# An English teacher looks at the new student writing expectations and shrieks in horror. I would, too.

Still waiting for DOE to respond to this note a high school English teacher sent me last week:

I was just given a copy of the GaDOE’s Curriculum Maps for ELA 9-12th grades. I need some help from you before I quit my job and lead the charge for every other high school English teacher to do the same. I have taught for many years, am am good at my job, am an asset to the school at which I teach, and love teaching.

I have rolled with the punches of increased class size, decreased paycheck size and all the other gripe-worthy problems in education. I am not a whiner, a crier (literally or figuratively) or a complainer, but after today, having seen a document that reduced me to tears, I am inspired to leave teaching in the state of Georgia.

Today I saw the CCGPS Curriculum Map. I have provided the link for the 9th Grade ELA CCGPS Map for you.

If I am reading this document correctly, I have four nine- week sections. Fair enough. In each nine-week section I have to tackle one major piece of literature and seven small pieces of literature, easily done, and honestly probably a low number.

Here is the rub. It suggests that my students are to write 4-6 analyses and 1-2 narratives every nine weeks. Let’s do some math. On the low end, I am looking at grading 20 and at the high end 32 process writings a year.

Here is a little Math for you and a little fact about the population I serve. First the fact: If Johnny writes it, his parents will want meaningful feedback written on it or on a rubric and will complain if they don’t get it.

Now for the Math: 20 x 35 (my class sizes this year) = 700 papers per year. 700 x 5 (the number of classes I will teach) =3500. Each paper takes me a minimum of 10 minutes to grade. I will spend 35,000 minute or 583.33 hours or 24.3 days or 72.872 8 hour work days a year grading only students’ written assignments. THIS IS THE LOW END!!!

I would do the Math for 32 papers, but I may have to jump out the window if I do. Also, I get a grand total of 9,900 minutes or 165 hours of planning time. During those times I plan and do everything else teachers are asked to do—I am going to spare you the list that I know you have seen too many times.

I send you this e-mail not in an effort to gripe to you about my woes, but to ask you to help me get to the bottom of this ridiculousness. I get that the more kids write the better writers they become. My kids write often, but not 20-32 full process papers a year. Please help me and every English teacher in the state by getting some clarification on this matter.

The DOE has passed the information to the county curriculum coordinators, and they are going to treat this document as final CCGPS ELA edict from on high. I guess what I am asking you to do is investigate the DOE’s intentions with its ELA curriculum mapping before I grab my pitchfork and torch and storm their great fortress (or at the very least get arrested for indecent exposure)!!!

P.S Ok, so I did the high end math without jumping out of a window: 32 papers a year requires, 933 hours or 116 (8 hour) work days of pro bono grading. What can I say; hyperbole makes me happy!

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

Former DeKalb high school English teacher

April 26th, 2012
5:43 pm

I worked in private industry most of my adult life (mostly in commercial and academic writing and editing) before I gave in to my desire to teach. I loved it. I also loved my students, my colleagues, my principal . . . But I left teaching high school English last year, feeling totally burned out; and I agree with the teacher in Maureen’s article. @tchr, you make some wonderful suggestions, and I also agree with you about the caprice of trends in education–”whole language” (and the exclusion of teaching phonics) was one such disaster. But whether or not the local or state system requires me to teach writing, I believe that we have to teach it–by having students do meaningful written assignments with feedback and a subsequent student rewrites. Unfortunately that translates into more hours than there are in the day.

Now I volunteer, because I miss it so much, and I truly believe in what we do. I see high school students who struggle with written expression, many fo whom tell me that they are rarely assigned writing projects. While I am cautious about believing everything a teenager tells me, I know that there is some truth to their claims–not because teachers are lazy, but because they have lives. While I was teaching, I was never without my shoulderbag of student papers–I took them on family trips, sat up all hours of the night with them (after spending ten or eleven hours at school), and generally allowed my work to become my life. Classroom time is extremely important; but for most of us, it’s only a fraction of what we do. (Don’t get me started on how I spent my “vacations” and all that “free” time.)

Whenever I’m offered my old job back, which is often, it’s hard to say no. Maybe if I were twenty years younger . . . .

Oh, goodie!

April 26th, 2012
5:52 pm

Ashley, I take your comment as an offer to help grade these essays. Let me know when you are free next year. Teacherandmom, great idea! This week alone, I have already clocked in 17 hours of over time. After tomorrow, I will have at the very minimum 25 hours of over time. That number doesn’t even include the several hours I will spend this weekend grading essay test and planning for final exams. I especially would like over time pay during research paper time when I basically don’t see my family for two weeks, logging in 20 hours per weekend for two weekends in a row.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

April 26th, 2012
6:00 pm

teacher&mom:

Me too! Then I can count tomorrow, when I will stay late to tutor a child after school (for free), then remain in the building preparing for a classroom observation by an assessment team on Monday, write my lesson plans for next week, clean my classroom for the visit by entering students on Tuesday (because our janitorial staff has been cut back and only vaccuum these days), then participate in our Parent Pizza night from 6:00 till 8:00 – putting in a 13 hour day.

Ron F.

April 26th, 2012
6:47 pm

@I love teaching: if we get paid by the hour, then do we get an actual lunch break or do we get paid for sitting with our kids? I’d be happy to clock out and go eat real food- even just once a week! If they pay me while I’m sitting with kids, I’d be up to about ten hours daily. Dang, that’d make up for furlough days pretty nicely!

A working woman

April 26th, 2012
7:12 pm

I love teaching says “Apparently a lot of “private sector” workers have time during working hours to post as well, aye? Not all the comments here are from teachers, certainly. Aren’t the private sector workers supposed to be working too?”

…the difference, I love teaching is that we working in the private sector don’t have a blog where we daily complain about our jobs. We also don’t have a paid AJC journalist encouraging us to air our grievances to everyone in the world.

You have to realize that the very people you want support from are the very people you are turning off by your constant complaining about how everything and everyone is unfair to you and that you are overworked and underpaid. So are we.

Formerteacher

April 26th, 2012
7:26 pm

Ron F.- my point exactly, even if I didn’t actually say it. Goes along with the earlier comment about privates schools not having these same issues. Both situations- corporate America and private schools- can choose who they deal with. Public schools can’t and they are expected to, as you said, ” find the magic combination to make them better.” And when they don’t, it’s not the student’s fault for not putting forth any effort- it’s the teacher’s fault for being a “glorified babysitter” as an earlier post put it. Good teachers who care and want to do a good job will eventually leave the profession and it really will be “glorified babysitters” just looking for summer break.

Brandy

April 26th, 2012
7:52 pm

@I Love Teaching, I have similar concerns about CCS for middle school ELA. When I taught in Maryland, we trained (yes, trained, not taught) students to write formulaic BCRs and ECRs in response to prompts (generally related to a text). As long as the students were writing everyday and could plug and chug into the formula, they would score well–appalling grammar to be d*mned. They were NOT becoming effective, competent writers; rather, they were becoming robots who could respond in rote: “restate the question and state your answer; support your answer with evidence from the text; make an inference”. Interestingly, Maryland began dumping this model right after I left. I’ll give you one guess why…

Student test scores went down.

Why? Several factors, including but not limited to:
-boredom
-lack of rigorous instruction due to a highly scripted (and formulaic) curriculum that failed to connect one skill set to another effectively
-no real learning, just rote memorization
-unreasonable expectations on what an student can actually infer due to developmental stage (not to mention due to intrinsic ability or disability)
-a “one-size-fits-all” approach to curricula, instruction, and assessment

I thought this whole concept was an old, rejected model, so I’m very surprised to see it presented as the new “bright and shiny” in the GPS’ CCS materials…Cobb is devising their curriculum plan this summer. Dare I hope for something better than the drivel in the GPS’ plans?

***caveat: Don’t get me wrong, I agree with the concept of a national (rigorous) curriculum AND I value strong standards. However, my concern is focused on the planning, implementation, and assessment end of things. I also question whether the CCS are the BEST possible standards out there, having seen those produced by groups like NCTM.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

April 26th, 2012
8:30 pm

@A working woman “…the difference, I love teaching is that we working in the private sector don’t have a blog where we daily complain about our jobs. ”

Or maybe the difference is you don’t have a blog that is supposed to be about issues that pertain to your profession, but which is constantly hijacked by those outside your profession to attack you, call you lazy and overpaid, and to label you a whiner anytime you dare raise concerns about current events in your profession.

“You have to realize that the very people you want support from are the very people you are turning off by your constant complaining about how everything and everyone is unfair to you and that you are overworked and underpaid. So are we.”

I have many times commented that EVERYONE, public and private sector is currently overworked. I really do not understand the mindset that seems to be, “We are being screwed over, so you should be too!” I would be the first to rally behind any movement in the private sector to offer better working conditions to private sector workers. After all, many teachers have family and friends in the private sector. I do not like to see anyone being exploited or mistreated by management.

For years I listened to people in the private sector make fun of me and my colleagues for working in a field where we got paid so little while they were doing so well. They bought the big houses and new cars, while I saved for 20 years to make a down payment on a fixer upper, and drive a 12 year old compact. And now suddenly, when they are suffering, my small, steady paycheck that they turned their noses up at for years, is suddenly an indication of my greed. I find that more than a little hypocritical.

I complain because too often, what I am being asked to do is affecting my ability to do the best for my students – YOUR CHILDREN – the unique individuals I am trying to educate to be best of my ability! Maybe if some of you would actually listen to what we are trying to tell you, you would understand that many of us are concerned for YOUR CHILDREN and their education! Being told over and over by the parents of children I serve that I am merely an overpaid babysitter, does not really encourage me to put in those 13 hour days!

@Brandy Yes. I am currently working with a team on the CCS standards in math and reading. They are still tweaking their Common Core components even now – revising them in response to input from educators – dealing with weaknesses my team started pointing out within a short time of sitting down to analyze them. So how, I wonder, did they get to the stage of being implemented across several states with these inherent weaknesses, when a dozen elementary teachers can pick up on those weaknesses in a matter of hours? Who wrote these things? Where was the oversight?

STAR teacher

April 26th, 2012
8:49 pm

Listen up Howard Finkelstein: I knew what this job would require of me, how much of my personal time it would take, and that I would never get rich in this profession, but the conditions have deteriorated, the pay is less this year than five years ago, and the work load has grown exponentially while the public, the brass, and the legislature have done nothing other than blame teachers for all the ills that befall our society. Flunk you, Howard. “Thanks for all you don’t do.” And unless you’ve walked a step in my shoes—I doubt you could hack a mile—then don’t tell me how to wear them. I didn’t realize that teaching was an exclusive profession; if you’re so well educated, and so much better educated than I, then feel free to join me as a colleague. We readily accept the bottom of the barrel in this business, but all who enter it are not so low; some of us are the cream that rises to the top. Some of us have big hearts and bigger brains, and we make a big difference in the lives of children reared by the likes of you and worse. (Disclaimer: because I live and work in an affluent area that values education, many, if not most, of my students are reared by quality parents and people; I know that all parents don’t think so little of what we do for their children as people like you clearly do. I also know that at least a few lousy teachers occupy every almost every public school.)

By the way: I don’t only have an education degree, and many of the best in my profession can say the same. I did the time in the education classes and earned a graduate degree in education, but my undergrad degree is in a subject area and my GPA and standardized test scores, and certainly my IQ, may well be higher than yours. Don’t group us all in with the lowest common denominator.

Furthermore, how many college educated professionals must endure constant abuse from above, beside, and below for as little compensation as quality teachers? If you do, then you also must love what you do more than you loathe the conditions in which you do it—as do I, for now. And, in response to your post at 2:12 pm, since you clearly didn’t learn that “you” is singular and “their” is plural, perhaps you could benefit from a few days in my English class. I teach with passion, relevance, a sense of humor, and a tolerance for arrogant ignorance, so maybe I can fill the gaps left in your learning—like how to proofread before publishing.

Brandy

April 26th, 2012
9:08 pm

@I Love Teaching…Thank you for working on such a team! I have the same questions and can only come up with one answer: Someone who wanted to make more money–

-money for new tests, new benchmarks, new test preparation materials and programs
-money for new “aligned” curricula programs
-money for new “aligned” textbooks and materials (just think if every single ELA class is reading Hatchet at the same exact time, how many additional class sets will have to be purchased?)
-money for new PD programs
-money for new curriculum maps–I accidentally came across that offering while looking for aligned grammar lessons…

And so much more. It is sad, really, that the motivating factor is not improving learning, not improving instruction, not improving performance–it is making more money. In fact, I wonder if the entire thing is engineered to fail, since that would provide more opportunities to make money.

Ron F.

April 26th, 2012
9:49 pm

“And now suddenly, when they are suffering, my small, steady paycheck that they turned their noses up at for years, is suddenly an indication of my greed.”

I love teaching: I know what you mean!! Suddenly all my friends are looking at me and my small house that I’m still fixing up after 11 years and wondering where they went wrong!! If it weren’t for the love of the job, I could have been gone numerous times, and the love of it is what keeps me trying to do it no matter what they pay. But there are days…

Brandy: the hidden costs of curriculum shifts, just in terms of man hours spent planning and implementing, are never calculated. The PD money alone will be unreal, especially when systems are facing yet more furlough days next year. My system has six tentatively (and I expect more). A nearby county has already announced TWENTY, with a shortened school year. They were told it’s that or about 50 folks will be cut. Common core doesn’t scare me so much- after all these years teaching, it’s just a repackage of a lot of what we’ve done before. The timing is lousy considering the financial state, but what do we know? We’re just lowly teachers (babysitters) after all, right?

I wonder sometimes if this isn’t a curriculum doomed on purpose. Couple the overload of the curriculum with the natural drop in scores when you implement new curricula in a state trying desperately to change to charter schools and voucher programs…you get a picture that isn’t pretty. Paranoia? Perhaps, but I really think this is part of the agenda to end public education and will end up being part of the “proof” that the free market can do it better. I hope I’m wrong.

STAR teacher

April 26th, 2012
9:56 pm

@Another comment from 1:15 pm

N. GA Teacher

April 26th, 2012
10:28 pm

d

April 26th, 2012
10:41 pm

An awesome article about keeping the politicians out of public education (and heck, if we keep the people who don’t have a clue from telling the people who have spent years preparing for this profession how to do it, we will see results).

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/04/politics-and-education-dont-mix/256303/

Ron F.

April 26th, 2012
11:25 pm

@d: thanks for the link. I especiall like this part from Stephen Krashen:

“Poverty is, in fact, the issue. While American students’ scores on international tests are not as bad as critics say they are, they are even better when we control for the effects of poverty: Middle-class students in well-funded schools, in fact, score at or near the top of world. Our average scores are respectable but unspectacular because…we have such a high percentage of children living in poverty, the highest of all industrialized countries. Only four percent of children in high-scoring Finland, for example, live in poverty. Our rate of poverty is over 21 perecent.”

And therein lies the motivation for so much of the reform movement: get away from the poor kids and leave them with whatever “public” system we can scrounge together.

Ron F.

April 26th, 2012
11:31 pm

And another zinger: “Bureaucracy fails, in part, because it honors leadership as a primary quality over expertise, commits to ideological solutions without identifying and clarifying problems first, and repeats the same reforms over and over while expecting different results: our standards/testing model is more than a century old.”

Bureaucracy, whether public or private, is essentiall the same. We have too many leaders, with no expertise, making the decisions. How does one gain expertise? By DOING the job. And yet those with the expertise are the last ones asked what will work and here lately are the ones pretty much constantly criticized and blamed for everything.

bootney farnsworth

April 27th, 2012
12:22 am

nice to see good mother has a whole new set of names

bootney farnsworth

April 27th, 2012
12:26 am

considering how badly the economy is in the tank, the private sector warriors are being more than alittle selective in their outrages. enron, bear/sterns, GM,K-mart, Leeman brothers,

yeah.

A Working Mother

April 27th, 2012
6:54 am

Catlayd you say “Byte me–then there is “duty” directing traffic, monitoring the lunchroom, putting kids on and off buses, etc.”
Every profession has collateral duties. We just don’t complain about doing them. I put toner in the copier. It’s not my job. I jsut do it and — no one has to ask me to do it.
In addition, parents like me do all the stuff we do at work and then we volunteer at our children’s schools to help teachers do their jobs. I spend at least five hours a week helping my children’s school. No one had to ask me or force me, I volunteer and I don’t complain. We parents genuinely wish teachers would do the same.

teacher&mom

April 27th, 2012
6:58 am

@Maureen:

“A nearby county has already announced TWENTY, with a shortened school year.”

Any chance the AJC or SOMEONE could take a county-by-county survey to get a better picture of how each system is dealing with the budget?

Look at # of school days & furloughs
# of positions cut (include RIF and positions that were not filled after retirements)
actual \$ amount that is spent on the classroom
transportation (I’ve heard systems are cutting their bus fleet and using a rotating schedule)
delaying or cutting textbook & library purchases
delaying or cutting technology & equipment purchases/replacements

I believe the taxpayers deserve, and would appreciate, a global perspective on how the austerity cuts have impacted ALL systems in GA….not just the metro area.

teacher&mom

April 27th, 2012
7:02 am

@bootney: Interesting they turn all that anger toward teachers and barely whimper at the mess created by Wall St.

Of course those in power deliberately manipulate the masses to make sure their attention is diverted from the real issues.

And the masses do not disappoint…..

Just another teacher

April 27th, 2012
7:09 am

We had training yesterday for the CCC in Language Arts. It is ambitious and, in a perfect world, it really would be refreshing to have students be able to accomplish those tasks.

BUT.

The the humongous hole in the CCC is that there is still no plan in place that will actually hold students accountable for their own learning. Technically, it’s not a CCC flaw, but a flaw in the break down of schools in general.

For example, there is all this rhetoric that tells students that if they do not pass the CRCT, they will be retained. This is hogwash, of course. The CRCT is a dumbed down, flawed test and yet we have students who can’t pass it and who we are forced to promote to the next grade.

I honestly tremble in fear at what will happen to teachers when these precious, socially promoted darlings are are unable to successfuly complete even the smallest Task as prescribed by the CCC.

I predict that the teacher will be blamed.

bootney farnsworth

April 27th, 2012
8:08 am

@ T&M

I’ve felt for a long time certain elements of society deliberately chum the waters in regard to education specifically for your point.

its no different, intellectually or emotionally than democrats who say the GOP wants the elderly to eat dog food or the GOP who claims democrats want every woman to have an abortion.

it hyperbole (sp), pure and simple. with the worst kind of intent.

its annoying mostly because I’m positve the vast majority -think good mother, this T fool, ect – actually know better, but don’t care.

they need somebody to pee on to distract them from the misery it must
be to be them, and society makes us an easy target

teacher&mom

April 27th, 2012
9:07 am

@bootney: absolutely!

When a school system announces they are cutting out 20 instructional days and NO ONE raises an eyebrow, we have reached a new low.

However, folks will quickly eat the teachers in that system alive if the test scores drop or a if teacher dares to stand up and say this is too much and it hurting our students.

And then turn around and elect the same fools for office.

Anonmom

April 27th, 2012
9:44 am

And if we didn’t have huge administrative costs, and the money could be focused in the schools instead on administration (e.g. ala Northeast systems that are 1 HS, ! middle and 4 or 5 supplementary schools) and/or a voucher program where the money followed the student.. the games the systems could play in directing the funds away from the children in the classroom would have to be minimized — vastly minimized because they wouldn’t have the funds available to manipulate.

High School SIS

April 27th, 2012
10:08 am

I’m not sure if this teacher has attended CCGPS trainings, but all of the analyses referenced above should be of much less concern to her or anyone else still in the ELA classroom. We should be rejoicing! I work as a school improvement specialist in a high school. In teacher training, the DOE has emphasized the idea of more writing because it improves EVERY other aspect of learning and working and just…well…surviving. The key is that these pieces may be very short, as in a reflection, daily logs or journals, etc. that do not require daily grading or extended periods of time to grade. And believe it or not, I taught English before I entered the dark side, and I have an ELA department comprised of 25+ year veterans and not one of them has cried. More of a workload? Yes. Beneficial to STUDENTS (remember those guys…the ones we are here for??)? Absolutely. As a curriculum person, as a former ELA teacher, and above all, as a mom I applaud the DOE in their efforts to increase rigor and the amount of writing in EVERY (that’s right–every discipline outside of Arts and PE has a set of literacy and writing standards to abide by now) class that my child or anyone else’s enters. As for those horribly detailed and specific units…a whole team of people just saved my entire department weeks of unit writing by providing it for them. And they aren’t crap either–they are well written and thorough. So, no tears here—we’re smiling all the way into post-planning.

Hey Teacher

April 27th, 2012
10:29 am

teacher&mom

April 27th, 2012
12:33 pm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/10/charter-schools-spend-mor_n_1415995.html?ref=education

Math teacher

April 27th, 2012
12:47 pm

QCC, GPS, CCGPS, etc.. what will it change to after 2-4 years down the road. And why should I invest my time or effort in any of this fad nonsense. I know my subject area well and can convey it well to my students with or the alphabet soup. At meetings/trainings, I do well to ignore the educrats who talk way too much. I enjoy the fact I can shut my door and teach.

Another Teacher

April 27th, 2012
1:10 pm

I hope that all of you understand that teacher do not recieve ANY paid holidays or paid days off or ANY pay for the summer break. Teachers are only paid for the actual time they are physically in the school. How many of you, Howard Finklestein, work for free? How many of you complainers do work for the company after hours and off the clock. Not many, I’ll bet. Come on Howard, let’s hear you brag about how many off the clock hours you work!

1st Year Teacher

April 27th, 2012
3:46 pm

1st Year Teacher

April 27th, 2012
3:51 pm

I’m in my first year teaching HS in GA.
To the commenters who think teachers (and students!) have too much time off: I agree. I would much rather teach “year-round” with maybe a five-/six-week break in the summer. Makes much more sense, IMO.

Beverly Fraud

April 27th, 2012
4:15 pm

Where is Matt the Mouth Organ?

Long time educator

April 28th, 2012
4:49 am

If teachers are to be held accountable for student outcomes, then we ought to be given the performance objectives and left alone to determine how best to get the kids there. If the state wants to script the delivery of instruction and evaluate us on how well we stick to the script, then we should not be held accountable for student outcomes. It should be one or the other, but not both.

April 30th, 2012
12:22 pm

[...] began this discussion lat week on the blog with a piece by a high school English teacher on the amount of writing expected under the new [...]