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Silent at first, teachers unhappy with the Gates initiative are beginning to speak out

Ohanian Comment: It's good news that teachers are beginning to speak out. They need to connect this Gates-funded evaluation process to the deliberate deprofessionalization of teaching and to the larger class war.

These Reader Comment insists the complaints are much louder than this article indicates:

Reader Comment: First of all, the questions on the "poll" were skewed to marginalize any criticism of EET. Not only that, but many teachers didn't even bother taking it.

I don't know of a single teacher who likes EET. Morale is rock bottom. When we run into teachers from other schools, we often compare Peer Evaluator Horror Stories (there are so, so many).

We are all trying to get out; some already have. Hillsborough SD should be on its knees thanking its lucky stars for the crappy economy and the passage of SB 736, without which it would be facing an embarrassing exodus.

Reader Comment: The state's attack on the vet teacher is slowly gaining momentum. It will take a full year of these new evaluations to get it rolling. When you have faculties from "A" schools that are being evaluated at over 75% "needs improvement", teachers are going to see the real reason behind all of this is the attempt to do public education on the cheap. Out with the old (expensive) and in with the new (cheap). Yes, we are replaceable, but with what?

Reader Comment: Bill Gates himself, when he gave the grant, said EET was a "risk taking" enterprise. SDHC bought the "system" as done and complete. The higher-ups have been acting as "benevolent bullies" in the application of Charlotte Danielson's rehash of the same old evaluative criteria. Until SDHC, and other educational entities, get the message that Teachers are professional workers and they don't need micromanaging, any evaluative system is going to have flaws. The bureaucracy that has been created by EET is going to burn out in 5 years, about the time the money dries up, and the whole system will be scrapped only to be replaced by yet another ill-conceived monitoring system.

The school board needs to grow a set and ask for the role of the teenager (child) in today's modern society to be redefined. The administration needs to be restructured and Teachers need to be considered the professionals they are. Teachers need to know the curriculum and demonstrate the pedagogy to TEACH students.

Reader Comment: I never made it into med school, can I do your next open heart surgery. I have experience with sharp objects.

By Marlene Sokol

TAMPA ΓΆ€” Renee Kelly retired at 55 from her job teaching law at Riverview High School.

Leaving early lowered her pension, she said. But she couldn't stomach changes under the new Gates-funded system of teacher evaluations. "We've been made out to be good guys against the bad guys," she said.

Kelly is posting her views on websites and Facebook pages, and she isn't alone. In recent weeks, questions and complaints about the multimillion-dollar, seven-year Empowering Effective Teachers effort have grown more visible.

An East Bay High School English teacher has created an EET Concerns Facebook page with posts like: "I teach the best I can every day and when someone else is in my classroom, it throws my kids and me way off."

The site has 42 members, though not all are school district employees.

Then there's fundamentalfairness.webs.com, launched by Joseph Thomas, the Newsome High School social studies teacher who rejected his peer evaluator and almost lost his job.

At first, Thomas' blog contained posts exclusively by him. At last count, there were 15 members. And Thomas is running for union president.

To be sure, this is not an insurrection. The district has more than 12,000 teachers, and in a survey released by the district between 80 and 96 percent responding favorably to a list of 13 questions about the Gates effort.

School board members generally say they're getting positive and negative feedback about the system, which combines evaluations from the principal and a peer with a data component that measures student performance.

At last week's board meeting, member April Griffin touched off a long discussion when she described a teacher who felt it was unfair that she was observed in the week before the winter break.

Weeks earlier, member Stacy White voiced strong opposition to the whole process, calling it demoralizing and counterproductive. Since then, teachers have been writing to him to express their dissatisfaction.

One said she was rattled when a student misbehaved during the peer observation and that the whole experience made her feel inadequate. Another complained that children who could barely speak English were asked to articulate what they had learned.

David Steele, who oversees the project funded with $100 million from Bill and Melinda Gates, said, "it's not surprising at all that when you completely change a system as radically as we have, you'll see a group of people who don't agree.

"Unfortunately, in a system this large, if 10 percent don't like it, that's like 1,200 people."

For the most part, teachers say they like the mentoring component and there are few complaints about the data component that makes up 40 percent of their score. It's the peer evaluations that are drawing complaints from teachers who say their evaluators scrutinize them for flaws and take classroom events out of context. . . .

NOTE: the St. Petersburg Times does not allow whole articles to be posted. For the rest of this one, go to the url below.

— Marlene Sokol
St Petersburg Times





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