PI Means Punitive Intent

In a stack of papers called Legislation.

  • Nov
  • 11
  • 2007

punitive (pyoo-ni-tiv) adj. 1. See ESEA/NCLB

No rewards for desired behavior exist, only punishments. It’s as if ESEA/NCLB set out to doom public education. The overarching goal of 100% proficiency is almost necessarily impossible; the premise from which the law generates destines some percentage of schools to failure. Punishments the law puts in place easily snatch schools in and only release them with incredibly difficulty. Take the Program Improvement (PI) designation as an example.

Punishment Instituted

My district recently received PI status, a pit out of which I am certain we will never climb. A single school within the district failing to meet its AYP growth for two years in a row moves the entire district into PI.

In order to move out of PI, all eleven schools need to meet each goal included in the AYP measurement for two years in a row. My district is comprised of eleven schools. It only took one school to push us into PI. It’ll take all eleven to get us out.

My school missed AYP in the ’05-’06 school year because we had 92% STAR participation from our Hispanic population. We needed 95%. Another school in my district missed AYP because of insignificant growth in assessed content areas. According to ESEA/NCLB, both schools fail. Missing participation by 3% is just as bad as students not demonstrating growth.

Poorly Implemented

As a result of PI, my district instituted READ 180 at all schools without time to grow the program from within or properly equip campuses to meet technological demands. Several sections of the course were added, many to schools who only had a few sections previously (my school had two; we currently have six).

Additionally, the district adopted a set of essential English standards for the freshman and sophomore years, a responsibility foisted on us in mid-June. Teachers need to give a mid-year and year-end district-wide assessment to all freshmen this year, with other grade levels to follow in the coming years. Released test questions? I was told to look at the released CST questions. Number of test items? The test hasn’t been written yet. We haven’t even come to terms with what it means if a student passes the course, but fails the assessment. Yet we give the inaugural assessment sometime in January 2008. The law forces us to.

Practical Implications

Some administrators have pushed for my district to adopt English curriculum maps, spelling out what is taught each day of the year (“other departments do it, why is it so impossible for English to be on board?”). We’ve pushed back, made some concessions, and argued reasonably in order to be released of that task. The writing is on the wall, though: the day is coming when English curriculum will be prescribed and teachers will be required to teach to that map. Will anyone be paid to create the curriculum maps? Will all English departments have a say in what is taught and when? If so, when do those collaboration meetings happen? Who is paying for the massive numbers of novels we need to buy in order to teach, say, To Kill A Mockingbird to 600 freshmen at the same time? We currently only have 124 copies.

The biggest hurdle is that all freshman English teachers need to get together for a group collaboration meeting once a month. Freshman math teachers need to do the same. When is that supposed to happen? Are teachers compensated for the time required to meet? Are teachers compensated for the time required to create the meeting agenda and run the meeting? At least one administrator is required to attend this meeting. Are administrators compensated for that time? My district is already seeing English department chairs resign due to all the time needed to manage this new requirement.

All that PI has done is required each math and English department to hold monthly meetings, regardless of whether or not they are necessary, and rush to react to laws. My district’s reaction was to quickly adopt a few programs and implement them all in the same year. Some blame for the poor execution lays firmly on the plate of my district, sure. But the law that created that reaction shares a slice. Given the quick calendar of PI status (we were literally told a list of demands in the final weeks of last school year), most districts will react this same way. And the results will likely be the same: more programs adopted without an analysis of their need and no follow through to determine their effectiveness.

Public education needs help. It needs to be better than what it is. But a reactionary public education system is little better than an unaccountable one.

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