A 15- year teacher at Montclair High, one of the most unassuming, well-liked and popular teachers at the high school said to me the other day: "It is so sad watching the destruction of a once proud and venerable institution." She is speaking from her heart. The school and the district have lost their way. Those in the school reform (aka "destruction") movement state that this is nonsense; they are just ensuring accountability and quality through measurable rubrics which use data to inform decisions and analyze performance. That is all well and good, but rubrics are meaningless without a soul. They are just one more pseudo-scientific method for achieving the real goals: killing everything good about public schools. The desire is to get rid of every experienced, thoughtful teacher and administrator and replace them with compliant, cheap and willing newcomers who do not know what it is like to be treated with respect. The desire is to leave every public school as a rotting carcass after every student of quality has moved to charter schools and private schools funded by vouchers. The desire is to insure that there is an underclass who do not graduate from high school who exist to keep labor costs and demand for workers low due to long term structural unemployment..
The discussion and emphasis on the quarterly assessments is a red herring. So we went from two to four assessments. So what? It is not that we are using assessments to evaluate student and teacher performance. It is that our leaders are placing pretending that there is some magical and mythical value to these assessments other than a rough guide to better teaching and learning. They have become an end in and of themselves. There is the danger! There is mistaken belief that we should be bowing to the god of testing.
Penny MacCormack has come in with a playbook and has played the Board and the teachers and the students. She has convinced the willing that we are a failing school in need of a top to bottom restructuring. She has torn the heart out of the school system, leaving a tomb in its place. Montclair has become a soul-less, inhumane place where fear and intimidation have replaced concern and support. Quality instructors and administrators are being removed from the schools to Central Support. There is more and more money for consultants and micro-managers, yet less and less for education. Everyone needs to do more, the corporate model says. Everyone is replaceable by younger, more enthusiastic and non-union workers.
The results are frightening. Quality leaders and teachers are leaving. Teachers are closing their doors, hiding in their classroom fortresses. Everyone has an exit plan. The schools feel like morgues, with every discussion revolving around in a world where compliance and loyalty trump excellence.
My own story: After 22 years as a leader respected and valued by the community, I was stripped of all authority and given more responsibility than any one person could possibly handle: the entire schedule for 2000 students, all testing, the entire 504 process, running the guidance web site, handling NCAA compliance, over-seeing the AP Audit process, processing College Board accommodation requests, handling Skyward technical issues, and on and on. The superintendent spent $28,000 on and scheduling consultant without ever speaking with me about the scheduling process. She put guidance in the high school as one of her highest priorities for improvement but never once spoke to me. Not about guidance, not about anything. She has never spent one second getting a sense of the culture or the schools or community.
The super came up with this brilliant plan: offer teachers $1000 to teach courses over 24 students (without providing enough teachers to make this remotely possible) and depend on her view of the greed of teachers to brand them as enemies of education. Guess what? They all wanted the smaller classes instead of the money. Another failed insincere, manipulative attempt down the drain.
- ▼ October (9)