Hello hill, I knew we would face this day.
Tomorrow is a big day in my public education career with Tulsa Public Schools. As most of you know, in October I made a decision to stop administering the MAP test to my students. A lot of uproar occurred. Most often, the question is “What kind of push-back did you receive?” I HATE answering that question! What I want to tell everyone is that I had a lot of support and was able to continue on my stance of not administering a test. Because, well, I did. I did have a lot of support from all over the nation. That wouldn’t be forthcoming though. That would be a minuscule part of the story. There is a big middle section. Everyone knows the beginning. But, tomorrow marks the end of the story. I have a choice. To die alone on the hill… or not.
Just a brief MAP Testing Explanation: MAP testing is a benchmark test. It is awful. The worst of all 13 options that meet RSA testing requirements. I am certain it is designed to set children up for failure. Certain. It is adaptive in nature and the target score is constantly moving. So, even if a child is at or above grade level in reading, there is a very high chance the child will still fail the test. Failing the test means remediation plans, money, services, and labels. We LOVE labeling children in this country. For some reason, we have the mentality that if we tell children they are stupid, oh, I’m sorry… “limited in knowledge” or “Unsatisfactory” they will then improve. This is research based. We also love utilizing research.
If we take a good look at MAP, we know that it is common core aligned. We have laws in this state HB3399 that speak to the specifics of utilizing common core testing for evaluation of teachers or students. How is this even legal?! Try to get anyone to answer that question! I dare you! I can’t even get a returned e-mail when I ask that question. (Walk away from the edge, Nikki…. walk away and stay on topic.)
Anyway… When people ask the question “What kind of pushback did you receive?” I would be deceiving if I didn’t lay it all out there. This has been the most difficult trial in my career. What kind of pushback did I receive?I placed myself on a limb with one other colleague. It was a lonely limb. We lost friends. We lost good administrators. We lost all support from our administration. We lost teacher autonomy. We cried a lot. We slept a lot less. We put ourselves under a microscope and were/are called out for every single thing you can call out a teacher on. Our TLE scores have plummeted from 5’s and 4’s to 3’s and multiple minuses. We have to call in several representatives in all our meetings in order to have the slightest allocation of justice. My colleague is leaving the nation. Oklahoma is losing a highly effective teacher in the midst of a huge teacher shortage because of this injustice for children. I am searching for a new position. We are no longer welcome in the school we teach. So, yes, I would say I had some pushback.
One of my most memorable moments was when a supporter/mentor of mine through the process said in all seriousness “Did you expect to draw this line and not get your ass kicked?” The answer is, no. No, I did not. I knew I would “lose”. I knew that the money and power in my district was greater than me. I knew at the end of the day that they would choose testing over children or good educators. I knew that a lot of the people who held the power to save me would cower. It’s simply the nature of the system. It’s not really all that personal. We are teaching/learning/testing in a system of fear. Everyone is scared! Everyone!
So, here I am… at the very end of the school year. If I do not give the test tomorrow, I will be fired. If not fired, I will be placed on a PDP. This PDP will be a result of a bad TLE score. Even though I have NEVER been docked on my teaching skills, they will fire me. The PDP will keep other principals in the district from hiring me. Nobody wants to take that on. It is a ton of paperwork and a large annoying workload.
What is so disheartening about the whole thing is the perspective of the district. It would be more beneficial for them to fire me than to listen to my concerns or work with me. They played a good game. They put up a big show for the media. They told everyone that we were putting together a testing task force. And, we did. Us teachers met together weekly and worked hard to research all the assessments going on in our district. We voted and put together a recommendation. That was in February. Even after multiple follow-up emails, we have never heard the results of those recommendations. Nothing has changed. Nothing was done. Just one more giant middle finger in the face of all those teachers that worked after contract hours to make the system better for children.
They do not care. That is the bottom line. I don’t know an adjective that properly describes this level of heartbreak I feel for our schools. They will openly, without care, choose to be in the business of eliminating good educators in order to get the testing data. Testing is the MOST important thing in public schools. I am living this reality. Your children are living this reality. Every other teacher in the district is living this reality.
So here I am… left to die alone on the hill, the testing martyr, or not. I am forced to choose between labeling children, causing children to pee their pants, throw their chairs, scratch their faces, and cry; or, I can not administer and be fired. Here I am. Left to die alone on the hill… or not.