Monday, March 7, 2011

Differentiate This!!

It is impossible to explain to the uninitiated the state of affairs that is ACPS, these days.  As a veteran teacher, I am dumbfounded at what passes for best practices and stupefied by the senseless coaching sessions designed to implement those same practices.  Not only has teacher training become a tortuous ritual where successful, veteran teachers are forced to endure absurdist discourse, but the interminable meetings pull teachers out of the classroom and away from students.  During conversations with teachers from other school districts, I am frequently reduced to foaming at the mouth as I relate the latest Mortification masquerading as staff development.
Thank God for YouTube!  Under the category, funny but on the mark, I give you...differentiation, Alexandria style.  Would that I could express the inanity, the frustration, the Twilight Zone nature of it as well!

"In de ene helft van ons leven offeren we ons leven op om geld te verdienen. In de andere helft offeren we ons geld om weer gezond te worden" 


  1. This video is spot on. I truly hope viewers take the time to watch it and contemplate. Share it too.

    -BTW: Don't worry about the foaming at the mouth thing. Lots of us here in Alexandria have found ourselves doing so these last years.

    "De vriend die kan zwijgen bij ons in een moment van wanhoop of verwarring, die bij ons verblijven in een uur van verdriet en rouw, die kan tolereren niet weten ... geen genezing, niet genezen ... dat is een vriend who cares."

  2. Don't try to fix the students, fix ourselves first. The good teacher makes the poor student good and the good student superior. When our students fail, we, as teachers, too, have failed. ~Marva Collins

  3. More of us need to use the "I don't believe you" line when we are presented with this type of rubbish.

  4. As soon as I stop crying, I will laugh.

  5. Can Mort differentiate these consultants words:

    Will ‘The Underground’ surface? A case study in dealing with online movements?
    Public Relations and the people behind it by Joel Fortne

    Movements originating with “the people” are nothing new. As the world remains fixated on what’s happening in Libya, Egypt and other countries in the Middle East right now...At least one potential movement is occurring in Alexandria, Va., right now. Alexandria is located just outside D.C. – a city that’s seen it’s share of movements and protests."

    Read more of what the PR consultants suggest for Mort:

  6. Great points in the piece by Mr. Fortne.

  7. Stay strong ACPS Teachers, stay strong. May the new, articulate and courageous amongst you find your voice, organize your agenda and reach for sunlight to help this state of affairs.

    The inspirational yolk by teachers of public dissertation has been borne by the few for many years, in an admirable and forthright manner. Alexandrians owe much gratitude for their willingness to address teacher and student reality under threats of retribution, disrespect and further low morale then and now. Thank you.

    As parents, we too have a duty here. It must and does not fall just upon you.

  8. So I'm curious, when you attend the meetings shown in the video, what do you say?

  9. Changes can only happen if parents and teachers stand together. This administration and school board will not take the concerns seriously unless they begin to see parents speaking out. So, Parents, please stand beside those who teach your students each and everyday. Let's begin to make a difference together.

  10. Common Sense.....Where has it gone in ACPS? Sherman and Board are so busy trying to teach teachers how to teach they don't have the time to teach for doing all the busy work to justify the work Central office creates to make those in Central office look and sound good.

    Get back to the students and the basics and you will see improvement.

    1.Expect and demand appropriate and responsible behavior. Student discipline is so out or control and teachers hands are tied with little or no support. Students are now learning that they are not accountable for not turning in work. They can not be given a failing grade. They can fight, swear, and be disrespectful to the teacher and principal with little or any consequence. What will this teach them when they enter the work force?

    2.Students who are consistently disruptive should be placed in an alternative program so as to allow those who want to learn an opportunity to learn. Going to the office and then returning within the hour does not change anything. Parent conferences may help in some situations but for some it does nothing. Teachers spend so much time with discipline they have little time to move forward with learning. The kids need counselors to talk to not shuffle paper work now required.

    3. Many of our students have such low reading and math skills because they have been pushed along and had to endure the latest and greatest fluffy reading and math programs from Central Office agendas. Give them the basics and they will learn. Meet them on their academic level not where they should be but where they actually are. Students will move forward to grow to their potential. You can't build learning until you fill in the gaps that are missing.

    All students should be given the opportunity to be successful as an individual and not forced into what Mort thinks makes him look good. Not everyone wears a size 9 shoe nor wants to go to college. We need all types of workers. It is about success for the individual. However, success is different of each student. A variety of opportunities will help students prepare for the 21st century.

    Stop wasting money on things outside the classroom. All these consultants are a waste of money. Ask them to spend a month in a middle school classroom and see how they perform. Talk is cheap. Get back to the basics and the students. Bring back common sense and physical responsibility.

  11. You are so right. Discipline is the key to allowing students to make progress. There are no real consequences for disrupting classes on a consistent basis. Going to the office is fun, gets you out class, and administrators give too many opportunities. The same students disrupt classes each and everyday taking away the learning that the other students deserve.

  12. You took the words right out of my mouth! Thank you. It took 6 referrals FOR THE SAME INFRACTION before a student was given a real consequence-i.e., Saturday School. Had this been dealt with properly the first time (September!) the other 5 would have been unnecessary, as would the Saturday School.

  13. When we attend the meetings above, we generally are begged by the presenter "not to shoot the messenger" and to play along, which is not exactly a confidence-builder. Dissenters are treated like troublemakers. A LOT of time is being wasted as most take place during our only planning periods.

  14. 82 Percent of US Schools May Be Labeled 'Failing'
    Published: March 9, 2011 at 3:09 PM ET


    Send To Phone
    An estimated 82 percent of U.S. schools could be labeled as "failing" under the nation's No Child Left Behind Act this year, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Wednesday.

    The Department of Education estimates the number of schools not meeting targets will skyrocket from 37 to 82 percent in 2011 because states are toughening their standards to meet the requirements of the law. The schools will face sanctions ranging from offering tutoring to closing their doors.

    "No Child Left Behind is broken and we need to fix it now," Duncan said in a statement. "This law has created a thousand ways for schools to fail and very few ways to help them succeed."

    Duncan delivered the news in remarks to a House education and work force committee hearing, in urging lawmakers to rewrite the Bush-era act. The law was established in 2002 and many education officials and experts argue it is overdue for changes.

    President Barack Obama has highlighted reforming the act as a priority for his administration, and both Democrats and Republicans have agreed that it needs to be changed — though disagreements remain on how.

    The current law sets annual student achievement targets designed with the goal of having all students proficient in math and reading by 2014, a standard now viewed as wildly unrealistic.

    Duncan said the law has done well in shining a light on achievement gaps among minority and low-income students, as well as those who are still learning English or have disabilities. But he said the law is loose on goals and narrow on how schools get there when it should be the opposite.

    "We should get out of the business of labeling schools as failures and create a new law that is fair and flexible, and focused on the schools and students most at risk," Duncan said.

    The Department of Education said its estimate was based on four years of data and the assuming all schools would improve at the same rate as the top quartile.

    "Even under these assumptions, 82 percent of America's schools could be labeled 'failing' and, over time, the required remedies for all of them are the same — which means we will really fail to serve the students in greatest need," Duncan said.

  15. In addition to taking up teachers' only planning periods, the staff development sessions at our school generally "teach" us things we already know and do in our classes. The last session on how to teach "tier two vocabulary" gave us information that, even to the uninitiated, could have been conveyed in twenty minutes, tops; however, the presenters stretched out the session to over an hour, just to fill in the allotted time. It was agonizing to know all the things I could have been busy doing for my classes and my students, while sitting being "taught" to do what I already do every single day. Such a waste of our talented and hard working teachers valuable time, just because our current admin thinks it makes them look like they are doing a good job--it's unconscionable!

  16. I don't even bother sending students to an administrator anymore, much less take the time to write a referral. Why waste time doing that, knowing that no consequence will be assigned? Better to spend time teaching those who are there to learn. I just tell disruptive students to go to their grade level office. And this is after going through all the steps of calling the parent numerous times, changing assigned seats, after school detentions with me on my own time, etc.

    Nobody has the right to disrupt class and take an education from someone else.

  17. So do you feel better or worse based on Sec Duncan's statement? If 82% of of America's schools are failing, makes Alexandria's PLA less like a death sentence, and more of a reality check, don't you think?

  18. Step back and examine the fuzzy math here. According to the DOE 37% of schools are currently "failing" under NCLB. They expect that number to skyrocket up to 82% this year. A 45% increase in one year? Due to what? And 82% could be "failing" compared to what?

    NCLB has few supporters within the world of public education, however, what is proposed by Duncan and this administration is in fact more standardized testing in more areas which does absolutely nothing to improve student learning.

  19. At our school, discipline is handled through gift giving...I'm serious. The chronic behavior problems are handed tickets in recognition of any positive behavior that they have displayed during the week. They then peruse a catalog of gifts and later redeem their tickets for toys and trinkets which they then flaunt in front of their well-behaved peers. The behavior at my school (elementary) is worse than ever this year. I, too, no longer send students to the office, nor refer them. This is so discouraging. Does anyone care in the central administration?

  20. "NCLB has few supporters within the world of public education however" Interesting how what has taken education completely off course, is qualified with an however. I hope what this Administration will push on their course correction strategies, no matter how unpopular. NCLB was a terrible idea from inception, yet the previous administration pushed it through anyway. May be the number really won't "skyrocket", might be that districts have been allowed to slide past the truth, much like ACPS did. TCW should have received the PLA label a long time ago, the problem has been persistent.
    NCLB should have been called, "Only the Strong and the Rich will Survive".

  21. Lots of maybes in that equation. The Duncan/Obama Race to the Top proposal is just as bad, if not worse, than NCLB. There is no course correction strategy, just more testing in more areas which does nothing to impact student learning.

  22. The central office staff is so out of touch with reality that it boggles the mind. And their numbers continue to increase, along with more and more administrators in the buildings. Why not spend that money on TEACHERS--as those are the people who actually TEACH students (when they are not pulled away for the newest fad/training). But teachers who voice views contrary to those of Mort's minions are belittled for "not caring about kids" and/or "resisting change". When will the madness stop? When a record number of employees leave this year, the Central Office will only congratulate themselves for "getting rid of the old guard". Watch it happen.