I was pondering today, as I often seem to lately, why I had a headache. It's not just because I teach middle schoolers that I had a headache. They usually don't give me a headache anymore, frustrating though they might be. They are, after all, middle-schoolers. It makes sense that they frustrate me. No, what frequently causes my headache these days is hearing about a school reform. But I wondered-- why should hearing about one school reform cause my head to hurt? Well, because each school reform that comes along is adding to the pile of school reforms that are already in place.
In the past, I think school reforms had a shelf life of about two years, after which time they expired and were replaced by a new reform. This wasn't a great system, but at least you only had to put up with one reform at a time. You dealt with Open Classrooms until Cooperative Learning came to chase them off. Somehow, somewhere along they way, they began putting preservatives in school reforms, because now they never go away. They can last forever-- like Twinkies-- and are often just as full of artificial ingredients. We don't get rid of them; we just keep piling more on the shelf.
Here is a list of school reforms. Some are older, ongoing reforms. Some are newer reforms to the now-aging older reforms. Some are brand-spanking-new reforms. All of them, whether programs, systems, or philosophies, purport to fix the problem of our nation's supposedly failing public schools:
Florida's version of standardized testing, FCAT, and its recent update, FCAT 2.0
No Child Left Behind and Annual Yearly Progress
Race to the Top
Value added assessment
Professional Learning Communities
Student Learning Objectives
Common formative/summative assessments
End of course exams
Outcome based learning
Florida Senate Bill 6 (a sequel coming soon to a legislature near you!)
Common core standards
Teacher evaluation reform
That's just off the top of my head. I'm sure there are more. (The list is 30 items long, by the way.)
My point is not pick on any particular reforms. Some of the reforms I've listed above, Inquiry Learning for example, I am actually fond of. Others, not so much (you can probably guess which ones). My point is this: most of these things are being done to teachers right now. All at once. It is reformation overload. It is difficult to keep track of them all. Some of them come flying at us with little or no explanation, and by the time we've learned what they are-- here comes another one!
There is a percieved fire, too many feet are trying to stomp it out, and these feet end up stepping on each other.
Everyone is trying to fix education. Would it be too much to ask that we slow down and let one thing work, or not work, before we try something else? Trying to adapt to thirty-some-odd reforms in the midst of trying to teach is giving me a headache.