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Before the Storm

September 1, 2010

This video clip is adapted from a PowerPoint presentation I created for last night’s Teachers’ Letters to Obama electronic roundtable discussion on school turnarounds. Since starting Failing Schools back in April, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time talking to different people about their experiences working in low-performing schools and school districts. More often than not, many of them have declined to discuss their experiences non-anonymously because they (justifiably) fear retribution. (We are always looking for more brave teachers, parents, and students here–keep sending your stories!)

But after dozens of conversations and interviews, I’ve been startled–stunned— by just how many teachers have described the same pattern of problems in their schools; the same problems I noticed when I was working in this kind of school. Virtually every story I’ve been told about the experience of working in a school that may face or has begun a turnaround contains the same six elements. They are:

  1. A perception of failure, and labeling (“needs improvement”; “failing”)
  2. The taking of academic shortcuts
  3. A more burdensome workload for staff members
  4. A toxic work environment
  5. Harassment and retaliation
  6. Failure

Obviously, this isn’t a scientific study, but the striking regularity with which I hear the same narrative over and over again, from teachers in different states, cities, and school districts, leads me to believe that there is something to it. (It’s time to apply to grad school…) Anyway, watch the video and see what you think.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. September 1, 2010 2:35 pm

    Great work! Thanks for putting this video in the hands of the public. It’s important for voters and parents to understand what’s really going on in public education today.

  2. mariasallee permalink*
    September 1, 2010 8:56 pm

    Well done! So much of this is obvious to those of us who have lived it, but, as Andrea says above, parents and voters need to understand what’s really happening.

  3. September 1, 2010 10:12 pm

    Thank you for sharing this information, Sabrina. I thought your presentation on this at the Teachers Roundtable yesterday was brilliant.

  4. September 2, 2010 5:49 pm

    Gosh, I feel like this all rings a bell for some reason……..

    Great job! I think it’s so difficult to find thoughtful analyses surrounding what’s really going on with our schools, but this one hits on a lot of truth – not something that’s all that easy to find.

  5. Jim Martin permalink
    September 3, 2010 7:47 pm

    You are the BOMB! What a piece of work…you have hit the nail on the head! Do you think that Michelle Obama should see this? Arne and his ego are too invested in the Grand Experiment to see! But, is there hope that our thoughtful President could grasp the magnitude of his mistake? Let’s hope that President Obama has not sold us all down the river. He will need our support in 2012, not to mention in this November election.
    Jim Martin

  6. September 7, 2010 8:17 am

    Hi – I can’t get this to play – also can’t find it on YouTube by searching Google. Is there another way to see this? Thanks!


  1. Before the Storm (via Failing Schools) « Transparent Christina

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