After four years, district and school administration finally made the teaching staff aware that our school is on year four of a five-year state turnaround plan.

Yes, as a staff we were aware our students had needs.
Yes, as a staff we knew we needed to improve student achievement.
Did we, before this month, know the full extent of the severity of the situation? No.
Did we know we might be forced into charter status by the state at the end of the 2013-2014 school year? No.

So now what?

Let me start by saying that I missed essentially the whole first semester of this school year because I was on maternity leave. I came back to a general kerfuffle of craziness and panic.

However, before I left for leave, the district started the 2012-2013 school year not only with a new principal at my high school, but also with entirely new district administration - Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, on down the line. It was literally a shakedown; if any of the alphabet soup people in the administration building didn't agree with the new Supe's ideas and philosophies, they had to go.

Also at the beginning of the current school year, the district admin adopted a "hands-off" approach to the schools - individual principals in individual buildings could run things (data, professional development, etc.) however they liked.

Cue the black hole that is time on maternity leave, and fast forward to January/February, where the proverbial you-know-what hit - and still is hitting - the fan.

  • We found out (the truth) about the turnaround status, both for the high school and the district as a whole (district is currently on year three).
  • We found out that buildings - and the administrators and teachers in them - would be held accountable by the district for using an online curriculum and data management system to track and manage student data. Immediately. Oh but nobody in the district has received training on said system.
  • We found out that the Superintendent and Deputy Supe were holding fairly regular meetings with the Commissioner of Education in order to determine best practices for our turnaround plan.
  • We found out that we all - administrators and teachers alike - might have to reapply for our own jobs.
Bear in mind that all of this is happening while, at least in the high school,
  • The building administration has provided no professional development. All year.
  • The Deputy Supe has now held meetings with the Math and Science Departments and told them, in essence, that if the students' scores on the TCAP failed to improve, it is their fault. Bear in mind the bullet point above, and the bullet point to follow.
  • The district and high school administration have not provided ANY resources for preparing students for said assessments. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. They left the development and planning of strategies up to department chairs but did not provide us with resources - or time - to develop or plan them.
  • At a recent meeting in which the union attempted to convey the severity of the situation, they informed members they will offer resume-writing classes.
  • All of this is happening while we are still in transition from the old CO state standards to the new Common Core standards, which required an entire rewrite of curriculum of ALL grade levels for all core classes - more of a state of flux.
  • The Superintendent, upon addressing the high school staff following the previously mentioned meeting, forgot the third option after saying that the first two options were to
                      1) Fire all staff and have them reapply, or
                      2) Fire half the staff and have them reapply.
So, like I said, now what? Or wait, more to the point, what the hell (really, something even stronger, but I want to try to remain appropriate)?!

How could the district have failed to notify the teaching staff of just how bad things were? The current Superintendent was very quick to point out at the meeting that all of the poor performance happened before he stepped into the picture, and he's attempting to set things right, but what good does that do us? Thanks for pointing out that, yep, you guessed it, it's the teachers' fault?

How is it even remotely ethical that a district could keep a whole school full of teachers in the dark about something so, well, huge?

And don't even get me started on the root causes of poor performance on standardized tests...

And so, here I am, here we all are in this building...turned around. I'll end with a quote of my brother's, whose play I happen to currently be teaching to my senior level IB students, and who always has a way of summing up exactly how I feel:

Our wills and fates do so contrary run
That our devices still are overthrown;
Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own.
                     (Hamlet, III.iii.208)
Thanks for reading.

Originally posted to Shakespeares Sister on Wed Feb 20, 2013 at 12:36 PM PST.

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