What I Did With My $427.76 *Highly Effective* Winnings
In 2013-14, I was rated as a “highly effective” teacher.
The rating was based upon two classroom observations by one of our school administrators, an in-house semester “exam” (the quotes around the word exam are meant to convey a shoddy, last-minute delivery of an exam that if it were an assignment for a course I taught, it would surely have failed for its obviousness as an undisguised effort to “turn in something, anything”), and a more formal exam known as an End-of-Course (EOC) exam administered three weeks prior to the actual end of the course.
The “placing of my bet” was done via Student Learning Targets (SLT) focused on the outcomes of the in-house exam and the EOC. SLT isn’t value-added modeling (VAM), but it is still gambling.
My formal observation is the component over which I have the most control. The school administrator who observed me appreciated that I consulted individually with my students on their assignments and offered immediate feedback. Though other information contributed to the formal classroom observation part of my total evaluation rating, these two qualities in my teaching appear to be the primary reasons for her rating my teaching as “highly effective.”
All else (i.e., the test outcomes) was a crap shoot. In 2013-14, it was Lucky Seven for me.
Based upon the two exams that fell to my lot, and the particular students in my classes, and my students’ outcomes on those exams, and the scoring criteria, I managed “highly effective” across the board.
In 2013, Louisiana State Superintendent John White proudly announced the meager money that Louisiana school districts are scraping together to meet “the law” and pay teachers winning this crap shoot a token stipend.
Given that traditional school districts are not hedge-fund or billionaire-corporate-philanthropist financed, and given the systematic defunding of traditional public education via the creative and intentional bleeding of public education funds to under-regulated “competition” by way of charters (and its dependence upon Teach for America temp teachers), vouchers, and “Course Choice,” this mandated “highly effective” money must be squeezed out of districts that are openly unsupported by their very own excuse of a state superintendent.
I learned at the end of last year that the “highly effective” stipend was to be $500 for teachers in my district.
I thought until Friday, October 31, 2014, that the money had already been included in my paycheck. My pay increased $16 every two weeks. However, I now realize that was the result of the Senate Education Committee’s wrenching 2014-15 teacher pay raise money from a privatization-friendly state board.
That would have made it more difficult for me to deal with, I thought. Lump sum is easier. (Stay tuned for what I mean.)
And indeed, as a lump sum it came.
On October 31, 2014, I had an extra deposit of $427.76 from my district into my bank account.
When I saw it, I realized what it was.
My “highly effective” payout.
But I must note, I quickly soured on the idea of this “bonus.”
I thought of my many teaching colleagues who did not win the crap shoot. They work hard. They pour themselves into their teaching. They are skilled, dedicated teachers.
They did not win.
Now, when you read what I did next, please do so knowing that this was my decision and that I do not hold others who “won the crap shoot” to some expectation that they should act as I did. I understand that public school teachers need money. I feel that need.
But I just had to do what I did to stand up for my colleagues who were slighted by the Wonderland games determining our “effectiveness”:
I gave my stipend away.
On Saturday, November 1, 2014, I phoned a former college roommate who lives in Tennessee and is raising an autistic child. I explained the unfair game behind my being declared a “highly effective” teacher; I told my friend that I took no comfort in receiving $427.76 extra when I knew other teachers had not due to the whacked nature of this game, and I said I would feel much better if she would take the money off of my hands.
On Sunday, November 2, 2014, I mailed my friend a check in the amount of $427.76.
I feel better now.