Fayette County parent Kim Learnard set off a firestorm last year with her piece criticizing the new math. Now, she has sent me a great piece she’s written about the CRCT investigation and what she considers the misguided spotlight on teachers at a time when teachers need more support than ever. She’s a talented writer who does not pull any punches. Enjoy.
By Kim Learnard
If Georgia wants real learning to take place in classrooms, then we will support our teachers more and our administrators less. When it comes to learning, nothing is more critical than the student-teacher relationship in the classroom.
Yet, Georgia’s educational culture places administrators at the pinnacle of education and devalues our single most valuable educational resource, our teachers.
Georgia boasts some of the best teacher education programs in the nation with qualified graduates emerging from excellent programs at UGA, Kennesaw, GSCU, Mercer and many more schools. Our well-educated, eager teachers find their way into Georgia classrooms and discover a dismal pay scale; furlough days; a statewide culture in which they rank at the bottom; and, hardly surprising under the circumstances, pervasive low morale.
Georgia fosters a top-heavy organizational structure that prioritizes administrators. Here in Fayette County (our state school superintendent’s home county) teachers have sustained a pay cut of 4.5 percent and taken three furlough days, with more sacrifices to come. At the same time, our county superintendent received a pay increase of 10 percent to more than $220,000 per year, plus benefits of which most working people in America can only dream.
We have 13 county administrators enjoying an annual salary of over $100,000 with no reductions in sight. How’s your workplace morale? Ask your child’s teacher that question. Then ponder what that means to your child’s learning in the classroom.
We have high level administrators to thank for Connected Math, a fuzzy math curriculum that still shows no evidence of success nearly five years after implementation. We have high level state administrators to thank for a mantra of “rigorous testing” with little substance to back it in the classroom. We have administrators to thank for CRCT tests that are so disconnected from the curricula that entire subject matter tests have had to be discarded, at tremendous cost.
We operate under the misguided notion that teachers are not trustworthy (but administrators are). State tests must be proctored by teachers who are then forbidden from looking at their students’ tests. One look at a completed test and a teacher can be accused of cheating, or worse. Our Legislature is actually discussing criminalizing teachers for such an act. This is a travesty.
We should be asking teachers to not only proctor state tests, but to review completed tests in peer groups in order to understand where both curricula and teaching methods could be improved. This information should then be shared with top level administrators, with the expectation that appropriate adjustments will be made statewide. Administrators should be taking their cues from teachers, not the other way around.
Georgia is now launching formal investigations into a statewide CRCT test cheating scandal. Using what resources? Shouldn’t these resources be spent educating our children? For the cost of an investigation, we could be funding education programs, improving teacher salaries, and assuring appropriate pay for the National Board Certified teachers who so richly deserve it.
Amid the wreckage, one small light flashed through the Georgia Legislature last week. Representative Ed Rynders (R-Albany) introduced a bill that bars school systems from using state funds to raise administrators’ pay at a time when the systems are furloughing teachers. This is the first step in the right direction –- let’s hope it is not the last.
The latest scandal is yet another in a mounting pile of evidence of Georgia’s misplaced priorities. Administrators do not impart knowledge in our students; teachers do. This is a clarion call for the immediate resignation of our state superintendent of schools; a paradigm shift to a teacher-centered educational system; and a culture of real learning for Georgia students.