It’s Worse Here Than In NY! A New Jersey Teacher’s Lament

It is not just NY. In NJ we are in deep trouble. I would guestimate that 80% of the senior teachers have retired, a large proportion of principals as well. There is a mass exodus. Young teachers are in hell. They weigh thier student loan debt against lifetime of data gathering, test prep and unfair evaluations. I hear the conversations in the teachers room “this is not what i signed up for”. The ones that stay will be the acquiescent among them. Our school is a “focus school”. under state scrutiny for possible take over. The game is fixed. The state scrutiny is the result of low test scores. We have a huge spanish speaking population that tests poorly. Are we spending money to hire people to educate them and allocating time for that education? No, instead, we have bought bandwidth, new routers, chrome book laptops, iPads, iPad stations, an evaluative system called McCrel, and CCSS aligned textbooks. Students are test-prepped to death. What is the effect of telling students “this matters” when it really doesn’t? How can students respect teachers that lie to them every day? What is the effect on educators forced to suck the life energy from their students? This already has and will continue to have an effect. Behavior is the worst i have ever seen because school sucks for kids now. Teacher morale is the lowest I have ever seen because school sucks for teachers now. The majority of teachers have little awareness of the forces amassed against education. Very few are informed. Our local union has been weakened to the point that only 10% of membership shows up to general meetings. Parents are clueless, and the “unwritten law” that teachers must not tell the horrible secrets of CCSS, PARCC, ed reform and administrative data love is rarely to never broken. Teachers, fearing for their jobs, comply with ridiculous evaluation systems. There are four levels of proficiency in our system. To achieve each one, teachers must earn an evaluators confidence to check of EVERY box in a rubric that makes me insanely angry. Dozens of pages of evaluative rubrics that are weighted against teachers. If, in our 3 classroom evaluation visits, some of those categories are not checked, then to prove we deserve them checked, we must present “evidence” that we do them at a meeting with our evaluator. It is punitive by design. Some evaluators see it for what it is, and help teachers, other evaluators see their job as finding the lazy, ineffective teachers and setting them up for loss of tenure (Now possible thanks to new laws). It is hell. It also must be mentioned that the evaluative systems make no accommodations for art, music, gym, or other less quantifiable subjects. At the end of next year, when districts begin to shed teachers (the higher priced ones?, the trouble maker ones?) there will be hundreds of lawsuits. One possible outcome of this is a financial strain on the county and state unions. One of the benefits of union membership is that the unions will provide legal counsel if needed. What happens if hundreds or thousands of teachers need legal counsel to protect their jobs as a result of unfair evaluations, inequities in evaluators and other problems in that system? I have not mentioned that there are state mandated (Christie/DOE) “SGO’s” (student growth objectives) that were sold to us as a way for teachers to work on their own growth, but have now become another evaluative tool to beat teachers with and strike fear in our hearts. This is “moment” is not just in NY, it is national.