Jerry Heverly is a High School English teacher.
Sequestration seems to be the word of the week. Driving home from work National Public Radio seemed to be the station of Sequestration News -- and nothing but Sequestration News.
From the perspective of a classroom teacher Sequestration is a non-issue. No one around school is talking about it, which makes me assume that we won’t be affected, at least not right away.
But a similar train wreck -- one that is not being talked about -- looms out there and it might impact my job and my school.
In 2014 we may face some very scary changes.
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is still the law of the land.
Much of what I do is the direct result of the NCLB-inspired sanctions we suffered beginning about four years ago.
I have a pacing guide that tells me what to teach. That came about because our school was put in the category of “Program Improvement” when our test scores did not rise fast enough to keep pace with the NCLB mandates.
Many of the short stories my students now read were suggested by consultants hired to help us boost our test scores.
Unfortunately we are getting no closer to achieving the scores that would rescue us from Program Improvement.
I fear there is no way we will ever meet our NCLB obligations.
Next year NCLB says that every one of our students must be proficient in math and English. I see no way we can reach that lofty status.
But if we don’t meet these goals, according to NCLB, our school could be turned into a charter, or be taken over by a private company. The staff could be fired en masse.
The same is true for the vast majority of high schools in the state. More than 90 percent of California high schools are in the same boat.
The Obama administration and the Congress knew they needed to tweak NCLB to avoid chaos.
When Congress refused to act Obama found a loophole in the law that allowed the federal government to grant waivers to states that agreed to a series of stipulations.
This allowed the states to escape the wrath of NCLB, and allowed the administration to strong arm the states into doing things the Obama way.
It looks like 43 states will have waivers by the end of this year.
But not California.
One of those administration stipulations was that states agree to use test scores as part of teacher evaluations. Governor Brown wouldn’t consent to that, so no waiver Golden State.
This year the federal Secretary of Education thought that he’d found a way to singe Jerry Brown’s tail. He hinted that individual school districts (like San Leandro Unified) could apply for waivers. All they had to do was agree to that pesky requirement—include test scores in teacher evaluations.
Los Angeles, Fresno and Oakland jumped at the chance to escape NCLB. They got together and made their own collective waiver application to use test scores in teacher evaluation.
But the U.S. Senate, especially Senate Republicans, chewed out the Secretary of Education for over-reaching.
That’s where the matter stands now.
Congress refuses to fix the problems with NCLB.
The administration won’t back down on their waiver system.
Does that remind you of Sequestration?
If neither side gives in San Leandro could see its schools taken over by the state or consigned to a charter.
So a year from now NCLB could "sequester" our high school.
But no one is talking about that.
Read other columns from the Entirely Secondary archive. The tag line is inspired by education blogger Joe Bower who says that when his students do an experiment, learning is the priority. Getting the correct answer is entirely secondary.