Oct 19, 2015
I don't know how many people in the Education world now reading this article have PLCs in their school, or who have participated in a PLC. For the uninitiated, PLC stands for 'Planned Learning Community.' After participating in dozens in a South Florida school, I'm still not sure what purpose a PLC serves. During my graduate studies, the prospective educators collaborated in PLCs to present, critique, & modify PLEs (Planned Learning Environments; the professor's trendy way of saying 'lesson plans.'). During the 2014-15 School Year, the term took on far more sinister meanings.
Last Year, only two of our department's PLCs pertained to departmental business. The other 30 or so PLCs always centered around something that the District called 'C.A.R.E.,' as well as how poorly we were carrying out the District's 'plan.' C.A.R.E. stands for Curriculum, Assessments, Remediation, Enrichment. This would be my introduction to South Florida education, and my first real-world encounter with the practice of 'Widgets Not Clients' that I've often derided.
CARE was rolled out as the 2014-15 School Year began, and, as this was Year Zero, it was understood that there'd be some confusions as to how educators were supposed to present it to their department heads. In fact, when I asked my department head for clarification on what was required of us as the requeted information would change from week-to-week, she replied that we were '. . . building an airplane as we were flying it.' This would become the standard refrain.
By the time we got to January, it looked as though the final form of the 'CARE Package' had revealed itself. Each week, teachers would submit a weekly report detailing where in the Instructional Cycle they were in (Curriculum, Assessment, or Remediation/Enrichment). When the Cycle was complete, teachers submitted a report which included Weekly Reports, Curriculum Synopsis, a Plan of Action from the first Common Formative Assessment (The CFA was a chapter test that was to be administered to all classes sharing the same grade level and subject. The test was identical to all classes.) which detailed how many students met, failed to meet, or exceeded proficiency (80%), and what Remediation and Enrichment strategies the teacher would employ. Further, the report would also include samples of Remediation and Enrichment, explanations of both, and a Plan of Action for the Re-Assessment (the same CFA) that Remediated students would take to reach proficiency.
Phew! When do we get time to create and present lesson plans and engage students?
You know what this amounts to? Cover. Your. Rump. This goes back to my complaints well over a year ago when I bemoaned the proclivity of governmental and district officials and bureaucrats to treat the field of Education as they would a microwave oven factory – turning out a uniform product – and treating the students as a colour-coded line on a bar graph determining how many 'units' reached 'proficiency.' When a district or county says something along the lines of 'We CARE to be the BEST*,' what they're really saying is 'Look at how many widgets we can push through arbitrarily created standards of quality.'
Education shouldn't be like this. A teacher shouldn't see a graph like this:
. . . and have their first thought be, 'Well, 27% of my widgets failed to pass through quality control. Hopefully they'll pass through QC again now that they know they've been given the questions.' Further, educators shouldn't have to prove through the Education-equivalent of a TPS Report that a student is, in fact, learning. A 'Common Formative Assessment' is a skewed medium for evaluating student performance – especially in a world where the answers to the CFA will be available to all students by the end of First Period.
At the end of the day, CARE cycles and the myriad similar programs that counties and districts launch to 'measure student learning outcomes' and cover their dupas isn't going to help students learn. If anything, it will constrain professional educators to abstractly constructed Time Tables and, in the end, hurt both students and teachers, leading us into an abyssal Dark Age of Education.
*BEST: Beyond Expected Student Targets
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