Tag Archives: reform

King ISDee

Once upon a time, a long time ago, there lived a king named King ISDee. King ISDee wanted the best kingdom in the world. He wanted his people to thrive. He wanted peace and prosperity. His advisors were the best money could buy, always training apprentices to take their places over time so King ISDee would never be forced to rule alone.

One day a new merchant approached King ISDee’s advisors with a thought. The people King ISDee wanted to thrive were potentially troubled. While most were thriving as they should, a small percentage were struggling. King ISDee wanted all his people to thrive, not most. The merchant had a plan to make that happen.
A proven plan. A plan 9 out of 10 dentists approved. A state-of-the-art, new and improved plan.

BUT

The people would never participate if King ISDee didn’t require it, but if he would, the merchant guaranteed the best results ever.

The advisors listened to the merchant and told him they would take his plan under advisement. They did. They talked about it over small dinners, excited at the thought that they could possibly help King ISDee reach his goal of helping ALL his people thrive, thrilled at the idea of a proven plan to make that happen. The apprentices loved the idea. They wanted to go forward immediately. The sage advisors said they needed more time to look at the potential outcomes of the plan and to study the reasons for failure to thrive in Kind ISDee’s land of plenty. While they studied, though, they would meet with the merchant.

The merchant met with the advisors over time. At the meetings he heard about the excitement of the apprentices and asked if some of the apprentices could spend time with him, learning the ins and outs of his new plan. The advisors agreed that would be a wonderful idea. They planned a dinner, but the merchant told them he had made arrangements for an elaborate feast at the best restaurant in the kingdom. The advisors could feast and debate and look at the details of his plan without worry. The advisors thanked the merchant, but they declined his invitation. They could not feast for fear the merchant’s generosity would affect the outcome of their debates.

The kindly merchant understood. He told them the feast was already paid for and would still take place, but no one had to attend. Perhaps the advisors would stop by for a snack…or not. The choice was theirs.

The advisors thanked the merchant and sent him on his way with an apprentice.

The apprentice loved the merchant from the start. The merchant cared! He wanted to make the world a better place! He wanted ALL of Kind ISDee’s subjects to live lives of beauty. The merchant loved the apprentice from the start. He understood the message, the meaning, the world that could be!

Together they planned how to convince the advisors to hear the plan. How to reform them!

The apprentice invited his friends to the feast. A few advisors stopped by for snacks. They all agreed the merchant’s plan could be an easy answer to the persistent problem of the few who failed to thrive. They’d spent so many hours trying to find HARD answers when the easy answer was right here with the merchant. But the few advisors knew they could not convince the majority of the advisors to agree to the merchant’s plan. The majority had decided an easy answer was no true answer. They insisted on continuing the HARD work of problem solving.

The merchant scoffed. The few failures! King ISDee could not continue to leave them behind.

The advisors snacking agreed. But what could they do?Wringing their hands and shaking their heads they left the feast.

The apprentice had an idea. They would bypass the advisors and go straight to King ISDee.

The merchant loved the idea.

King ISDee listening to the merchant in horror. What?! He had a few failing to thrive in his kingdom?! When there was a proven plan that would save them?!

He called a special session with his advisors and took them to task.

The advisors explained that the majority were strong. They were excelling in all areas. But the few strugglers were affected by sickness, death, hunger and homelessness. The few could be helped, but it would take time. It would take true intervention in their lives. It would take an investment. Perhaps a master advisor could go to the area and make a change.

King ISDee thought of the plan. Yes, perhaps it could work. But first he wanted to speak to the merchant once more.

The merchant listened to the advisors’ solution and shrugged. Yes, the investment COULD work. But why when he had a PROVEN plan that would work better, faster, cheaper?

The king called his advisors in and asked them for advice. He found some of his advisors liked the merchant’s plan. They had feasted with the merchant and even helped him revise his plan. After much discussion, he informed the advisors of his decision. He was going to purchase the merchant’s plan.

Twenty years later…

King ISDee shook his head as he looked at the latest report on his kingdom. The report provided by his oldest master advisors warned of trouble. A few in the kingdom thrived, most simply existed, many failed. The report made no sense. He held up a different report. One given to him by the merchant. It showed most in the kingdom thriving. It blamed the few failures on advisors who refused to implement the plan. He railed against his advisors. Fewer now than ever, they trembled in the angry king’s presence. But they believed in their calling. They had appointed a speaker. The speaker stood and swallowed then spoke.

“King ISDee, perhaps the answer is to visit the people. Put the reports aside. Spend real time with them. Look at the reality of the situation instead of the report.”

King ISDee considered the advise. He heard his advisors. But in the end he held up the proven plan. “The data supports this conclusion,” he said.

And he continued to rule his shrinking kingdom with an iron fist and the merchant’s plan. And the few who failed to thrive grew into the many. And the advisors died…one by one until none were left. And then one day King ISDee took his last breath. And the merchant pretended to mourn while the apprentices placed a gold crown upon his head.

The School Board Speech, A Little More and Why I WIll Always Fight for Education Based on Something Other Than Tests

Original title: Hey, Bill Gates, Reform This #EvaluateThat BUT then I thought, that’s preaching to the choir and this post isn’t, so I changed it…

Since it’s been in the paper, I thought I’d post my actual speech to the school board. I’ve added some comments at the end. I would’ve said a little more at the meeting, but that pesky 3-minute time limit got in the way. 🙂 The payoff for this post is at the end. I might be a little too honest with it, but honesty is what can bring true change. (If you read the TRN story, you can skip the speech part because Ann Work pretty much summed my words up perfectly.)

The speech:  My name is Mary Beth Lee. I’m the student media adviser at Rider. I’ve taught in the district for 20 years. I enjoyed participating once and then serving as a teacher leader in the Leadership Cohort. I have served on the Superintendent’s advisory committee several times. I’m a member of ATPE. Several of my former students serve as teachers in the district and elsewhere.
First I want to thank the board for their service. I can’t imagine volunteering the time you do in easy years and I certainly can’t imagine serving on the board in the midst of such massive change. I appreciate the board and downtown administration. Unlike so many politicians across the country, you haven’t blamed teachers for the problems in our schools.
I’m speaking today as a teacher and a concerned citizen. In the midst of the talk about buildings, I want to make sure the board remembers buildings don’t educate students.
As the Coalition for Hispanic Education report stated, the district is in the midst of huge change demographically. More than ever we need seasoned teachers in the classroom.
When I started teaching our buildings were filled with experienced teachers. My friends who signed up for jobs in the Metroplex were jealous of our career ladder that started far above state minimum and continued with its guaranteed raises that included a little extra on the five-year marks. They were even more jealous of the help mentor teachers gave us without being asked.
New teachers are so important to education. But I’m concerned that as a district we’re not doing enough to keep teachers in the district, to build loyalty to the community.
We need teachers committed to the district and the city. Teachers who won’t use us as a stepping stone to a bigger pay check.
There are several things the district can do to help promote life-long Wichitan educators.
First, it’s been shown several times over the years that guaranteeing pay raises doesn’t cost the district money. Because of attrition and moves pay raises for educators who commit to the district is a wash.
When the legislature cut funding to schools, every teacher I know agreed that we should all share in the pain of those cuts rather than see quality educators lose their jobs. Those lean days aren’t so far in the past that we don’t understand the need for austerity, but I sincerely hope the board is looking at ways to make sure teachers are rewarded for their commitment to the district.
Second, I hope the administration will look at ways other than a set career ladder to recruit and keep teachers. Finding a way to reward master teachers with continuing contracts would help in that endeavor.
I don’t have all the answers, but I do know we’re facing a real crisis in this town. Wichita Falls is changing. The school district can help. They can ensure we hire and retain excellent teachers. They can make sure our buildings have depth.
Yes, we need new facilities, but without a staff committed to the district and the city, facilities are like wrapping paper on an empty box.

Now the more…

I don’t think teachers should get automatic raises just for teaching. I think we should have a career ladder with clearly defined raises and expectations for getting those raises that center on TEACHING not TESTING. Expectations like multiple CE hours, pre-lesson objectives complete with what we think will happen and post lesson analysis over what really did happen. What problems do we see with the lesson? What could make it better? Truly studying our craft in action, and make no mistake, teaching is a craft. That’s what a test-centric system misses completely.

The rest of the story…Why the Fight Matters

When I hit ninth grade I developed this weird social anxiety problem. I couldn’t really talk to more than a couple people at one time unless they were really good friends OR unless I was wasted (I didn’t learn about how freeing alcohol could be until junior year. I was a pro pretty quickly after that). I don’t like to remember those days. High school wasn’t easy. I wanted to love it….but…yeah, not so much.

Thank GOD for my small group of friends and my amazing teachers.

My math teacher practically held my hand through every lesson in Intro. Algebra. He helped me see that my problem was a mental block, and he promised me that one day I would conquer the fear instilled by an evil monster of a teacher in junior high. If my test scores had been held against Mr. Brown, one of the best math teachers to ever grace a Burkburnett High School classroom, that would have been criminal. I wasn’t the only one in his class with math problems. He taught classrooms full of us. The best part of this story other than him being an angel is he was right. I would never go around solving equations for the fun of it, but I took the self-paced Algebra classes at Vernon Junior College, and I survived. And that evil junior high teacher that traumatized me so much I could barely see straight in math classes after…he taught most of the star students. He would do GREAT under the merit pay system that considers standardized test scores as the be all, end all.

My American Lit teacher, Mrs. Bo…probably the best English teacher to ever walk the earth…she made me LOVE literature. She taught me to write. She didn’t make me talk in front of the class, but she let me know that one day I’d be able to.

My eighth grade English teacher was brand new. I can’t remember her name, I think it was Ms. Reed,  but I wanted to be her when I grew up. She taught me research skills I used from eighth grade all the way through my MA in English. She changed my life with her passion for education and her absolute belief in me.

My journalism teacher Mrs. Gillespie helped me discover my passion and held me to a higher standard than I ever held myself. As a teacher now, I know she had to see me making those scary life choices and she had to be worried. But she didn’t hold the choices against me. She never judged me. Instead she showed me what the world could be.

And then there’s Dencil Taylor. He taught my college speech class. He told us all he knew we were terrified. I don’t figure I was the first person he’d run across who could barely whisper in front of a class. He made it clear we WOULD give our speeches, that we had no choice if we wanted a degree. I wanted a degree, but talking in front of five people terrified me. An entire class….oh God, that was torture. I had to leave class after my first speech to get sick. He told me I’d get over that. He didn’t coddle me, or let me make excuses. He made it clear I could drop his class, but I’d just be putting off the inevitable. He let me think it was my idea to stick out the class. The class changed my life. Without it, I wouldn’t be a teacher, I wouldn’t have spoken at the school board meeting. I also wouldn’t be married to the love of my life. I met my husband in that class.

The above story would be a great place to end, but I can’t without a shout out to Dr. Hoffman, yet another teacher who changed my life. He helped me see that I was smart. That’s such a strange thing to write, but it’s the God’s honest truth. He and I have talked about that often over the years since I was in his Sophomore Lit class at MSU. Back then he just encouraged me to keep writing. I did. AND I kept taking his classes. AND when I finished my BA, he dropped an application off at my house to start my MA. And he didn’t really take no for an answer even though I wasn’t all that excited about going back to school. God, I’m glad he didn’t let me cop out of getting my master’s with the “I’m too busy” excuse. Those seminar classes helped me truly fall in love with learning. I definitely wanted the advanced degree, but more than that I wanted to know more, read more, write more, debate more, research more. That hasn’t changed.

NONE OF THOSE stories can be measured on a standardized test. I doubt seriously I would have graduated from high school if I would’ve had to pass a standardized math test, but I’d put my writing, reading comprehension and problem solving skills up against any politician, any test maker, any CEO in this country.

I WAS poor growing up. I WAS a mess growing up. I WAS the kid in the gap the “reformers” say they’re trying to save. Well guess what, reformers: your kind of reform would have destroyed me. Thank God for the master educators who didn’t have their careers measured by my scores on a test. #EvaluateThat #QuitKillingOurKids #QuitKillingOrSchools

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Resolution: Happy New Year!

My beginning J kids often try to start their stories with a definition and I make them come up with a new beginning because the definition lead is so cliche, but this post needs the definition lead, so here goes:

res·o·lu·tion[rez-uh-loo-shuhn]
noun
1. a formal expression of opinion or intention made, usually after voting, by a formal organization, a legislature, a club, or other group. Compare concurrent resolution, joint resolution.
2. a resolve or determination: to make a firm resolution to do something.
3. the act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure, etc.
4. the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose.
5. the act or process of resolving or separating into constituent or elementary parts.

The last two months have been a time of change for DH and I. We made a decision to change some foundations in our lives and that hasn’t been easy. Work has been stressful, and I forgot how to embrace the fun of that stress. Writing has been almost non-existent. I’ve decided to venture into the business world and will be meeting with the small business development center to help with that process. And I want to get actively involved in real school reform.

Resolution in any of the above isn’t always easy. All of the above should be less intense. Let go, let God. I know that. But as always, I struggle. Since the first of our life changes deals with church, for some reason it’s a little easier to believe absolutely that He’ll take care of us. The job should be easy, too. I mean, after 17 years, I should know how to let go. But it’s harder this year than it’s ever been. The writing issue is an easy resolution. New words every day. The new business: definitely a let go and let God proposition. I’ve done my market research, I have my mission, vision, values and goals, at least for the short term. The school reform, that’s a passion of mine. Two things I can work on non-stop for hours: The First Amendment and Effective Schools. The problem with wanting to put school reform into effect is I’m a teacher, and teachers can only do so much. In a perfect world, I could have a small test group of students and we’d radically change the business of education. We’d do away with grades and go to a strict mastered objectives (pass) or not (red0) system. Right now we have this Focus on Learning mantra, but in reality, most of the students and their parents care about the grade and not the learning. If the kid brings home straight As, yay! If they make a B or C, but they learned more because they’re in more challenging classes, dump the more challenging course work and get back to the A. The 4.0, or 5.0 in my school’s case, is all that matters. If you strip grades would students still work to master the objectives and be able to prove that mastery on an exam and with their writing? Could teachers use formative assessment without attaching grades to those assessments and still have a real idea of where their students are performing? Could students take responsibility for those objectives and realistically judge their progress on the road to mastery? Would stripping grades and changing to pass (mastered objectives), redo (didn’t) get the focus back on learning instead of grades, which don’t mean anything really? At the end of the year would this shift translate into higher scores on summative exams? Would having a system like this which addresses the questions of what to do when kids don’t learn AND what to do when they’ve already mastered the objective make for a better system? Would parents and students embrace this?

Yeah…like I said, it’s on my mind a lot.

I looked into going back for my EdD and moving into the effective schools consulting direction, but my students are what I love most about my job. Same thing for shifting into administration.

The reality is my job is going away. The whole focus on grades means the students I used to get are picking up an extra 5.0 class or two, and they don’t want the responsibility of deadlines. Something has to change or my program is going to die. I can’t change deadlines: I’m a journalism teacher. I can’t change the workload of the class: we produce awesome newspapers and yearbooks.

Yet another area I have to let go and let God, however, I can resolve to at least attempt to keep the program going.

So there you go. My resolutions this year are pretty close to what they were last year: learn to let go and let God and be the best I can be at what I do every day. And, of course, I’ll be working on the weight thing because I always am!

My new youtube vlog. Not sure if this is the ultimate narcissism or super cool. Going to do it anyway. 🙂