August 20, 2023

Gary Rubinstein: HISD Suffers With ‘New Education System’ Turnaround Plan

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Gary Rubinstein breaks down some of the worst pieces of Houston’s takeover plan.

All teachers have to reapply for their jobs – When students come back and learn that many of their favorite teachers were not hired back, this can be very traumatic.  There is no guarantee that the teachers who replace those who weren’t hired back, even if those teachers have been successful at a different school, will necessarily be a good fit at this school.  This uncertain improvement coupled with guaranteed disruption is a pretty big risk.  Why not first see how the current staff does with these new supports?

Lesson plans and materials provided by curriculum developers – It sounds like teachers at these schools will be mandated to follow scripted lessons and pacing schedules.  It is so unlikely that these scripted lessons will be good enough and the pacing schedule so perfect for all classes.  There are times where a concept takes more time than you thought it would and especially if the next topic builds on that one, you cannot just go on until you finish the first topic.  If you are forced to stay at a pace produced by someone who does not know your classes, it can be a very miserable experience for students and for the teacher.  Creating your own lessons based on standards maybe, is one of the most important parts of teaching.  There is no way a scripted lesson can be as good as a teacher made lesson tailored specifically to their student.  I wonder how much flexibility teachers will have in adapting the lessons, at least, to make them more appropriate for their students. In my experience, bad lesson plans lead to discipline problems. And even if administrators are handling those discipline problems, it still is frustrating if you are forced to use bad lesson plans that are almost guaranteed to result in this.

Differentiated assignments copies made by support personnel – Yes it would be nice to have someone make copies for me, but I’ve been at schools where the materials have to be submitted a week in advance and teachers cannot touch the copy machine.  I’d be concerned that with all the copies made by the support staff, the copy machines might be off limit and potentially if you want to make copies of something that is not part of the scripted curriculum, maybe you will not be able to.

Papers graded by support personnel – Grading is a time consuming process. And, yes, there are times where my ‘grading’ is little more than glancing and seeing if any effort was put into the assignment. But grading is also an integral part of the teaching process. It is where you see what the students produce and get to assess if they learned the concepts. With math, the end result of grading is not just what percent of the final answers did the student get correct, but what are the common errors that I’m seeing. So if someone else is being paid to do my grading for me and I don’t even have the time to do the grading myself because under this model maybe my day is filled with the other teacher responsibilities, then I’m not able to teach as effectively since I don’t have all the information I need. Logistically speaking, I can’t see how this would work. What is the ratio of people whose job it is to ‘grade’ to the number of teachers. I think that one ‘grader’ could probably only help about four teachers a day so this would be a pretty big staffing issue. And who would ever want to be a full time grader? The thing that makes grading a tolerable task for teachers is that the teacher is invested in the results. The teacher wants to know how the students are progressing and how the lessons were received. Just grading a stack of papers from kids that you don’t know anything about would be extremely tedious to do all day. Are these graders expected to write feedback on the papers? Or is the net result of the grading merely to get a numerical grade on the assignment. This is one of those that sounds good on paper but doesn’t work so well in reality. It’s like saying that assistants will eat lunch for the teachers.

There’s more, unfortunately. Read the full post here. 

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