014, all students in the state of Missouri will achieve MASTERY at 100%!" Whether the product of gross arrogance or total ignorance, our officials claimed that by one stroke of a legislator's pen, we would uniformly achieve in every district of the state.... WHAT GOD HIMSELF WAS EITHER UNWILLING OR UNABLE TO DO...., "make all individuals cognitively equal!" Hey! Get a GRIP! It "AIN'T" going to happen!

Now, years later... after willingly following DESE's meandering course from one educational "panacea" to the next, it becomes obviously clear that the various "snake-oil" cures didn't work after all! So, who should we finger...? Who should take the fall? Who should we blame for this endless bureaucratic bungling? Why, the lowly, classroom teacher of course! Why not? Teachers are easy targets... They're a dime a dozen! They hump up when they're being screwed and don't complain... They are simply lambs led to slaughter! But, regardless of who must submit to taking the bullet... the BUREAUCRACY must be kept alive at all cost! Right? Or, then again, maybe not....

Suddenly, I've just had an amazing idea! Instead of ending tenure for classroom teachers, let's eliminate DESE and limit our legislators to ONLY one term!

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