Hasan: Take back our schools, repeal TAP
Vail CO, Colorado
Despite my right-wing Republican leanings, I hold a deep love for our public school teachers. My love runs high because I am an educator myself. In spending a year and a half in pursuit of a masters in teaching, I was given the rich opportunity of serving as a tyro-public school teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, where I taught at Franklin High School, a school that had a free-lunch rate above 80 percent.
I fell deeply in love with the children and had the utmost respect for my colleagues. With a base salary of around $40,000, our teachers are expected to enlighten hundreds of different children, balance the different emotions of the classroom, and somehow come away living a stress-free life. Quite frankly, teachers today have become individuals committing their lives to community service, not careers. Now, my apologies for entering this debate two years late, but Eagle County’s Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) is an excellent example of governmental tools that are being used to undermine our teachers, rather than empower them.
TAP is a program that is funded by the Milken Family Foundation. Now, the Milken Family has very good intentions. The program is meant to empower teacher development, strengthen teacher collaboration, and promote those who elicit the highest performances. However, TAP is a fundamentally flawed system.
In adopting TAP, Eagle County public schools must adhere to four major rules: All teachers meet on a weekly basis for development training. Training is ran by “master” teachers, teachers who have scored the highest in peer-reviews and whose students perform the best. Teachers have a base salary with no pay increases based upon seniority; pay increase is based upon student performance and peer-review. Student performance is evaluated by standardized test, while peer review is evaluated by master teachers.
With respect to the Milken Family Foundation, I would like to explain why this system is demeaning for our teachers and citizens.
It is completely arbitrary to base teacher evaluation and pay on student performance. Doing so completely negates the well-documented factors that have historically shown standardized tests to be biased against children of color and/or those with learning disabilities. In addition, the tests do not accommodate for children whose talents are better exhibited in visual, tactile, and/or interpersonal learning. Thus, the teachers who are lucky enough to get rooms full of intrapersonal-auditory learners will, inevitably, boast the best student performance.
Furthermore, the evaluation does not factor in a teacher’s attendance record, a rate of tardiness, or how many after-school activities the teacher facilitates, all three factors that are more indicative of a teacher’s commitment to the children.
Technically, it sounds great that we are designating master teachers with the deed of shepherding our “inferior” teachers into the valley of good teaching. However, as demonstrated above, the selection process for anointing master teachers is flawed. More disrespectful though is the fact that non-master teachers are forced to attend once-a-week workshops. Creating such workshop completely negates the fact that every teacher in our district has spent over 12 months pursuing a credential that properly qualifies him/her to teach our children. The purpose of our school district is to cultivate the development of our children, not our teachers.
I also find the roots of a heavily toxic environment being born, when we openly designate some teachers as masters, with the implication that the non-master teachers are inferior. In the classical school system, it is the administrators who hold the plaque of evaluation, not fellow teachers. A system of hierarchy among teachers can cause resentment and competition, elements that are not healthy in an environment where teaching our children is the main goal.
Please understand that I am not completely against standardized testing. I agree that all of our children should be able to demonstrate solid proficiency in English and math, among other subjects. However, government should not be in the business of dictating how a teacher will elicit such proficiency from our children. Disclosure of specific expectations should be shared, and from there, teachers should be left alone to teach in ways that best accommodate to their personal styles.
I also agree that more could be done to train teachers, but such initiatives should be done during a teacher’s training. Our public schools severely lack the good teaching methods of Dr. Kagan’s “Cooperative Learning,” Gardner’s multiple intelligence learning, and problem-based learning. If government is to get involved, then credential requirements in such methods should be required to be fulfilled by aspiring teachers. But doing such intervention, while a teacher is immersed within his/her own world of teaching, is an example of Big Brother extending his evil hand at the worst time.
Our Eagle County School District has become held hostage to the Milken Family Foundation. Yes, the foundation has wonderful intentions; but by adopting TAP, we are forcing our school district to meet the goals of the Milken Family, in exchange for extra funds, rather than meeting the goals of Eagle County families.
The largest contributor to the Eagle County School District are ourselves, the taxpayers, and a system of school board and superintendent is already in place to represent our interests.
If our school district desires greater funds, then they are welcome to come and ask us taxpayers, rather than selling our school district out to family foundations with stringent rules. It is time to repeal TAP, rid our schools of Big Brother, and take back our district.
I, Muhammad Ali Hasan, am ready to do what is needed. If there are any movements I can help, or others who are interested in opening a proactive dialogue on this issue, then please e-mail me.
Should I receive few e-mails, I will assume that most are happy with TAP and that this issue is no longer of significance.
Muhammad Ali Hasan of Beaver Creek writes a biweekly column for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.