These days, I feel more like the late DentArthurDent stuck in a Vogon Bureaucracy than a teacher who is attempting to subvert the Bureaucracy from within. Last week, we had M’s second SST, in which I had to go in and again explain that, despite my efforts at interventions, M still has made no progress. He’s still reading on the same DRA level- Kindergarten- that he was at the beginning of the year. The ELD coach agrees that this student is a very serious case. I knew going into this meeting that the ELD coach was of the same opinion I was- that M needs to be tested so we can figure out how to help him. I also knew that somebody down at the district office had made some kind of sarcastic comment to our principal about how many referrals my school has had this year. I figured this would mean that my principal would make sure I had done absolutely everything I could before looking at the data and realizing that there is something seriously amiss with a student who has literally mastered nothing all year. Instead, I felt like the meeting suddenly became our principal vs. me and the ELD coach, with the 2 of us spending the hour justifying what most people see as blatantly obvious when they simply talk to my student.
Luckily, the SST team recommended M for testing.
Unluckily, there is a stupid rule about testing. The psychologist is given a 60 day window to test students. Since the principal dragged her feet in setting this up in the first place (remember, I filed the paperwork in October,) there are now less than 60 days until the end of the school year. Which, the special ed teacher at my school assures me, means that there is basically no chance that M will be tested this year.
When I found that out, I felt utterly defeated. At that moment, I came to the realization that my school’s administration is playing a game that I-and my students- cannot win. With every passing day, the support I receive from my principal dwindles even more. We, as second grade teachers, are now suddenly expected to go above and beyond what the kinder and first teachers have to do. For example, many of the first grade students are behind (I don’t know why- probably lack of teacher support.) The teachers wanted to retain some of those students. In response, our principal sent out a passive-aggressive email that basically said we shouldn’t retain students and instead start interventions right away next year. Which sends the message to me as a second grade teacher: “It doesn’t matter that the other 2 grades at our school didn’t do their job. Since your students make our break our API, you will spend your entire life catching them up 2 grade levels. But don’t ask me for any help on that one.”
I don’t really understand why the situation has deteriorated so quickly at my school. But I do know that, for the good of the students, something has to change next year. I might be able to make significant gains with my students in the short run. But in the long run, it’s the culture of the school that shapes achievement. And right now, the culture at my school is basically, “Let’s just look good in front of the district office. It doesn’t matter how we’re really doing underneath.” That change has to come from the top. Here’s hoping they get it together.