I think to understand some of why the school is where it is today, it is necessary to understand some of the history. One factor that is important to understanding things is that the school is on a reservation – currently the student population is about 65% Native American, but that has fluctuated greatly over the past 50 years for a variety of reasons. Obviously, the historical aspect of the Native American experience with boarding schools and how that impacted families and feelings about education is a factor still today that cannot be overlooked. We also currently have about 75% of our students qualifying for free and reduced lunch. While these factors affect our school from the student side, they have also had a major impact on our teachers.
Long before NCLB, focus was on improving education for low-performing minority groups. Additionally, some states were working on various forms of state standards or learning goals. So, schools with certain populations were often the subject of grant proposals by various institutions and other groups. Teachers in these schools then have been inundated with the “latest-greatest” flavor of the year in education for years. People come in with the program of choice, or with a new way of documenting curriculum, or whatever it might be….the teachers put in hours of extra work….and the next year it is pushed aside for the newest trend. These initiatives were rarely teacher or even district-led. With each successive year, the veteran teachers (who had been through the process numerous times) were less likely to fully commit or become engaged in the process.
With this history, NCLB, state standards, and AYP come into the picture. Teachers at these schools in many cases did not buy into it. There was a “this too shall pass” attitude in many ways that led to indifference. Given the history, can anyone blame them?
Within a few short years, our school was “in AYP.” So the outside “experts” come to help write the plans to make the state happy. And with the plans come consultants, PLCs, and new programs. All of which change yearly. Each year, we hear the same ideas from a different consultant about differentiation. Each year we have a new program of choice – none of which we are well trained in, none of which have any follow through, and none of which are carried on past the first year. Each year we change our PLC plan – once a month interest groups, every other week by subject area, every week by grade level….with no clear guidance, these groups mostly evolve into gripe-sessions. Our scores do not improve.
Which brings us (finally!) to the present. We do have a new principal this year. We do have a new “plan” (of course!). We are now under different requirements as one of the states that applied for a waiver. And, I find myself turning inward. In the past, I have been concerned about the big picture of our school. I’m not sure I can sustain that. I recently joined Twitter and the PLN I am building there is inspirational and has prompted me to do more personal reflection. Right now, I think I need to focus my energy on my classroom, my family and myself. So….I will blog.