Sunday, February 15, 2009

We are DROWNING in Paperwork

"Data collection" to be specific.

From the ICE Listserve - (I'm keeping the sender anon.)

It's special ed : Ieps, report cards, assessment rubrics, project logs, homework logs, log logs , BFAs and the motherlode of all paperwork sinkholes: Alternative Assessment porfolios.

I'd conservatively estimate that the job is, at this point, 10% pedagogy and 90% clerical.

The contract says this: "Committees composed equally of representatives of the Board ( sic) and the Union shall be established at the central, district and division levels to review and reduce unnecessary paperwork required of employees." (P.52)

Here's my question: where are said committees? Do they even exist? Can I participate in one?

UFT phone person says it should be addressed via chapter consultation committee. Is this true? Bad news for us if it is 'cause we don't have one, far as I know and we don't even have chapter meetings.

So... what do you suggest? Any help appreciated.

I responded:

As we've seen time and again, the UFT addresses the problem - and I use this term lightly - with words and no action.

This is an important issue for ICE to take up. There is no solution for one school but must be addressed on a wide basis. The problem is the UFT just plays footsie. Sure file a grievance if something is in the contract. But imagine what would happen if the union started organizing a boycott of some of the worst of these paperwork abuses and started a campaign for public support and also made a commitment to rigorously defend any teacher punished.

Don't hold your breath when we have a sell out union.
But that doesn't mean ice can't start creating pressure.

Anon responds:
I'm thinking along these lines as well. First things first: I'm trying to get my CL to tell me where these committees are and how I participate in them. So far - ignored two emails on the topic.

I think merely clamoring for the contract to be implemented re. paperwork is a good first step from the staff's POV. ( I.e. without filing an explicit grievance) It communicates disgruntlement to an echo chamber-type environment where the supervisory staff leaves the building at the same time as the teaching staff. They talk only to each other and have the staff cowed with the implicit threat of requiring even more paperwork. Meanwhile they couldn't care less what actually goes on in the classroom, in terms of *learning*. A more emotionally detached group I've not encountered in my [many] years but "I'll leave that to Dr. Freud along with the rest of it." Point is, I don't think they want a grievance and MAY respond to..... lets say, "persuasion".

More comments from ICE-mail:

LP says:
I was in an elementary school this week. I could not believe the assessment process that teachers are going through. They must administer, 1-1, a series of assessments, 3 times a year in ela. Then enter the results on a computer. They are not given any time to do it. Teaching time is severely cut, and management really can become an issue (this teacher has good management but I cannot imagine it in the class of a new teacher). This teacher, who is normally so smooth, gentle, easy going - was a wreck. I could not get a minute to talk to her. If it helped - well then, maybe it should be done. But I asked another teacher if she really had time to use the results of these assessments to help kids. She laughed. In addition, professional development is on how to assess, how to enter - that dreaded word - data - into the system, not on how to meet the needs of kids who are struggling. I sit here imagining all of the teachers of this city, entering any old data that they want... would anyone even know????

L says:
This is a big issue in most schools. It got a lot worse with the quality reviews. Every teacher MUST have an assessment binder now....NO ONE knows what exactly they want in it. Some principals go way over board with it. Why have a binder when you can just have folders for different student work and assessments? The new thing this year is that teachers are required to come up with individual goals for every student. The students are suppose to know their individual goal.

G says:
My principal hired a company to keep track of all data in glossy , professionally prepared booklets at a very high cost. Not sure exactly how much but I'm trying to find out. Here is some of what they say:

Schools work with us because they believe that the only way to improve student performance is to make instruction more effective. The only way to provide more effective instruction is to have data drive what is taught. It is only what students actually learn that matters; teaching methods, curriculum maps, pacing calendars and formal observations do not matter if students are not learning. In the business world if you want to improve something you must first be able to measure it.

The teachers have to collect and give all data to the administration every few months. And not only do the teachers have to write learning goals for the kids, the students have been hounded to write their own learning goals.Try asking a 2nd grader with a learning disability what their learning goals are?

The UFT Response? Do [another] survey.
You see, it gives people the impression you are doing something.
We are hearing from some districts and networks that some principals are asking teachers to set written, individualized goals for every student several times throughout the year. In some cases, the student goals must be rewritten each semester, every six weeks, or every month. They seem to be the result of both the changes that were initiated this year in the Quality Review, and training principals have received in their networks.

In order to effectively pursue this issue, we need a sense of how widespread this is, and we need that information quickly in order to avoid timeliness issues.

Can we quickly survey chapter leaders, perhaps by email, with the following questions?

1. To your knowledge are all or some of your teachers being mandated to set individualized written goals for all or most of their students?
2. Is this practice new this year?
3. Have teachers been given extra time to do this?

We would need this information by Wednesday, February, 4th.

For our documentation we need every district representative to respond with names of the schools that are impacted by goal setting.

Thank you

Aminda Gentile

One more issue: when are teachers to enter the data on computers? During the day on their "free" time? And if they could, how available are computers? Teachers are often left with no option but to put hours of useless work into data input at home.


Anonymous said...

At Packeminanscrewem High, the brilliant administrators came up with the great panacea which will cure all students of lateness to class: the feared late book where the teacher has to fill out a slip every time a kid is late, and if said kid refuses to sign the late book, we have to "note" that. Throw more paper at 'em, that'll stop all that lateness!!

ed notes online said...

I hear lots of horror stories from elementary schools. It seems this crap runs across the board.

It's time to stop bitching and start organizing. Only a citywide boycott of this crap will get a message across.

Anonymous said...

This insane increase in data collection on individual students appears to be driven by the Quality Review. I heard about a school in my district that got an Underdeveloped on their total review although every other area was rated Proficient or higher.

The teachers are so over worked and overwhelmed resulting in such tension.

When my principal told the staff last June that she was going to mandate all classroom teachers collect more individual student data and have regular meetings with her during a prep or lunch, as CL I was able to to gain some relief--Instead of not collecting the data or meeting with her, all classroom teachers got an extra prep per week. But now the work has increased again. Many teachers were seen on Friday taking home stacks of records, files and huge binders to record the data during vacation.

Individually, we haven't been able to stop it. Organizing is the only way!

Anonymous said...

I have been teaching for decades and I am also familiar with the past history of the nyc schools. Never have elementary school teachers been working so hard, doing reams and reams of record keeping, data recording, and accomplishing so little. More work doesn't make more effective teachers. How can stressed out exhausted adults who are treated like the enemy by administrators be caring nurturers of children, let alone be effective instructors.

ed notes online said...

Yes, let's organize. If there is a response from the schools we will try to get people together.

Anonymous said...

As a British mother of 3 sons who are at present in the US education system, there are many insidious factors that contribute to the dire failure of the education system, for many. Some of the people reading this list of comments might be interested in a unique education reform book that a colleague and I have compiled - Education:The Emperor's New Clothes, by Carlson & Felix, 2008. This book does not pander to political correctness or jargon, and is an easy read with many original cartoons and famous quotes. It is a verbal documentary from teachers, parents and concerned individuals world-wide. Here is the publisher’s link, for more information -

For a YouTube clip, go to: