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“Rat Race to the Top”

September 3, 2010

I met Myles Hoenig last night at Dr. Turner’s “Children are More than Test Scores” event in Columbia, Maryland. Myles is a teacher in Baltimore, and he shared with me this piece that he originally published in Dissident Voice. Dissident Voice describes itself as “a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice.” I was unaware of this publication until now, but I think it’s sad that common sense ideas like using the education budget to buy enough books and school supplies for students, and not having 47 students in a class now qualifies as “radical.”

“Rat Race to the Top”

My high school principal has just announced that our state (Maryland) is now one of 10 winners of RTTT. Our county will be getting $22 million for Professional Development, assessment and evaluation.  Fantastic!  More NGO’s, 501c3’s, and burnt out teacher-administrators will get a good chunk of change for their latest schemes to make the world safe for democracy, or is it to teach and reach all children and graduate them into the ranks of the army, the reserve army of labor (the massive unemployed) or McDonald’s?

What this means is that teachers will be stressed out even more with testing, evaluating the tests, and workshops on how to administer and evaluate the tests.  Perhaps equipping each school in Maryland with a full bar would go a long way in improving the data.  Happy teacher. Happy student.

What’s missing?  In the funny sign at the church it says CH_ _ CH; the answer is UR.  (Not something I particularly endorse but I love word play.)

In the soon to be well-endowed schools what’s missing is the student. His and her real needs are not in the equation. Testing the student does not make him or her achieve. Evaluating and reforming the test only increases the speed of the wheel in the rat cage.

Here’s what I’d like to see happen in our schools with the additional $22 million.
1.  Hire more teachers, even if it means bringing in portable facilities.

2. Shrink class sizes with these new teachers.  One of our luckier Spanish teachers only has 47 in his class.  He got off easy.

3.  Restock the book room with new books and enough for the students to take home, not  by sharing a class set that’s short a dozen or so.

4.  Make sure all schools have a working library. I’ve taught in 3 high schools in Baltimore that didn’t even have one.  Put A People’s History of the US into the History curriculum.

5.  No more unrealistic quotas for reams of paper per quarter. No more waiting years for a simple lock to a closet and basic school supplies. Regular update of computer warranties.  You know this list is endless.

6.  Fix the damn leaky faucet in my faculty bathroom that’s been leaking for more than the 2 1/2 years I’ve  been here and don’t say that it’s contracted to a company in Louisiana that went out of business.

7.  Put AC in every school so when it comes time for the dreaded state assessments in May the students are not taking it in a pool of sweat. And, if the school fails the tests, don’t fire the teachers; get rid of the tests. Come up with assessments that are a combination of realism, rigor, and humanity.

8.  Wire our schools so using computers and the internet is not based on who signed up first for the one computer room and will hog it for a whole week.

To all the youngins out there in colleges in training to be teachers. Re-evaluate your life’s goals. Do you want to be of a profession that sees you simply as a purveyor of data? Do you want to be evaluated for your ability to teach your students, reach your students, inspire your students, or to get their raw numbers higher than your colleagues, ‘cause one of you is gonna get furloughed, and your mortgage is higher than theirs?

It is a race to the top and the rats are winning.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. teacherprincess permalink
    September 4, 2010 11:21 am

    I especially love the message telling the young education students to re-evaluate their life’s goals. If only I could foresee what was going to happen in this field before I got my degree.

    • September 4, 2010 1:08 pm

      Yeah. I actually remain quite happy with my choice of careers, despite all this madness. But we do need to rethink our goals and missions as teachers, and be prepared to fight far harder for them than our elders did.

  2. 乳膠床墊 permalink
    September 28, 2010 12:42 am

    Thanks for the informative article, it was a good read and I hope its ok that I share this with some facebook friends. Thanks.

    • Myles Hoenig permalink
      October 4, 2010 7:14 pm

      Sorry for the late response.
      Feel free to share this article as you wish.

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