Is it time to get off the bus? Will the plane remain in flight?

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As we prepare for the Common Core, new assessments, and new evaluation systems, I often wonder are we going about this the wrong way. The more I hear people describe our current status prior to the implementation of all of these changes, the more I begin to hope we are not making the wrong choices.

There are two analogies related to all of these changes that I have heard that make me laugh and cringe at the same time.  The first analogy relates our preparation for new testing to the movie, Speed.  You know the scene where there is a bomb on the bus and they send a second bus next to it to transport the people off.  The analogy that someone made in my district is that we are on the first bus circling around waiting to transported to safety. We can’t get off yet because we still have our current testing.  While we are circling, the other bus is analogous to the preparation waiting for that moment when the first bus unloads and the new tests begin.  Hopefully, there are no casualties like the movie.  Hopefully, we all get transported safely off the old testing bus onto the new Common Core based assessment one.  

The second analogy relates the new teacher evaluation system to building a plane in flight.  As I write this, teachers are piloting teacher evaluation systems that will go into effect next year.  In many cases, several components of these systems need more than a year of piloting.  We should not be rating a teacher’s success with a system that still needs to be tweaked or changed as we go.  For example, how can you expect teachers to be evaluated on a system that uses the Danielson Framework when they have not been properly trained on how it defines good teaching?  In our district, teachers are writing student learning objectives to evaluate student growth.  The pilot teachers are testing out these SLOs this year, but there is no guarantee that these are actually effective tools for evaluating student growth and teacher success.  

My question is “Why rush?”.  If we are to keep to the promise that the Common Core and the new evaluation systems are going to create stronger students and more effective teachers, then we should be taking our steps carefully to make sure that these changes are lasting and meaningful rather than just another phase in the swing of the education pendulum.  

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