Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Abused Teachers Syndrome?

Are DCPS teachers and staff at risk of developing battered women's syndrome?

The idea was first suggested to me via this blog by a middle school teacher in DCPS. I find the comparison so horribly appropriate that I can't help but comment on it.

From the small amount of internet research I've done, I've gathered that battered women's syndrome (BWS) is thought to be a subcategory of post-traumatic stress disorder affecting women who have been seriously abused by their partners. BWS is characterized by recognizable psychological symptoms that occur in a particular pattern. Those symptoms include:

  • the belief that the violence was her fault
  • apathy toward activities she was formally excited about
  • the belief that she must stay in the situation because nobody else would want her (and an economic dependency on her abuser)
  • fear of increased danger in leaving or attempting to leave
  • depression

Before I go on, I should note that I am in no way an expert on BWS. If there's someone out there with a background in psychology and would like to enlighten me on anything I've overlooked or gotten wrong here, please add a comment. Also, I've discovered in looking through some information on BWS that it is apparently still a little controversial as some argue that there is insufficient empirical evidence to support its existence. Nonetheless, I've seen similar symptoms in many of my colleagues in DCPS.

I've often commented on how unrealistic it is to expect teachers, administrators, and school systems as a whole to live up to the demands placed on them by policymakers and the public. Almost everybody in the system is being expected, in one way or another, to perform minor miracles on a daily basis (and this is especially true in high-needs environments). It seems obvious that the results of this include burnout, depression, apathy, and disillusionment. These are things that I've seen in every school I've been at. By themselves, they probably would not warrant a comparison to something as severe as BWS, and I hope in most districts teachers don't see a lot of the other symptoms.

I believe there are two factors that make DCPS a district more likely to foster the development of the rest of such symptoms than many other environments. First, I suspect that it's mostly struggling inner-city districts with large and highly publicized reform agendas (and high political costs for failing to make the public believe they've lived up to those agendas) that create the remainder of symptoms that one might legitimately compare to BWS. Secondly, DCPS employs a significant portion of teachers who are largely ignorant of what it's like to work in a different educational setting/environment/culture, thus facilitating a common belief among many brand new DCPS teachers that they really aren't cut out for this line of work.

Highly publicized reform agendas in high-needs districts (on a national level, and possibly even a mildly international level, when it comes to DCPS) that incur high political costs for failure are a good bet to create cut-throat, if-you-don't-perform-you're-fired working conditions in which teachers and administrators are not only expected to accomplish the unrealistic kinds of duties that most teachers across the country are expected to perform, but also to do it in a fashion that strokes the ego of their superiors and in the face of overwhelming social ills.

While a new optimistic teacher may harbor high hopes of making drastic differences in the lives of seriously troubled children, s/he often tempers his or her optimism after facing the realities of the inner-city classroom. While the level of discouragement experienced differs from teacher to teacher, many of them choose to adjust their expectations and continue to persevere. However, in districts like DCPS, these teachers are met with a truckload of PR-phrased pedagogical dogma that essentially tells these new teachers that their experiences in the urban classroom have led them to incorrect conclusions.

"You're not supposed to lower your expectations for the student whose heroine-addicted mother told her to get the hell out of her house last night and whose father is in prison. Instead, you should raise them. We have truckloads of evidence that shows that you don't have to change a child's home environment, her relationships with her peers, her predisposition to substance abuse, or her natural tendency to comprehend whatever it is you're trying to teach. No. All you have to change is the educator standing in front of her. Look at Michelle Rhee or William Taylor or Jason Kamras. Those people confronted the realities of the everyday urban classroom and helped students make huge gains without changing poverty, providing excellent parenting, or eradicating racism," they might say.....

But the reality is that while a teacher can make a big difference in how much a group of students can learn, s/he will never be able to compensate for some of the challenges that many of his or her students will unfortunately enter the classroom with. The myth of the teacher who manages to take a classroom with 10% of students on grade-level to a classroom with 100% of students on grade-level in their first or second year of teaching may not be a total lie, but I'm tempted to believe that there's probably either some data fabrication involved or a tremendous stroke of luck in getting a classroom full of students who, while academically behind, were willing to give up afternoons and weekends to do the work in a lot of those stories.

It's easy to see why many DCPS teachers would feel so inadequate in such conditions. Administrators are being pressured from so many directions to ensure high test scores (which leads them to hold teachers to outrageously unrealistic expectations) that they imply to teachers with all of their criticisms that there's actually a teacher out there who is doing all of these things well. These teachers feel totally inadequate, like they could never do all of the things asked of them. And the reality is that they're right. They can't, and nobody else can either. But that's not a reason to feel (or to let an administrator make a teacher feel) like they're worthless to the profession. Unfortunately, I'm afraid we lose a lot of teachers in DCPS because of this. They likely go on to choose careers that allow them to experience some degree of success rather than work in a school that tells them they're bad for children. They've learned that they're not good enough to be a teacher and believe that nobody else would want them working at their school either.

However, when the decision is made to leave, it's often met with hostility by administrators, teacher colleagues, and even people outside of education. Teachers who leave are directly or indirectly accused of giving up on the students. Some write these teachers off as individuals who just couldn't cut it. There is a similar reaction to teachers who advocate for themselves by calling foul when their lunches are shortened for an assembly or their workload is increased as a result of some new assessment program. Lastly, there are the bad recommendations administrators will give to teachers who leave their schools or the abysmal evaluations they'll give those teachers on their last day (yes, I'm talking about my experience). People really are afraid to leave, either for fear of retaliation or because they need the paycheck (which, or course, can be said for any job).

So are teachers in DCPS suffering from BWS? No, I don't think it's nearly that bad, but the similarities are striking. Perhaps some sort of abused teachers syndrome would be appropriate. Either way, I think the symptoms are real, and they do have negative effects on our students.

To end, I'd like to include a portion of an e-mail I received from the middle school teacher I referenced above (and by the way, it's NOT the middle school that was associated with my former school if any of you were wondering). I feel like it speaks more concretely to a number of the issues I raised in this post.

The teacher says:

"I'm still actually trying to parse out what of the craziness is (my school's) leadership, and what is just coming down from central office. One of my *biggest* issues with working at (my school) is the rampant grade inflation that teachers are bullied into. Mind you, none of this was ever expressly set out for us, it's all sort of secretive, "your life will be made miserable in ways large and small if you disagree", mafia-style intimidation. At the end of first advisory, I tried repeatedly to get a grading policy from our grade-level AP. Never got it. The administration has some kind of (never publicized) formula to decide how many Ds or Fs are "too many," and if you're that unfortunate teacher who "gave" too many Ds or Fs....oh, watch out! (I put "gave" in quote there deliberately, because it's ALL about us giving grades, and failing as teachers; not one word about how our students are failing to *earn* good grades.) It makes me so angry on so many levels: 1) If they trust me in a room with 100 kids every day, don't they trust that I have kids' best interests in mind and am doing my best to help them be successful? Apparently not. Apparently if I have "too many" kids failing, I must want my kids to fail. Never mind that I haven't had a lunch period to myself since September because I'm working with kids in my room every day at lunch. Ditto after school. Would they ever put any responsibility on a child or the parents for doing his/her assignments? Doing test corrections? Coming in for remediation when I gave them a pass for lunch? Staying after school even when I call the parents to arrange it? Nope,of course not. It's all because obviously I want my kids to fail. 2) What kind of lesson does this teach kids? "I don't have to do any work because I'll just scoot by with Cs because my teachers are too afraid to fail me" How is that a good thing? The only explanation I've received for grade inflation was from my team leader (not the administration, mind you): "It looks bad if too many kids fail." Ok....looks bad to whom? Honestly, I'm not teaching for my administrator's scores, or for Michelle Rhee, or anyone else but my kids. Since when does not making adults "look bad" take precedence over teaching kids? Oh, wait. In DCPS. 3) The other gem of advice from my team leader was, "I just don't worry about it anymore. I have no control over it, so why bother?" (By the way, she's a great teacher, and sadly has only been teaching for 4 years- all in DCPS.) I don't want to have to steamroll my conscience just to work here. It's just not worth it to me. I have to get out of DCPS."


  1. Another great post as usual. The other rediculous thing about DCPS, is that there is no curriculum so everyone is teaching something different. If you go online you can find all kind of curriculums for other states but not DC, just a list of standards. You mean in all this time Rhee has been in office this is the best she can do? In fact she got rid of the pacing guides. The only thing I can really think is that she is not really serious about helping teacher or students. Just like an abusive situation, lots of manipulation and crazy talk to make you think it is all your fault, and the witholding of resources.

  2. Actually, we do have a curriculum - Houghton Mifflin for Reading and Everyday Math for mathematics. However, since none of the DCBAS and CAS questions in math are aligned with the pacing of EM it doesn't make sense to use that curriculum to teach math (unless you want your students to fail on the math portion of CAS). Many teachers decide to forego the HM Reading program for one of their own, as long as it aligns with the standards. In terms of EM, what is so ludicrous is that it is a spiraling curriculum and not meant to be taught out of sequence - which means that teachers must make a decision about abandoning EM as part of the curriculum because many of the questions on the BAS/CAS tests deal with math that comes later in the book - units usually not covered until after the testing period.

    Great Post, by the way. I think you are absolutely right on the money about BWS in relation to DCPS teachers.


  4. Very insightful - I hope a lot of people read this.

    really discouraging to hear about the grade inflation -- it has nothing to do with student learning and is all about making adults look good - the opposite of what reform is supposed to do.

  5. Excellent post.. I am a new DCPS science teacher and I completely agree with everything you and the anonymous said. I made the decision to leave DCPS on the day before Veteran's Day. I have been job hunting in other districts. Although I came to k12 through an alternative teaching program, I have experience but never pursued certification. DCPS is a joke ( a sad one), new teacher support is nonexistent. I try my best everyday but I came to the realization that I want to teach not parent. My DCPS job is that of a full-time parent and an occasional teacher. Grade inflation is my biggest pet peeve. At least 75% of the students in my current grade is NOT prepared for high school- basic and sub-skills required for science are non-existent. Yes, I gave many D's last semester and that was true generosity on my part.. Further troubling is only ONE parent even bothered to contact me about the grades. I cannot hold my kids to a high expectation because even when they never try they are rewarded by Capital Gains and other incentive programs. Most teachers even add to it further by bribing kids with candy and other goodies simply because the ME etc may show up for IMPACT and they don't want negative scores etc. In ten years, this "education reform" will blow up in America when the ever increasing underclass of today's children wreak havoc.

  6. Anonymous at 2:11AM - How are you doing on your IMPACT evaluations? I ask because I wonder about the relationship between using the required teaching techniques and attaining improved student achievement.

    I wonder how teachers will be dealt with at the end of the year if their IMPACT scores are high, but their students’ DC-CAS scores are low – or vice versa. If student achievement is the goal, what does it matter how it happens?

  7. To Reflective Educator and others reading here -this post and another post from Filthy Teaching are linked to in a guest blog I wrote for: http://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/

    Take a look - it just went up and relates pretty well, I think, to the sentiments here.

    In fact, when I came here last night to find the correct link, I was pleased to see this latest post about abused teachers.

    Well, not pleased, exactly, because I wish none of this were happening. But as long as it is, It's good that it's getting exposed.

    1. Thank you for your understanding. It is happening all over the US and is more common than one would ever think. Please help pass the word of this horrendous practice used by principals and other administrators to help teachers "implode" and quit by using illegal tactics.

      Google the NAPTA website (National Association for the Prevention of Teacher Abuse). Karen Horwiz is the President/ CEO of this organization in Chicago and she is an advocate for teachers who need help with being treated illegally be administrators. She wrote the book, "White Collar Chalk Crime; The REAL Reason Schools Fail" It is a great book and one can find excerpts of the book on the NAPTA website. The reason this problem isn't discussed is that it is embarrassing, and teachers are afraid of retaliation by their districts. Principals and other administrators can "get away" with mistreatment of teachers, because no one is standing up for themselves. It has happened to me and I don't want ANY teacher to have to go through the hell I have been through for the past 6+ years. I am a senior, tenure teacher with 28+ years of experience. The district has destroyed my life and I pray that by exposing these tactics, principals and administrators will be held accountable for these illegal actions against teachers, SOON!

  8. First, your comparison is specious, and I think many abused women would agree.

    Second, at the risk of "blaming the victim" charges (in 3...2...1...), I have to ask, if a person's job at one school or in one district is truly that bad, why stay? Why not leave? Why not accept the conclusion that this is not working out and resign? You know, like you did. Just as someone is not tied forever to an abusive partner, neither is one tied forever to a job.

    Lastly, many years ago I was in an abusive relationship (which is why I find your argument specious) and that's what I did: I left.

    1. Out of respect to the previous writer, I need to clarify a few things. Some people can't afford to leave their district. Teachers moving from one district to another do not get to carry all of their years of senority with them to the new district. After teaching for 28+ years and then get harassed, it is hard to move districts, especially when the closest district is over 50 miles away. Moving districts now, with only 4 years until retirement, would not help me financially. Districts are harassing those of us at the top of the pay scale because we are making more than they can afford. It is all about politics and school board budgets! By harassing as many tenured teachers at the top of the salary schedule, they hope it will cause the teacher to eventually "implode" and quit. Since I have had a spotless personnel record and have been a leader in the school and mentor for other teachers, I know I have not done anything wrong to have the school district turn my life upside down and my health even worse. I haven't quit the fight. I will keep on fighting because I do not want this to ever happen to anyone else! Please Google NAPTA website.

  9. to anon at 1:04 - for some people it's not as easy to leave as it was for you. Please don't assume everyone is alike and should and could react just as you did. Also, many teachers do plan to leave, at the end of the year.

  10. Anonymous at 1:04:

    Of course, you are correct. The abused person SHOULD leave and I congratulate you for having the courage to do the right thing in your particular situation. However, many people caught up in domestic abuse think that it's their fault or else they feel they can't leave for one reason or the other. That's why Battered Women's Syndrome is so destructive.

    In regard to teaching, I thought of the connection to BWS a long time ago. Most teachers are women and many of them have qualities that make them good teachers but not good protectors of self. To be more specific, many of these kind, non-assertive souls just don't want to get anyone in trouble. Many, like the typical battered woman, think that they brought on the harassment or abuse from the parent or administrator. Many are just afraid to "make waves."

    While I was teaching, it drove me crazy to see the abuse that many teachers accepted as their due. When one parent threatened me, I went to the kindergarten teacher to ask about him. She said, "Oh, he screamed at me the whole year." When I asked her why she didn't report it, she just shrugged. Interestingly she was part of a very prominent family so her complaints probably would have been taken seriously. As I've mentioned before on this blog, I DID press charges against the man and he was arrested. The principal was transferred to another school because he attempted to place the blame on me.

    Getting back to DC, yes, if the teacher feels harassed to the point of illness, she should resign, but many are not able to do that at this time. As I've suggested before, the teacher should complain to every official until someone listens. Because the Washington Teacher's Union seems too weak to help, I hope teachers will appeal to the larger association for support. Also, since the present practice of teacher-bashing is related mostly to women, I wonder if some national women's groups will come to the aide of DC teachers. It's worth a try.

  11. efavorite said...

    Anonymous at 2:11AM - How are you doing on your IMPACT evaluations? I ask because I wonder about the relationship between using the required teaching techniques and attaining improved student achievement.

    My impact scores varied a great deal.... Internal evaluation was very high whereas external stated that I was ineffective teacher. External felt that I did not provide enough treats/incentives for students therefore they did not buy-in to my message. The kids were generally well-behave during the visit but evaluator felt that they did not "love me" enough to do all the task etc. Furthermore several of the student have behavioral interventions plans that permit them to behave in certain ways in the class.. this information the evaluator felt had no bearing and could not be considered in the IMPACT score. On the other hand the internal evaluator know the kids with the issue so certain behaviors were ignored by the internal quads.

  12. Anon 2:11- I also teach science and I found the ME to be pretty inflexible in the face of information contrary to her 30-min snapshot. Case in point: I recieved a 1 in one category (the rest 3s or 4s), and I asked why. Her response was that I should have recorded a certain piece of information in order to raise my score in that category. In fact, I DID record exactly what she suggested, and I went to my desk to show her the document. However, since she didn't see it the first time (apparently my bad for writing on a clipboard and not disclosing my every thought to her while she was observing), it apparently doesn't count. Score stayed as it was, bringing down what would have otherwise been around a 3.5 to 2.9. (Full disclosure: 2 other admin observations have been in the mid 3s, have not had 2nd ME observation).

    Before that post-observation interview, I was ambivalent about IMPACT- some good ideas, but its efficacy would depend on how it was implemented. Well, my experience cemented my view that the implementation kills it-apparently it's not at all growth-focused; it's a "gotcha" game trying to catch us at our worst.

    As a side note, I was under the impression that MEs had to take into account IEPs and other accomodations. Apparently not. How dare we honor binding legal documents if it means deviating in the slightest from Kamras' view of WHAT ALL EXCELLENT TEACHERS MUST DO EVERYDAY IN THE FIRST 30 MINUTES OF EVERY CLASS NO MATTER WHAT.

  13. Speaking of incentives, have you seen this? If you feel victimized by Rhee/Kamras/IMPACT or if you're just an Office fan, I think you'll enjoy.


  14. Anon at 2:11 and 10:33 - Thanks. Sounds like IMPACT only accounts for its snapshot of effective/ineffective teaching and not for teacher good days/bad days or for evaluator good observations/bad observations. This simplifies data gathering and analysis, to be sure, but it doesn't really address good teaching or good learning.

  15. ANon at 10:33- Was Leidiene King your science evaluator?

  16. This is 10:50 Anon- she was my evaluator.

  17. I also "inflate" grades. By inflate I don't mean that I make them up arbitrarily but I do grade on a curve. Not only because I'm forced (although I am, of course) but also because of the 85 kids I teach every day. With all of us "teaching the test" in some form or fashion to hold on to our jobs, there is no way that the students are getting the well rounded education that they should be receiving. I see no point in holding them to a standard that we don't hold ourselves too. I also see no point in sticking them with a 2.0 that will limit their prospects for getting accepted into college. I highly doubt that any of my students would be able to go to college without a scholarship. I also highly doubt that their parents have enough money or credit to qualify for the parent plus loans my parents had to take out so that I could afford tuition. Without at least a B average, that makes college impossible for them. With all the other bullshit that they have stacked against them, a C+ turning into a B is the least that I can do.

  18. 6:13 Anon- As the person whose email was quoted in the post, I have to politely disagree with you. With all the bullshit they have stacked against them, inflating their grades is a HUGE disservice.

    So the kids get into college and...flounder, because they never or only partially mastered the skills they were supposed to be taught in high school.

    We should never lower the standard we hold our kids to just because we teach in urban high-need districts. They need the same skills just as much, if not more, than the students from the suburbs, who may have professional mentors or networks to bolster their success in the real world.

    All I want for my kids- and yours- is to be able to grade based on mastery of skills, without stigma or punishment for me or my students if they fail the first (or even second) time around. Yes, it'll probably take more work on their part and ours to get them where they need to be, but lowering the standard we hold them to is NOT the answer.

  19. anon an 7:20 - agree, plus it's just a game to make the DC schools look good at the expense of the kids. All DCPS cares about is high graduation rates and college acceptances. When the kids are out of the system, they're no longer useful as data points, so who cares if they flounder or flunk out of college.

    I think some individual teachers DO care, but as long as they're in a system that encourages them to inflate grades, some of them will find ways to rationalize their actions. And the kids, as usual, come out last, all the while the adults are chanting "Children first."

  20. This is anon 6:13

    I realize that people may disagree with me and that's fine. The fact that NO ONE here is owning up to is that these students are NOT getting the education that they deserve. Period. We can get on here and complain about our jobs all we want. EVERYONE knows that the students are suffering more than all of us. And unlike all of us they neither have advanced degrees nor the option of going to a better school where they can escape the dysfunction. The kids are the ones that are being shortchanged and abused by a system that is failing them everyday. All of the residency programs, micro-management of teachers, ineffective leaders, asshole Chancellors, standardized testing, AYP's etc. have yet to solve that problem. I work in a warzone that is much more like DC Central Detention Facility than Sidwell Friends. If you all are going to pretend that the kids at those two schools are getting the same educations that's fine. I'm a realist. We ALL know that they are not! Keeping them in a bullshit class for two years won't change that fact but it will ensure that you lock them out of the only hope that they have for improving their lives.

    I work hard to give my kids the skills that they need. I meet with the ones who show up before school, on my lunch break, after school and on Saturdays at the public library. Unfortunately, by the time they get to me they are often so far behind that all of my efforts may get them from their 6th grade skills to 9th grade proficiency but rarely to the 11th grade skills they are supposed to possess. So, I give them all of the skills that I can in ten short months and teach them study methods to enhance the skills that need further development. I refer them to free tutoring services/ programs and make myself available for extra help even after they leave my class. But keeping them in 11th grade for two or three years doesn't help them. It limits their future options. Repeating a course several times or getting bad grades will ensure that they don't make it through the college admissions door. A B will allow them inside with a scholarship. Once they get there they can take advantage of the tutoring services and further enhance the skills that they have. Denying these kids the opportunity to go to college is tantamount to preparing them for prison. Oh, wait, that's what DCPS does anyway! In that case, job well done!

  21. Grade inflation is real. I got called on the carpet about giving students "D" by principal. Never mind the school has no grading policy but for some parents Ds are unacceptable whether the kids know the material or complete work. Ds bothersadmins because they feel the student is not making gains = bad teaching and/or parents called them/Rhee to complain. Rarely is the subject of whether the grades are indicative of students quality of work. I think this maybe why students CAS/BAS scores do not align with the class grades for so many students at my schoool. A's on reports cards but can barely make basic CAS/BAS

  22. 6:13 Anon on grade inflation- this is 7:20 Anon. I just wanted to say that I never meant in my post for you to think that I feel you don't care about your kids. It's clear that you do. I care about mine, too. Since I teach middle school rather than high school, my school has less of that prison-type environment, but we do have some children who can at best be described as "thugs," who try to bully, intimidate, and abuse students and teachers alike, so I can understand where you're coming from.

    Where I think you're misinterpreting my post is this: You shouldn't have to be teaching 6th grade math to 11th graders, because they shouldn't be asked to do 11th grade math until they've mastered 6th grade math. As your post so clearly indicates- grade inflation for these kids just makes them someone else's problem next year. We (and by we, I mean adults with decision-making powers, and we all know we as teachers have very little of that) owe it to the kids to make them learn and master the base concept before we move on to the next concept. We should allow children to "not get it" without stigma and work until they do. We should allow children who do get it to move on and on and on to whatever concepts keep them challenged. If that means a 12 year old is working on "4th grade" math, and "10th grade" reading/language arts, so be it. Bottom line: You as an 11th grade teacher should be expected to teach only students who have mastered the first 10 grades (plus K). To ask you or them to do otherwise is unfair to them and to you.

    Grade inflation continues the ineffective status quo. Nixing age-based "grades" and requiring true mastery and devoting time, personnel, and resources to remediation/enrichment for students who need it would be a huge but badly needed structural change for schools. In my opinion, it is the only way education is truly going to succeed for EVERY child.

    As an aside- I worked for a time with incoming college freshman at a highly-ranked state school. The kids you're "getting in the door" do flounder. In a big way. They often take advantage of tutoring resources, but the real damage is when they wonder why their classmates (who often look different and come from different neighborhoods) got Bs and are doing fine with college-level work, while they got Bs and can't keep up. It's really insidious.

  23. anon 802 and 1212 - what comes through from your recent posts, (aside from the fact that you both seem to be dedicated teachers) is that you've both identified and individually taken on an insurmountable task.

    It's like trying to defend your little, well tended farm from an encroaching army. Your intentions are noble but your efforts are doomed to failure. You simply can’t do it alone. After the army runs through, there might, just might, be a couple of sprouts that haven’t been crushed, and you might still be alive too, but you’ll be terribly wounded.

    Now to keep up this sad analogy a little longer – who exactly is in that army? It’s poverty, drugs, lead poisoning, single-parenting, crime, etc., etc. You always knew you were fighting against those enemies. Now look a little closer -- It’s also the farm bureau, i.e., DCPS administration – the very organization that’s responsible for protecting you and your delicate sprouts and helping them to thrive and grow. The administration knows, or should know, exactly what you’re up against, but instead of trying to help as they are charged to do they are fighting against you. They have betrayed you.

  24. Unlike many of you, I was struck during my time in DCPS by the large numer of teachers who, contrary to BWS, had a sense of entitlement, that the system "owed" them more money and less time on-tasking actually teaching. Some of the most instructionally ineffective and often verbally ausive teachers I encountered would complain repeatedly that they had friends in X, Y or Z business/private sector who earned so much more money. In particular, I worked with two Title I kindergarten teachers in a Shaw neighborhood school, both 10+ year veterans:80% or more of the students of teacher A left kindergarten at or above kindergarten reading level. Teacher B had every reason in the book why her students: same demographic subgroups, same mateials- were hopelessly unable to learn to read. Guess which teacher complained and complained? I wanted to shout, But THEY have skills at something; YOU have none. Sadly I saw many more "B" teachers than "A" teachers. I think it's also important to acknowledge that there IS a problem with ineffective teachers in DCPS and not always blame the system for making them that way or causing them post-traumatic stress.

  25. Yes, Anon 906- the problem you describe is well known, is terrible for kids and should be handled by changing or getting rid of teachers like that. No one questions that except perhaps the "bad" teachers themselves.

    It is also completely unrelated to the issues being discussed here- which is that the system set up to change things is letting down teachers and students in a big way. The system set up to improve things is instead making it difficult if not impossible for good teachers to help students.

  26. I don't know who else to ask. I know a student who used to go to my school who is now ready for high school. Her parents are Central American immigrants, illiterate in Spanish, but decent and hard-working. This girl is so smart, totally English dominant and a good student. The family moved to MD but are now back in DC and the mother wants her to go to either Roosevelt or Cardozo, as those schools are closer to the house. She doesn't want to spend on bus fare. Though CHEC is one hot mess, isn't it a better choice, as it prepares students for college, looks out for them and advocates for immigrant families more than other places? What do you think, despite your awful experience there?

  27. A Question 4 U: Please e-mail me at TheReflectiveEducator@gmail.com. I have a strong opinion on this, but really can't post it on here.

  28. I'm sorry to say this, but grade inflation is a reality in the US everywhere. It's only going to set us up to produce future generations of mediocre students who can't compete with other cultures and countries that are truly pushing their kids.

    Our "feel good" educational system has created a society of awarding 11th place ribbons to kids who have lost a sense of competition, drive, and desire to do better... If everyone wins, why bother competing? We all lose in the end!

    We have gotten to a point where MOST of the accountability is placed on teachers. Teachers can't fail or hold back students because it will make them, the school, or parents look bad. BS! No honor classes and no tracking! BS! Everyone should be equal and teachers need to use the magical strategy of differentiation to make sure that all grade levels in their classes are met regardless of if that means teaching between 3,4,5, and up to 10 grade levels difference. BS!

    Our educational system needs a serious reform and that starts simply with putting more accountability where it belongs... the STUDENTS that are being educated. If that doesn't happen, then we are all just not being honest with ourselves and will always continue to "grade inflate"!

  29. I teach in a truly middle class high school in Montgomery County. Grade inflation is out of control here too! In MCPS, we're no longer allowed to give zeros, even if the assignment wasn't turned in. Thats right, students get at least 50% on everything!!! I used to teach in an upper middle class school and the problem was just as bad. Students everywhere are learning to play the system.

  30. happens in Australia as well.

    i know teachers in 2 different schools who were reprimanded or at least 'corrected' (ie called in and asked to rework the grades) for not distributing their grades according to a predefined expectation of what was acceptable to the principal etc.

    this was primary (elementary) schools - one a high profile, expensive, leading edge, model school etc - in the state system - so big pressure on the school leadership to have the data moving in the right direction

    demoralising for teachers who know the kids and the standards and have their professional judgment undermined by the politics of the place like this; and also passes the problem on to the next year - since the incoming base line is already unrealistically high; next teacher can either correct that (at the cost of appearing to not move them on) or continue the trend

  31. A very good book to read is "When Teachers Talk" by Rosalyn Schnall. It helped me understand what was negatively affecting student outcomes!