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Andy Goldstein is a teacher and parent in Palm Beach County, Florida.
“The bus debacle as a description of how our school operates on an everyday basis.”
A school board talk given to the School Board of Palm Beach County, FL. February 17, 2016.
Good evening. My name is Andy Goldstein. I’m a teacher at Omni Middle School and the proud parent of a seven-year-old daughter who attends second grade at one of our public elementary schools.
I read with great interest the article by Palm Beach Post reporter Andrew Marra titled “Collision course: Inside Palm Beach County’s school bus crisis.” The article detailed our school district’s bus debacle at the beginning of this year, in which a rushed implementation of a new technology program for bus routes resulted in many of our students being late for classes and many of our disabled students not being picked up at all.
As I started to read the article, I thought to myself, “Surely this is an aberration, a one time-event.” But as I read on about how the collective experience of our own bus drivers was ignored in favor of a rushed policy to implement computer-generated bus routes that made no sense, apparently to please a higher authority, I started thinking, “This is a very accurate description of how our school district functions on an every day basis.”
There is always someone or some higher policy that is pointed to as the reason we are doing things in the classroom, regardless of whether they make sense. And many times they do not make sense. The judgment of our own teachers, is not even in the equation. We teachers have been deluged with a plethora of nonsensical policies flowing through our classrooms, and we and our students have suffered.
John King, the acting Secretary of Education, recently in his first major speech, apologized to the nation’s teachers. saying “teachers and principals at times have felt attacked and unfairly blamed for the challenges our nation faces.”
But it hasn’t been “at times,” it’s been continuous, as part of an agenda to privatize our schools and make as much money off of our children as possible.
And a recent article in the New Yorker was titled, “Stop Humiliating Teachers.”
And we, and our students have been subject to much humiliation. A year-round standardized testing schedule and diagnostic schedule that has cheated our children of authentic learning opportunities. The important thing, apparently is not to have an opportunity to teach and learn but to test. It doesn’t even matter if the tests make sense. as long as they are given. And some times, they don’t make any sense.
I’ve started going around asking teachers an open ended question: “Do you find the diagnostic testing helpful.” So far no teacher I have asked has said that they find it helpful.
Our school district is obsessed with policies that don’t help our kids learn.
• The “We’re building the plane while we’re flying it Marzano teacher evaluation system.”
• Teachers stripped of their Step increments and relegated to a career at or near a beginning teacher salary.
• Teachers put on relegated to an annual contract which disempowers them, strips their educator’s voice to stand for what’s right.
• Students subject to dry test prep instead of authentic project based learning, cheating them of the joy of falling in love with the process of learning.
Our school district says, “Blame Tallahassee for these policies!”
Our principals say the nonsensical directives come from School District headquarters.
In our school district, there is always someone pointing to a higher authority as to why we are implementing nonsensical policies.
And our teachers strive to create an environment of teaching and learning despite the constant disruption of these nonsensical policies.
This evening, at your Board workshop, you discussed involving stakeholders in striving to achieve the goal of having all of our children read at grade level by third grade. I was very inspired.
Perhaps you could include our teachers among the stakeholders to achieve this goal, instead of leaving us out of the equation, as is usually the case.