Frustration among our Delaware teachers, read what one Delaware teacher has to say

A  Delaware teacher wrote to me. I asked for permission to share the email and the teacher agreed to me posting the email.
I write to you today because I am seeking your support for the students of xxxxx School District.  I am a teacher at xxxxx.  I have dedicated the last 18 years of my life to the students who go to xxxxx. I have relationships with generations of families, love teaching those “tough” kids and have great successes everyday in my classroom.
The testing cycles in xxxxx have begun and I feel that the administration has again let us down. There is so much testing on my calendar it will be extremely difficult to teach all the standards I am required to teach, let alone get kids who are behind, caught up.  Something MUST be done to stop all of this insane testing!
Let me assure you that I am not a person who ducks assessment.  I believe in knowing where students are so that I can design lessons and work with them in small groups to fill in gaps and push students to their greatest potential.  This is about too many district or state mandated assessments that give me no information.  They seem to serve the purpose of proving that xxxxx students will fail no matter what we do.  Let me explain…
I have already given an oral reading assessment individually – Dibels Next (8-10 minutes per 30 kids = nearly 300 minutes of class time).  I’ve given a “cold read”  – a reading comprehension test and a math diagnostic and placement test.  This week I will be finishing my first unit in math and giving the unit test.  I’ve also done a spelling inventory to check for phonics skills and other informal writing samples.  Week 2 is over and I know my students pretty well.  I’m ready to teach and get kids where they need to go!
I am now told that I must give the Amplify reading and math pre and post test.  I am supposed to schedule 2 days in the computer lab for each subject.  I am also told that I must use this test as a measure for my component 5 rating. I’m not sure if you are familiar with Amplify.  Its the same company that produces Smarter Balanced.  Same kinds of questions, same ridiculous length, and complexity of directions.  I am also told that they will be taking THREE interim assessments, for a total of FIVE times they will take this test, plus Smarter, plus all the other tests that actually help me guide instruction.
There are many layers to why this is wrong for students.
  • One, I need to be teaching for 4 days in September, not having students staring at a computer screen to take a test I know that they’ll bomb!
  • Two, giving this assessment FIVE times a year eats away at my precious teaching and learning time.  Testing is not teaching!
  • Third, after 18 years I can look into the crystal ball and tell you how May is going to go.  After students have taken 5-6 days of Smarter Balance testing, we will again set them in front of a computer screen and ask them to show us that they can take another hours long assessment of what they’ve learned this year.  How do you think that will go?  I KNOW how 8,9 and 10 year old people will react. They will not show what they know because they will be burned out and exhausted, leading to most xxxxx teachers not making their component 5 goals.  More “unsatisfactory” teachers in xxxxx.  That will hit the News Journal, and more students bleed out from our district.

I don’t want to walk down that path again and again. xxxxx kids and teachers work very hard and deserve better!   I am embarrassed at the administration’s decisions for our students. Who else can and will speak out for children in xxxxx?

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14 thoughts on “Frustration among our Delaware teachers, read what one Delaware teacher has to say

  1. Ellen

    Ditto to this brave teacher. I too am fed up with our weak administration, corrupt DOE and state leaders who simply answer to $$. I support you and want to help. Please feel free to contact me via email.

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  2. Sabrina

    This is how most DE teachers feel, but nobody cares to really ask us what is best for children. All of this testing is not making kids more prepared for the real world.

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  3. Natalie Ganc

    It is my understanding, as a teacher, that we are allowed to set our OWN goals within the framework of DPAS II Component 5. Our administration went through all of the choices we had in terms of setting our own goals. No one should be dictating what you *have* to use for your Component 5 goals this year. Theoretically, everyone’s goals could be different from each other.

    My team talked about our options, and we ended up choosing the same ELA and Math goals, because we thought they would be best for us and our students; however, we were allowed to select goals that were different from the team, if that is what we wanted to do.

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  4. fsjenner

    Thank you, Kim, for sharing this. This scene is repeated in many of our schools. This is exactly why NEA, DSEA, and many of our locals have advocated for Time2Teach and Time2Learn. Appropriate, relevant assessment of student progress and achievement is important. However, these kinds of testing regimes, including prolonged test prep and practice sessions, are taking time away from instruction and impacting learning, as well as the overall school experience. A forced focus on ELA and math–the “tested subjects”–have led to a narrowed curriculum in which science and social studies lessons have been given short shrift–where instructional time prior to middles school has been significantly curtailed.

    MS and HS teachers report a difference between kids today and kids arriving better prepared ten years ago. Not because of ineffective teachers or a change in instructional materials, but the virtual abandonment of a nationally-renowned, K-5 statewide science program and a four-strand (history, civics, geography, & economics), standards-based social studies plan–all for the sake of more time for ELA and math.

    Don’t get me wrong–math and reading are VERY IMPORTANT. So is science–especially in a state where science research and development has ruled for decades. Plus, our teachers, especially elementary ones, are trained to support math and reading within the other subject areas. But, I digress.

    It’s time to put on the brakes–to limit the amount of time given over to testing, to determine which tests are worthwhile & provide best RTI–return on investment (in every sense of that concept), and which tests
    > provide the most useful, timely information to teachers
    > are most closely aligned to instruction
    > are truly user-friendly–for kids, families, and educators
    > do more than just provide a score and a few global comments; how about a test that is genuinely DIAGNOSTIC–one that indicates what Johnny and Suzy got wrong, shows me why, and helps me plan ways to remedy the error or misconception.

    Now, that would be a test worth giving up a little bit of time!

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  5. fsjenner

    The whole goal-setting mess is another issue altogether. Natalie is correct. Even DPAS II-Revised is built on personalized goal-setting based on available assessment data, to be finalized and agreed upon with one’s building admin. However, the DOE has uniformly failed to mandate or enforce this goal in goal-setting. To make things worse, there has been little to no training (for educators or admins) on class-wide, instructional goal-setting, which is an easy thing to do poorly and challenging to do well.

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  6. fsjenner

    One last thing. The pressure has been so immense on kids, on educators, on school admins, and on districts, that there is little wonder that what Teacher X describes is happening. The schools and districts catch HECK from DOE, the admins from some of their bosses, the teachers from some principals, and so on, and so on. Test scores rule. It’s all about the test, not teaching. And some of the kids are a nervous wreck. Is this the model we want for education? How’s it working for us so far?

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  7. Jack

    As a starting point in this discussion, I would like to know how many hours our children spend in the classroom being taught today compared to 10 years ago and should we place more emphasis on “vocational” courses/education?

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    1. Kim Williams - State Representative 19th District Post author

      Jack, our kids are in the classroom more today then ten years ago, full-day kindergarten was added more students today attend some type of pre-school program. The issue is the amount of time teachers are preparing students for assessments, mandated state and district assessment. Kids need to be able to read before anything. If the state wanted to do something, instead of spending millions on testing, focus on every student in the state able to read by third grade. We, the state and federal government, are telling teachers how to teach and it needs to stop. We have folks like Arne Duncan who has never taught developing educational policies for the nation. How can someone who has not spent time in a classroom teaching be able to lead our nation, that is what folks should be asking?

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  8. Jack Wells

    Kim:
    Perhaps the children spend more time in the classroom, unfortunately as you point out our teachers have less time to teach. As to learning how to read by third grade, to accomplish this than reading at all levels must be a priority.

    I believe most teachers can teach our children how to read if given sufficient time, but that is not the case and it get worse every year. I was shocked to learn the skyrocketing increase in our children who are homeless, this places a huge burden on our schools/teachers. I also believe every poor child faces different difficulties, some may have parents who value education, others do not, some deal with abuse, etc. and a child being homeless is faced with even more problems.

    To address this problem one of things we must do is allocate our funding by priority, clearly allocation of funding so our children learn how to read by the 3rd grade must be right at the top, unfortunately when allocating funding this is not a priority. {The states failure to funds special needs children in grades K-3 is a monumental problem, how many children never reach their potential because we are delaying this funding to the 4th grade?

    I believe the residents would be shocked at our per student funding if reported at the school level, showing spending by program code, by account code and funding category. Why don’t we report funding for every operating unit?????

    I am convinced our per student cost at 9-12 far exceeds K-5 or 6-8 As an example we spend millions from “local” funds for “Extra” Pay for “Extra” Responsibilities for Athletics. How many of these local dollars go to K-5 and 6-8?

    How we fund our schools has to be changed, but reporting how and where that funding is used at the operating unit by funding category must also be required.

    Thanks for your efforts. .

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