More indoctrination

When arriving at work this morning, I found this in my mailbox:

I want to you take a close look at what the schools want teachers to do:

– Organize discussion groups in class or after school to talk about and promote homosexuality.
– Bring up homosexuality in conversations with friends and in class discussions.
– Put up posters and wear items promoting homosexuality.

Here is my feeling on this:
– I teach chemistry. Promoting homosexuality is not a part of my course content. I won’t do it. I am not going to tell underaged teen boys that it is acceptable to suck dick, or underage teen girls that they should be out there licking pussy. I am just not going to do it.

– From a biological standpoint, if homosexuality were to become the norm, our species would cease to exist, as it interferes with reproduction. This by definition makes homosexuality a behavioral disorder. That isn’t to say that people who are homosexual should be mistreated or bullied in any way, nor forced into treatment, but I don’t feel that it needs to be celebrated or promoted any more than does flatulence, halitosis, or coronary heart disease.

– As far as transgenders: just because you believe yourself to be a woman does not make it so, any more than I would be a chicken if I claimed to be one. If you believe yourself to be of a sex other than the one which you biologically are, you have a mental disorder. Treatment should be offered for this, but not forced upon transgenders, unless that transgender belief endangers you or others.

However, professing the above beliefs and opinions would get me terminated if it were to become known amongst my coworkers. Free speech, my ass.

Teaching evaluations

On March 7th of this year, I was hired by a local high school to teach physics and chemistry. The teacher before me had been fired for absenteeism two months earlier. They had been in the classroom with substitute teachers for over three months of class time when I was hired. It is difficult to find qualified teachers in STEM fields, and even harder to find qualified teachers for chemistry and physics. Maybe this is why:

The results of our teacher evaluations just came back for last year. The evaluation is based upon three factors:

1 Your plan for teaching and improving yourself and your students (Called a Professional Development Plan or Deliberate Practice Plan)
2 Your classroom skills, as evidenced by a classroom visit and observations made by a school administrator
(These first two factors are called your Instructional Practices Score)
3 Student performance on end of year standardized tests. 
The scores are on a 4 point scale, with 3.50 and higher being superior, 2.5-3.49 being average, and anything less putting your job in jeopardy.
The standardized tests that my evaluation was based on, was administered during the week of March 28 – April 1. Spring break was the previous week. In other words, I was employed by the school for exactly 11 days before they were tested.

Even better, the students whose test scores were the basis for my evaluation were 10th graders. Physics and chemistry are 11th and 12th grade courses. There is no standardized test for either chemistry or physics, so the school uses the 10th grade reading test to rate all teachers whose class does not have a standardized exam.

So that third factor, which comprises 40% of my evaluation, is testing students that I don’t teach, in a subject that has nothing to do with the subjects I teach, and tested them on skills that they learned or didn’t learn before I even worked there.

When my classroom teaching was observed, it was during a physics class. In the the first instance, they were testing the math formula for determining pendulum period. They used different weights and different lengths of string to build pendulums to see which had the greater effect on pendulum period. Then they had to use the pendulum formula to construct a pendulum with a 2 second period. 
During the second class, the students were measuring frequency and wavelength of ultrasonic waves, and using that to calculate the speed of sound in various mediums. 
What did I get as a score for my IPS? A 3.2.
The test that the students took just two weeks after I was hired? I got a 2.49 for that. For performance that didn’t even happen when I was there.
How is that an accurate or fair assessment of a teacher’s skill? Do you know why I was evaluated like this? Florida law says that I get a large bonus if I am a new (to the district) teacher and my SAT scores were above the 80th percentile. By giving me an evaluation from last year, they get out of paying me that bonus.

The teacher across the hall from me is a law school graduate. Last year was her first as a teacher. She is always in an hour early, and leaves an hour late. She got her evaluation today and burst into tears. 

The education system is systematically dysfunctional. Teachers who don’t care are simply there to put in time, get a paycheck, and have summers off. Talented teachers who care are often run out of the classroom and return to other careers.

It pays to be well qualified

On February 6th, I was summarily fired from my teaching job with no warning and no reason given, other than “We are going in a different direction, and you are no longer a good fit for us.” Rumor had it that a student who has a wealthy and well connected father was angry that she got a C on one of my Chemistry exams, and had had her father come in and demand that I be fired.

I got an informal job offer today and will start very soon, pending background check and salary negotiation, meaning that I was out of work for exactly 20 days. I will be teaching Chemistry and Physics to 11th and 12th grade honors students. The new school is 30 minutes away from my house, but that is fine with me.

It seems that teachers who are certified to teach STEM classes are hard to come by. I am certified to teach Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Health, and a number of other sciences.  Teachers with those certifications are not easy to find.

Other than putting my resume out there, I spent the last three weeks getting caught up on household chores like yard work and getting some maintenance done on the cars. The old school had to pay me some money under the terms of my contract (which came to two months’ pay), I got two weeks’ unemployment, and now I am back to work. As it turns out, I actually made money on the deal.

As for my old school, the morning before I was fired they hired a guy to take over my classes who isn’t even certified to teach those subjects. He is a teacher who is only certified to teach Middle School physical education and has never taught before. The school has to send a letter to the parents of all of his students, informing them that the classes are being taught by an uncertified teacher. I am guessing that he won’t last long.

Poor leadership, part 2

This is my rant about my life. 

In my post from earlier in the week, I talked about the Principal firing me because a politically well connected student received a C on one of my Chemistry exams. The story continues.

I applied for unemployment. The evidence is pretty strong in my favor:
– Three weeks before I was terminated, I received my annual evaluation, and it rated me as an “effective” employee.
– Two days before I was terminated, my evaluation score was a 2.7 (effective), which is pretty good for my school.
They are fighting my unemployment, saying that I was fired for misconduct. There are no previous discipline entries on my record, but my evaluation was changed the day after I filed for unemployment to say that I have a 2.2 (needs improvement). I have copies of everything.
During the termination proceedings, this principal (who is an amateur competitor in men’s bodybuilding) told me that PE is the most important subject, because they learn skills there like teamwork and work ethic that they will use their entire lives, whereas the stuff they learn in science and math, they will never use again. Spoken like a true jock.
They hired as my replacement a guy who isn’t certified to teach Biology or Chemistry. His certification is in Elementary School Physical Education. His transcripts show that he failed freshman Biology in college and had to take it over. He received a C the second time he took it. So much for schools only hiring highly qualified teachers for core subjects under “No Child Left Behind.“.

Poor leadership

I have been posting about the dysfunctional education system in this country since I was hired as a teacher in July of 2014. Pay special attention to this previous post. 

I have been working as a teacher at a charter school run by a private company. It is being used as a sales tool for the commercial real estate division of that company. (As in: Look at how great the school here is! If you buy property here, your employees will have access to this great school.)

On Tuesday, some of my students came to see me during lunch and warned me that they were being called to the principal’s office one at a time, told that I was being investigated in connection with a parent complaint, and asked to provide any negative comments that they had about me.

On Wednesday I was called to the principal’s office and presented with the complaints. The only negative things were that I once played a video of Superbowl commercials in class, that I was curving exams, and that students felt like they were not learning in my class.

The principal also told me that out of the 50 students they questioned, all but three of them had positive things to say. He went on to claim that this was probably due to the fact that the students were afraid of retribution. I then said “So when a student complains about not liking my class, they are being accurate and truthful, but when they are happy with my class, they must be lying?”

I also pointed out that the students were all receiving test scores that were showing progress, and in fact were the same or higher than the other teachers who were teaching my subject. We had just gotten our evaluations from last school year, and my evaluations were the same or higher than teachers with decades on the job. The meeting ended there.

On Thursday and Friday, administrators came into my classroom no less than seven times to observe my teaching. I even found a recording device hidden in one of my two classrooms, that was actively and secretly recording me as I taught class.

After school on Friday, I was called from my duty of watching the parking lot and summarily fired. The only reason given was “We are letting you go. You are just not a good fit for the vision that we have here.” That was the best that they could do, even after looking for a reason for four days.

Under the terms of my contract, I have to be paid for the work I have done to this point, and they owe me about two month’s pay. I am not sure where I will work after this, but I have some time and plenty of money.

One of my students contacted me through another teacher. It turns out that there is a student who is bragging that she got me fired. That student has been complaining all year that she doesn’t belong in my class, but in an honors class. She stated that my class was the “dummy class” and was too easy. She received a C on my last exam, and was mad, claiming that she had never received a C in her life on any test. Her father is one of the the named partners of the law firm  that represents the company that owns the charter school.

Other sources in the main offices of the school tell me that the father was indignant that his daughter received a C and demanded that I be fired, but as long as I don’t make waves, the school will not give me a bad recommendation when I apply elsewhere.

That is where education is today.

Meanwhile, at school

We had a teacher workday recently. During that day, we had a meeting of the science department. Here is how part of it it went:
Head of Science Department: “If we actually graded our students’ performance against the standards, and gave them the grades that we should, two thirds of them would have an F.”
Anatomy teacher: “If we do that, we will all be out of a job.”
Department head: “You got that right. Just give them good grades, and send them down the road.”

It is a losing battle. You assign homework, less than half the class even attempts to do the work, and of that half, three quarters of them copy the answers from another student. I caught a student cheating on an exam by using his cell phone. As per policy, he got a zero and a referral. The parent, rather than being angry at the child for cheating, defended her child by saying that there is no proof that using a cell phone during a test is cheating.

She said that the child was simply texting his mother about picking him up after school, and claimed that we cannot prevent a child from texting his mother. The Vice Principal asked me if I had actually seen the child using the phone to lookup answers. I replied that I cannot see that, because the kid puts the phone away as soon as you approach.

I was told that I must allow the student to take the test without penalty, unless I actually see the student looking up answers. Simply having a phone out during a test is not sufficient, because a phone can be used for doing other things besides looking up answers.

The kids learn nothing, because they cheat on tests all year, do not do homework, and refuse to study. However, if the child gets anything less than a B, parents complain. If more than a handful of the students receive a failing grade, the teacher is in danger of losing their job. The school famously says “There are no bad students, only bad teachers. It is your job as a teacher to find a way to motivate them to learn.”

At the end of the year, the students are given a standardized test to see what they learned in the past year. The test is 30% of the student’s grade, but the score is adjusted. If a child misses every question, the minimum score that is used for their grade is a 58%. This makes it impossible for them to fail the test. The students know this, and unless the student is an honor student, which most are not, they don’t care what grade they get.

However, the school gets graded on how the students do, as do the teachers. If the students of a given school do poorly, the school gets less money from the state. The teachers are also graded on how the students do. If your students do poorly, then you are out of a job.

It is the craziest, most dysfunctional system that I have ever seen. My job depends, not on my performance, but on the performance of a third party, who faces no consequences for poor performance. I have high school seniors as students who are reading at a second grade level, and who cannot even convert grams into kilograms without using an App on their phone. How can I teach them Chemistry?

My job depends on two things:
Keeping parents happy by ensuring that most kids get good grades.
Hoping like hell that the kids do well enough on the standardized tests at the end of the year.


By now, all of you  have read about the Muslim who tried to kill a police officer in the name of Allah using a stolen police firearm as his weapon of choice. His mother stated that he was a “devout Muslim.” I want to make sure that some facts of this shooting see a wider audience:

A few facts from this story at

Edward Archer confessed to investigators that he had acted “in the name of Islam,” authorities said.

In the name of Islam, eh?

 In the fall of 2011, he traveled to Saudi Arabia for a pilgrimage to Mecca and stayed for several weeks, an FBI spokesman said. The next year, he went to Egypt for reasons that are unclear and spent several months there.

After reading that, look at this gem of a statement:

Investigators are scouring Archer’s Internet activity to see if he may have had contact with ISIS members or other radical Islamic groups. A law enforcement source said late Friday that so far they have not found any indication that Archer had been in contact with known terrorism suspects.

Maybe the fact that he traveled to two countries that are known hotbeds of terrorist activities is a hint? The usual suspects then chime in:

Jacob Bender, executive director of the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, said the incident “should not be seen as representative of Muslims or the faith of Islam,” and called for a thorough investigation of the shooting.

The shooting was carried out with a handgun that had been stolen from a police officer:

Archer was armed with a semi-automatic 9mm pistol – a police-issued firearm that had been reported stolen from an officer’s home in 2013, Ross said. He said it was unclear how Archer got the gun.

The shooter was a convicted felon:
In January 2012, Archer threatened another man with a gun in West Philadelphia. He pleaded guilty to simple assault and carrying a firearm without a license. He was sentenced to 9-23 months in jail and two years’ probation. He was still on probation at the time of the shooting. He was immediately paroled, without serving time.

He was convicted and awaiting sentencing on charges of forgery, careless driving, and driving on a suspended license, and more. He was to be sentenced on Monday.

The Mayor stated that this shooting shows that there are too many guns on the streets. He also had this to say:

 In no way shape or form does anyone in this room believe that Islam or the teaching of Islam has anything to do with what you’ve seen on the screen. In no way shape or form does anyone in this room believe that Islam or the teaching of Islam has anything to do with what you’ve seen on the screen.

The District Attorney doubled down on the stupid:

This shows us the need for smarter laws when it relates to guns on the street. 

So let me get this straight:

A Muslim who is a convicted felon on probation for other crimes shoots and attempts to murder a police officer using a firearm that was stolen from a cop’s home during a burglary. He then admits and states that he did it to further the cause of Jihad. We are told that this is not related to terrorism, and that we should in no way use this shooting as a yardstick with which to judge all Muslims.

Then we are told that this indicates that the one group of people who were not in any way involved in this incident must be punished, because gun owners are to blame when a police officer’s weapon is stolen by a terrorist criminal and is used in an attempt to kill another police officer.

Sigh. The parents are even worse.

In the writing assignment here, I assigned this paper to my 120 students. Here is the breakdown:

Of the 60 who turned in the assignment:
In 7 of them, at least 50% of the content in it was plagiarized from internet sources (I use to catch plagiarism, and the students know it, so I don’t understand how they think they will get away with it)


A or B: 15

C level work: 19

D level work: 20

F: 15

Zero for cheating (plagiarism): 7
53 of them did not even attempt the assignment and got a zero

7 turned the assignment in at least three days late, and had their grade reduced accordingly

To help the kids, I have a class website, where:

I post the rubric that I use to grade the papers. This rubric tells the kids exactly what criteria I use for grading. They all know EXACTLY what they need to do in order to get a decent grade.

I post a sample of an A level paper, so they know what one looks like.

I post the requirements for the paper, including the due date and the website where they are to submit the paper. Even so, I still get parents who email me and complain that their precious snowflake wasn’t aware of the (due date, late policy, plagiarism policy, method of citing another’s work, or other requirement) and can’t I make an exception?

It has gotten to the point where I have to have the students sign a paper saying that they are aware of the class requirements. Last week, I had a parent go all legal on me and try to say that a child’s signature on the paper is meaningless because children can’t enter contracts. Another said to me, “So what, no one actually reads that stuff before they sign it.”


Systemic failure of education

My first year as a teacher is now over, and I learned a lot about the things that are happening in our schools. It was an eye opening experience, to say the least. For years, I had thought that the problem was incompetent teachers, and I was wrong. That isn’t to say that all of the teachers are brilliant and hard working. No, there are good teachers and bad, hard working teachers and lazy ones, just like any other profession. The problems in our education system are widespread and systemic. I am not sure if the system is fixable. Let me explain where I saw the problems:

The parents:
Each and every parent has an outcome that they want for their kids. That desired outcome has NOTHING to do with educating their child. What they want is for their child to receive good grades, so that child can “get into a good college.” The parents don’t care if the child actually learns anything. The goal is good grades. If their child doesn’t receive high marks, then they blame the teacher for picking on the child, claiming favoritism. Even when you show them that the exams are all multiple choice, and the correct answer was not selected by the child, the parent continues blaming the teacher. I even had one parent accuse me of substituting an incorrectly marked test for their child’s test, so I could make her look bad.

The State legislature and State Department of Education:
The state continuously changes the standards that each course must meet, and the tests that the students must take at the end of the course in order for the child to demonstrate that he or she has met that standard. These benchmarks mirror common core. I don’t necessarily have a problem with common core itself. As I have blogged in the past, the benchmarks make sense, it’s just that there are so many things that the students must learn in only 189 days of class.

That brings me to my next point: There are 189 days of school. In those 189 days, the students spend 36 of them taking standardized tests that are required by the state. That does’t count my tests, nor does it count other things like pep rallies and other school events. That leaves only about 140 days for actual learning to take place, and there were 83 benchmarks for the students in Biology last year. Benchmarks like:

  • Analyze strategies for prevention, detection, and treatment of communicable and chronic diseases.
  • Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks, attending to special cases or exceptions defined in the text.
  • Analyze the movement of matter and energy through the different biogeochemical cycles, including water and carbon.
  • Identify the reactants, products, and basic functions of aerobic and anaerobic cellular respiration.
and so on. This coming school year, that has been expanded to 85 benchmarks. 
The school administration:
The schools take the upper half of the students who are doing well, and put them in an ‘honors’ course. This means that the kids who are below average in learning are segregated into ‘regular’ classes. At the end of the year, the students for honors and regular classes take the same state exam, so the honors classes have much higher test scores than the regular classes, and they get a bonus point towards their GPA ( an A gets you 5 points on a 4 point scale, instead of 4 points.)
This has the effect of making the regular kids look even more under performing than the honors kids.
The Federal government:
The Feds have a law which says that kids with a learning disability get ‘accommodations’ to helping them take exams. They are allowed to have extra study guides, extended time on tests, and other perks, but that the student’s school transcripts and diplomas will not reflect the extra help. Granted, many of the students who receive them are truly in need of the extra help. The problem is that there are parents who are gaming the system, and in my opinion, these parents are not only hurting their own children, but are placing the children who are truly in need of these services at a disadvantage. 
The students:
Students have always tried to game the system, and get away with doing little. The students don’t do their assignments. The problem is even worse. Things have gotten to the point where they will physically attack staff and teachers. Kids are doing and selling drugs on campus. Because of the threats of lawsuits, the achool administrators are afraid to do anything about it.
The teachers
There are teachers who, in response to the above, have simply given up. They give all of the kids at least a C. They don’t enforce rules, and do all in their power to ensure that students and parents like them. Of course, there is standardized testing to worry about, but they do their best to feed students the answers to the tests at the end of the year, so they do well enough that the teacher keeps their job. Since there are no raises for teachers based on performance, there is no real incentive to excel. In fact, the only incentive is not to get hassled and to keep your job, and that only ensures that some work just hard enough not to get fired.
This year, I had the under performing half of the students. The state testing at the end of the year is graded on a scale of 1-5. A three indicates that the student was on grade level in the subject. A one indicates that they are significantly below grade level, and a five indicates that they are significantly above. The honors kids averaged a 3.82. My under performing students averaged a 2.73. Not bad, considering that many of those kids have not done well on state testing in previous years. I only had three kids score a 1: two of them failed the final exams in two other classes, and the third of them doesn’t really speak English all that well. 54% of my kids scored a 3 or higher on the exam, and that makes me happy. 
I have been hired for next year to teach Biology to tenth graders, and Chemistry to the Eleventh graders. I will again be teaching the under performing kids, and  did so well that I am losing five of them to the honors track.I wish them well.
As for the system, it is broken, but I will refuse to hand out passing grades just to keep everyone happy.