State Board Meeting August 11, 2003
Superintendent Survey Results
Presentation by Debbie Pelley and Iris Stevens
My name is Debbie Pelley. I am a retired teacher. It is not easy to say the things I am going to say. It has disturbed my sleep a number of nights. I am not officially representing any school or organization but am representing the silent majority of educators that have made their concerns known through surveys.
Other teachers and I are concerned that the curriculum has been hijacked by the bureaucracy and that Arkansas is not providing an opportunity for adequate and equal education for our students. We are particularly concerned that we have changed the emphasis in education from the 3 R's - reading, writing and arithmetic, to the three T's - Teach The Test.
In a teacher staff development workshop, a co-op representative (who basically represents the State Department) told us teachers, The State of Arkansas has given you the frameworks. The state is saying this is what you should be teaching. This is what is on the test. This is what teachers are going to have to do. A lot of places are throwing away the textbooks and are just using these frameworks… If your test scores don't measure up, the state can take over your school.”
He jokingly said he was there to make good teachers of us in an hour and gave us practical suggestions he said had increased scores up to 11% in some areas. He suggested that we give good students enrichment work (teachers call that busy work) while we taught and re-taught the test item objectives to slower students. He also recommended working diligently with borderline students to bring them up to passing and to more or less forget those who didn't have much chance of reaching the cutoff scores anyway.
In a survey of all Arkansas superintendents this May with a very exceptional response rate of 50%, the language I just used from this workshop presenter was included, and 70% of the respondents ( that is 113 superintendents ) said they had heard very similar language about testing from an ADE or Co-op representative and 20% (that is 32 superintendents) said they heard it from the Director of ADE himself, which is Ray Simon. The superintendents had nothing to do with suggesting or developing this survey; and as yet, do not know the results. Although the superintendents have taken quite a bashing this year, I would remind you that these are well respected leaders in their community and hired by respected elected school board members. We have the 154 returned surveys with us, as well as the returned envelopes, and anyone is invited to examine them. (This came from Question 22 & 23 on Actual Survey)
Teaching the 3 T's rather than the three R's is defrauding our students, parents, and taxpayers. Millions of dollars have gone into these educational reforms. I have heard several members of this board, the Governor, and legislators openly express their great concern for our children. Surely, you as a Board, will recognize that ignoring some students and limiting the learning capacity of others by giving them busy work is unethical and a serious injustice to our students, and surely you will take your responsibility to do something about it.
Other disturbing results from the survey:
I have with me three pages of notes from the presentation to the teachers about teaching the test giving more offensive strategies to increase test scores as well as a letter from a counselor in a school which documents the fact that this type of staff development is practiced across Arkansas. (Attached)
Note: Surveys were sent to 310 superintendents by mail by American Family Association. There were 154 returned. Two teacher surveys were conducted - the first one in 2000 and the second one in 2003 (1171 teachers from 10 schools from the north, south, east, and west part of the state representing schools of all sizes : First survey was conducted in schools with 400 teachers, 200 teachers, 100 teachers, and 40 teachers. Second survey covered districts with 200 teachers, 80 teachers, 70 teachers, 70 teachers, 40 teachers, 30 teachers. (Numbers for schools are rounded off so numbers could not be traced to any particular school but the total of 1170 is exact.. Together the teacher surveys include five schools with districts over 1500 students - 870 teachers surveyed were from school districts larger than 1500 and 300 teachers from districts with less than 1500.)
The following survey results are the opinions of 1221 teachers in 10 school districts with student populations from 300 to almost 5,000 in all regions of Arkansas.
95% of the superintendents and 96% of teachers said the new educational reforms have been a top down approach with educational bureaucrats and/or legislators making most or all the significant decisions.
The following disturbing survey results indicate that educators in Arkansas feel they have been omitted from the decision making process.
93% - The Arkansas content standards and benchmark tests are not well designed for low achieving students and will increase the gap between lower achieving and higher achieving students.
71% - Of the superintendents said the SAT-9 standardized tests that compare test scores to the rest of the nation reflect student achievement better than the state's ACTAAP testing system. (66% of the teachers in 2000 agree with this statement)
88% - Smart Start, the testing system in Arkansas and other educational reforms are confusing and easily misinterpreted. 92% (00)
92% - The educational reforms are not addressing the real issues needed to provide a better education for students.
80% - Other aspects like more stringent discipline, more freedom to use teacher's own curriculum less emphasis on testing, and other factors would rate higher, or much higher, as components needed to improve quality of education than more course offerings or an enriched curriculum.
85% Of the teachers said that State mandated ACSIP type staff development is of little value in improving student achievement and is an ineffective use of teachers' time. (ACSIP is the School Improvement Plan that states and schools have to design.)
The following three results are alarming considering that our state already recognizes an impending teacher shortage.
88% - Teacher morale is as low or lower than ever during my teaching career.
87% - The recent educational reforms have contributed to more job dissatisfaction or caused me to look for other employment.
71% - I can no longer recommend the teaching profession as a good career choice.
90% - Consolidation is not the answer to providing a better quality of education in Arkansas. [These are the teachers who think this, not the superintendents who have been so vilified by various groups over the past few months.]
85% - An accountability system that rewards individual teachers or schools for improved test scores will have more negative consequences than positive (such as placing too much emphasis on test items, causing more cheating, and demoralizing teachers).
75% - Money spent on new and/or national certification will not increase the teacher's ability to improve the quality of education and will be an ineffective use of scarce funds (81% in 00).
Results such as the above should create serious concerns about educational reforms that have been imposed on Arkansas educators instead of in collaboration with them - a tragedy when you consider the millions of dollars that have already been spent. You can spend billions of dollars, pass all kinds of legislation, and even take over the schools, but you will never see improvement in real education until you include teachers in the process. This is what I believe the teachers were saying when 94% of them responded on the survey saying, "In order to have the most effective educational system, teachers should choose the curriculum and methods in the classroom as opposed to principals, superintendents, school board members, the state department of education, state government, or federal government." (00) Teachers have millions of hours of combined experience and training in the actual classroom, and only they have the intimate knowledge of how legislation and ADE decisions affect their students' educations.