Thursday, March 27, 2008

Principal Doublespeak: Having the Lesson Plan Takes Priority Over the Lesson

If you haven't been following the travails of Moriah, a middle school science teacher in the process of receiving a U-rating, head on over and read the latest entry in the bizarre world of the NYCDOE. I know people at the school and this principal, notorious for emphasizing minutia and noted for choosing one teacher a year to pick on for a career-ending experience. One day Moriah will give the ok to go public with this stuff so that when someone googles the principal's name they will read this excerpt (head over to Untamed Teacher for the entire saga.)

MORIAH: There is a big difference between not having a lesson plan and not having a lesson plan on the desk during a lab.

PRINCIPAL: Tell me what the difference is.

MORIAH: The difference in not having a lesson plan would have meant that I did not know that I had to bring 8 triple beam balances. I did not know that I had to bring 8 graduated cylinders, two bars of soap. In other words, I would not have known what to do that day. But the lab was very very carefully planned. All materials were present. I knew the exact procedure. All the children knew the exact procedure. There was 100% success rate in finding the density of both bars of soap. Children were able to write up a lab, an example of which I gave you and which I have here. So it would be impossible to do all that without writing up a lesson plan, but my emphasis was on having the equipment rather than having a piece of paper that I have memorized. You are always welcome to ask for it. I usually have a written lesson plan, but there are times when perhaps I might get caught without the piece of paper, but the lesson is not only planned, I have it memorized in my head.

PRINCIPAL: But as per Chancellor’s memo 666 and the faculty handbook that you received at the beginning of the year, you must have a written plan and you must have the lesson plan available when it is requested. You said just now that you “usually” have a written lesson plan. All teachers must have a planned lesson. A written lesson plan. Please explain to me why you did not follow the faculty handbook, the Chancellor’s Regulations and the Principal’s Memos. You must have a written lesson plan ALL the time.

On march 23, 2007 I was a traveling teacher and I had a small cart with 13 science project boards from 7F the lowest class that I had.

The science projects were:

How does color affect the melting rate of ice?
How does a change in air pressure affect an egg?
How does temperature affect an electromagnet?
How can we use cabbage juice as a pH indicator?
Which substance filters water the best?
What is the effect of soda on the fizz of a soda?
Will seeds grow better in a covered jar or an uncovered jar?
How do we find if a food has starch?
How much bounce will a handball lose if it is dropped from different heights?
Have you ever wondered how clouds form?
How will different amounts of baking soda and vinegar affect how high a film canister will pop?
How does density of a liquid affect how ice floats.
How can we test different liquids for pH?

At that time I was overwhelmed by the number of boards on the cart. We were going to have a science project fair for 7F. Ms X came in and asked for the lesson plan and when she couldn’t find it she turned around and left without looking at the science projects of 7F. Without giving the children the approval that this low level class needed.

PRINCIPAL: Let me repeat my question. Why did you not have a lesson plan?

MORIAH: It was buried under 13 science boards.


  1. Wait, so now you want principals to evaluate their teachers based on outcomes rather than inputs? Sounds pretty Klein-ish, doesn't it? I mean, if principals stop collecting lesson plans, they'll have to figure out a way to see if the students are learning/attaining the objective. Does this mean you want some sort of assessment to be added to science class, too?

  2. Am I missing something? When I was observed it was about my lesson, not my lesson plan. When my plans were collected, I had to send them to the AP or Principal. They did not come in and disturb the lesson demanding the plan even if it ruined the lesson, while showing no interest in how the lesson was being implemented. But under Klein principals are so empowered, the feel free to do just about anything. It is Childen First, Right?

  3. Right, but if we rely on principal observations rather than data, you will complain that this opens the door for capricious principals to pick on teachers they don't like.

    I don't think the principal was right in demanding the lesson plan, and I'm all about judging results, not inputs. That's why I like test scores, though I wish we'd expand what we're assessing.

  4. "Does this mean you want some sort of assessment to be added to science class, too?"

    Hmmmm...perhaps you are not a teacher after all. I guess than you have no idea that 4th and 8th graders have been assessed by NYS in science for years. I suppose you had no clue that starting next fall, all children in grades 3-8 will be tested twice a year in science. Oh- and I guess you forgot about those nasty old Regents exams in high schools- you know, the ones in biology, chemistry, earth science and physics?

  5. Yes, you're right, sorry. I should've said, "does this mean you want a greater emphasis on the science tests," which we know the media never talks about, or "does this mean you're happy that they're putting them in all grades instead of just a couple next year?" Congratulations, you caught me: I don't currently teach science. Never said I do, though.

  6. It has nothing to do with teaching science. Surely a teacher as savvy as you knew about the 4th grade science assessment, at the very least- that's hardly anything new. And what of Regents exams? They've been administered for the past 100 years.

  7. Socratic method must be a blog reader form unity.

  8. Not Unity - the DOE press office.

  9. Right, because the Unity folks and the DOE press office doesn't know about the Science test, it's a big secret that only teachers (and all teachers) know about.

  10. Soc- you had a great deal of criticism about anonymous' writing ability- but that 12:53 post leaves something to be desired.

    For the record, teachers of the arts in my building are all well aware that science testing exists. I'm still shocked that you hadn't a clue.

  11. I knew that and I'm retired for 6 years. I even know what grade the social studies test is given and the month - more idiocy by the state ed dept.

  12. Of course I knew about that test. I just didn't mention it because it's NEVER emphasized. Do you deny that?
    I doubt there's anyone in the country who doesn't know there are 8th grade science tests by this time. And your assertion that I'm a Klein shill at the DOE sure doesn't mesh with my supposed lack of knowledge about the science test. Like I said, I KNOW it exists, but I mis-typed. This sort of semantic harping is useful in a political campaign, but not in an actual dialogue. If you really don't believe that I know about that test, then what do you suppose that says about me? It sure doesn't prove any of the previous speculation about my job.

    I was making a broader point. Answer my question about that point, rather than snickering to yourself and saying "I got you." No you didn't.

  13. Your original post states, "Does this mean you want some sort of assessment to be added to science class, too?" This clearly indicates that you had no clue that there was science testing. You can say you "mis-typed", but I contend that your words are clear.

    Science is highly emphasized in NYC public schools, and the DOE is taking great pains to develop new curricula for every grade level. The 8th grade test will be used as one of the promotional criteria in the next year or so, as will the social studies test.

  14. Right, in the next year or so. Meanwhile, the math and ELA tests have been emphasized, reported on, and used for retention for how many years now?

    It's a cute game you're playing, but it's as vacuous as your knee-jerk opposition to all things Klein.

  15. You must be confusing me with somebody else, because I haven't stated any opinions in this thread about Klein.

    As for the science not being reported on- if a school does not meet any of it's AYPs in ELA or math, yet do meet them in science, the school is not penalized. Sounds like emphasis to me.

  16. You must be confusing me with somebody else, because I haven't stated any opinions in this thread about Klein.

    As for the science not being reported on- if a school does not meet any of it's AYPs in ELA or math, yet do meet them in science, the school is not penalized. Sounds like emphasis to me.

  17. My students' 8th grade science scores helped my school meet its AYP, and I'm still U-rated.

    That's why I know in my heart that the only input and output that Bloomberg and Klein are really concerned about is money. They are not trying to make public education better. They are trying to reroute millions of dollars of taxpayers' money into private hands.

    And in that new, private system they only want teachers who follow orders and don't talk back.

  18. Norm, Thanks for posting some of my U-rating odyssey. And thanks even more for the inspirational picture you put with it. I'll have to have a talk with my dressmaker....


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