.

Chamblee Teachers Write to State Superintendent about Wasted Teaching Time

Teachers across Georgia are frustrated about what they perceive as 20 instructional days wasted to implement new Student Learning Objectives or "Slows" as teachers call them.

Teachers throughout Georgia are frustrated that they have to spend about 20 instructional days throughout the school year implementing Student Learning Objective tests, which are part of the Teacher Keys Effectiveness Systems initiated this year by volunteer and Race to the Top districts.

The Georgia Department of Education issued a statement to Maureen Downey of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's "Get Schooled" blog. The statement included, "SLO assessments are designed to provide educators with high quality, actionable feedback on their work to effectively and positively impact student learning and growth. Knowing how individual students grow over the duration of a course, teachers are able to adjust instruction to meet the needs of students and increase learning." The full GA DoE response can be found here.

In response, a group of teachers from Chamblee High School issued the following letter addressed to the Georgia State School Superintendent John Barge:

Dear Superintendent Barge,

As teachers dedicated to our mission of educating young people, we have grave concerns about the current plans for the SLO tests. As currently structured and implemented, we are unwilling to administer the SLO tests for the following reasons:

1. The pre-test takes valuable class time away from learning, for a test that the students know they will do poorly on, and that they have no reason to even try to do well on.

2. Since the tests have not been prepared in a timely manner, we can not pretend we are administrating a test of “pre-knowledge” when students have been learning for over a month.

3. Since teachers will be evaluated on improvement, teachers also have no interest in the students performing well on the pre-test. Wishing for our students to do poorly runs counter to our ethical and professional standards. We refuse to bet against our students.

4. The students have no reason to do well on the post-test, given that it is not part of their grade or any other sort of personal evaluation. Again, teachers will be evaluated on a test for which the students have little or no motivation.

There are also many practical difficulties with current plans to administer the SLO tests.

5. The tests require an unreasonable amount of teacher time spent on printing, grading and scanning. For one teacher with 160 students, some tests require more than 700 pages to be printed, graded, and scanned. Every teacher in the system with tests is going to have to find the time, find the resources, and learn to administer tests and record the grades under a regimen that will be going away after one use, if we understand correctly. SLOs require an enormous outlay of material resources (paper, toner, equipment usage) that we simply do not have, and of teacher time that could be better spent helping to our students.

6. The short answer portions of the SLOs require teachers to grade subjectively, even with the provided rubric. Teachers will be inclined to grade for the benefit of the teacher rather than for the student. Grading for learning will not occur on the SLOs. Further, if our job performance is to be judged on test grades, it is illogical to do any form of subjective grading.

7. While we understand that test integrity is incredibly important, current plans are ridiculously onerous for teachers and administrators. For a test on which the students have no incentive to cheat, and one where the students will already have seen the questions when they come to take the post-test, the labor involved seems unnecessary and wasteful.

As teachers, we must believe that classroom activities and content add value to our students’ learning, as well as to their futures. We believe the SLO tests as they currently exist do not meet this ethical and professional standard. With increased class sizes, reduced support staff, and reduced administrative staff, teachers’ work loads have grown significantly. All teacher work time must be efficiently utilized and contribute directly to student success. Administering the SLOs, which are only intended to measure the teacher’s effectiveness, directly conflicts with the teacher’s need to only accomplish value-added teaching tasks.

The more time spent by teachers on measuring their own effectiveness, the less effective the teachers become. We have no fear of being evaluated. But a fair evaluation system should be embedded in the system without becoming an additional burden to the system.

Cordially,

Chamblee Charter High School teachers James Demer, Andrew Milne, Shervette Miller, Deann Peterson, and Amy Branca. In addition, this letter is supported by more than 50 additional Chamblee teachers.

Ed Uktr October 01, 2012 at 12:34 PM
The Get Schooled blog isn't representative of what teachers think. It's a tool used by the teachers' union and media advocates to fight against reforms like charter schools and parental choice -- that threaten the status quo. Many of the comments on the blog in fact appear to come from a few strident union types using multiple aliases. But they are fighting a losing battle. Decades of mediocre test results are leading parents and taxpayers to demand MORE rather than less reform -- including classroom innovations which only charter schools can provide. Popular movies like WAITING FOR SUPERMAN and the just released WON'T BACK DOWN are spreading the word that failing schools are not something parents must simply endure.
Paula October 01, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Dear Ed, step away from the computer. There are no teacher unions in Georgia. btw, "Won't Back Down" may have just won the award for the worst opening weekend in movie history. It was backed and financed by private education companies that want a piece of the financial pie that charter schools will bring.
Ed Uktr October 01, 2012 at 01:46 PM
All members of Georgia Association of Educators are also members of the National Education Association: a union. In fact, this costs them an extra $168 yearly. Paula knows this but hopes you don't. Readers can do a Google search on "NEA" and "union" to see the NEA website page which proudly states their union status. By searching on "NEA" and "donations" you can also see how your money is spent -- supporting Democrats and liberal-left causes.
bill October 01, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Ed, you sound like you might be the only person who paid to see that teacher-bashing propaganda. Did you even read the letter? Charter school teachers are trying to reform inept administrative practices that hurt students and education (oops, they didn't mention the need for more ukuleles.) With all of the other cuts and senseless, obscure priorities dumped on our schools, the obsession Georgia has with expensive, unneeded testing designed to hurt teachers and corrupt education is ruining what little chance students have left to learn in our schools. Maybe that's the purpose of the added testing, and maybe we all should be fighting back and defending education. When unionless Georgia teachers are brave enough to make a stand, the state finally went too far. Maybe that's who we need to reform.
bill October 01, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Sorry, Ed, associations aren't unions.
L.Ford October 01, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Some of the "points" made in this letter from "teachers" make me shudder!!! In point 1) "a test the students know they will do poorly on"... Says who, this is a ridiculous assumption. This is a placement test to determine a "starting point". This is not something the kids can fail!! And it is THE JOB of the teachers to present it to the students this way!! 3)"Since teachers will be evaluated on improvement, teachers also have no interest in the students performing well".... What teacher would EVER think this way!! I don't want this kind of teacher teaching my child!! Surely every teacher expects their students to make improvements of the course of a year! If not, then we need new teachers, and if the child does improve, then the teacher WILL have a good rating! 4)"The students have no reason to do well on the post-test"... Sure they do! Every test laid out before each of us is a reason to do our very best and prove to ourselves how much we can achieve!!! This is the way every teacher should explain this to our students! I agree we don't want this process to take away too much teaching time and it should be made as streamline as possible, but the purpose is a good one!
Ed Uktr October 01, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Bill, do the Google search.
Eddie E. October 01, 2012 at 09:37 PM
Ed, You are splitting hairs with the 'union' argument (I know it is a big deal on talk radio) but there are NO TEACHERS UNIONS in Georgia. Here, tell me, what 'contracts' are negotiated by the 'union' in what school systems in the State of Georgia?
Eddie E. October 01, 2012 at 09:41 PM
l.ford, Having spent many years talking with and listening to the teachers who wrote the letter, I would suggest you take a moment and get to know them. The wasteful SLO time is just the latest in ridiculous and inappropriate expense of teachers time following the inaccurate pretense that test preparation companies know best. When this state is willing to fund the reduced class sizes promised 20 years ago, and we are all able to see the real, measurable improvements that follow, we will all wonder why we wasted so much time and money dancing to the tune as proffered by the testing companies.
Ed Uktr October 02, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Eddie, there ARE teachers' unions in Georgia. Both the NEA and AFT have chapters here in Georgia, and both are clearly unions. Says so right on their websites. And both register with the government as labor unions. There is more to unions than militancy in the workplace: fighting against education reform and parental choice here in Georgia, for instance. Also donating to and supporting the Democrat party with members' dues money.
Eddie E. October 02, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Ed, This is just a formality brought about by actions of (I think) the State Board of Education about 8 years ago. None of these organizations represent the Teachers in any collective bargaining or contract activities, therefore they are not 'unions' any more than the Bar of Georgia or the Georgia Medical Association is a union. If they are opposing the nonsense, state funded charter amendment, they are doing the business for which they were hired. Giving taxpayer funds to for profit entities with NO record of improved educational outcome is not promoting better education for our Students. If they are donating to the Democratic Party, they are doing a good thing. The educators involved have done more with nothing and very little parental assistance for longer than you can count. I'm sorry you have been so deluded as to think otherwise.
Decaturette October 02, 2012 at 12:54 PM
Go Chamblee teachers! I like to see articulate teachers with some spunk and courage! Too many teachers feel constrained by the hierarchy above them and are afraid to speak up.
Stephanie Melnik Walters October 03, 2012 at 12:38 AM
I agree, I commend these teachers for speaking up about this issue on behalf of the students. They make a very valid argument.

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »