Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Gee, I wonder which views she wasn't showing sufficient respect for?

The following comes from the blog of education historian and reform gadfly Diane Ravitch.
Regular readers of this blog are familiar with the work of Amy Prime. (See here and here.)For the past ten years, she has taught second grade at Berg Elementary School in Newton, Iowa. she has written several articles about the problems and challenges of protecting children from the negative effects of test-centric reforms, some of which have been published in the local newspapers and reposted on this blog.

Last month she was called to a meeting with her principal, a human resources employee and the curriculum director. The meeting lasted about one minute. She was told that, although she is a highly proficient teacher with great grasp of content knowledge, she had not shown proper respect of others’ views. To “solve” this problem, they had decided to transfer her to a different school to teach 5th grade.

Understand that she is an early childhood educator who has taught either 1st or 2nd grade since 1998. Her masters is in Literacy Education and she is a reading specialist. Now she will be a 5th grade social studies teacher.

The official letter of transfer says that she was “chosen” for this position because of her command of the content knowledge and her demonstrated instructional competency. Her unusual strengths prepare her to be a successful fifth grade teacher of social studies.

Some of her colleagues have expressed their regret. They see this as a punitive transfer, intended to rebuke her for speaking out while others remained silent because they were afraid of the consequences.

Amy has been candid. she blogs for the state’s newspaper. She expresses her views at faculty meetings about developmentally inappropriate instruction and assessments. She has defended the freedom of teachers to voice their views and do their jobs professionally. She opted her own children out of state testing. She told her son’s kindergarten teacher that she didn’t want him taking part in weekly spelling tests.
In the wake of Vergara, the natural tendency is to think of this as a tenure story, both in the sense that it makes us wonder what would have happened without tenure and it reminds that there are a lot of ways an employer can punish people without actually firing them.

But, there's different, though related, side of the story. Prime has long been a sharp and effective critic of the education reform movement (click here to see her disembowel a badly written reading test). Movement reformers have an exceptionally intolerant attitude toward critics and skeptics. Much of the antagonism toward teachers can be traced back to professional educators' natural (and I would say healthy) skepticism toward pedagogical fads. This attitude has also made the movement vulnerable to charlatans and scam-artists (for example).

Perhaps the historians in the audience might have some examples, but I can't think of another case where a movement has risen so quickly and fallen so fast. The inability to address valid criticism undoubtedly help grease the skids.

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