Tuesday, October 9, 2007

We undervalue your opinion (but we still need it)?

Yesterday I filled out a questionnaire about our school's PreAP and AP program. It was remarkably convenient to do, considering how public education is usually the LAST to catch on technologically. I simply filled in the blanks on a Word document that was e-mailed to me, which I then conveniently e-mailed back to the original sender and 22 other people on BCC (blind courtesy copy.)

The questions came in table format, allowing 4 by 1/2 inches of rectangular space for what obviously were encouraged to be our thought-out, concise, poignant, terse, irrelevant comments. It is no coincidence that this questionnaire comes on the heels of our districts' "mid-stream horse change" (although I think we went from a steed to a donkey). I believe the questionnaire serves three purposes:
  1. To assuage our (PreAP and AP teachers) grief over riding now a donkey, to give us the sense of empowerment and that our opinions still matter enough to write them down, and finally "remind" us of still how good we have it (there are OTHERS who don't even have a donkey . . . . but hey, there's now a perfectly good steed available!)
  2. To give us something to do on our early-release day when we will all meet and discuss the implications of this questionnaire on our program. I think the ice-breaker for this meeting will be "Pin the late homework assignment on the donkey."
  3. To gather valuable input from the educational professionals who are fighting it out in the PreAP and AP trenches, so that our program can continue to change to better serve and to increase the educational value for all students.
Anyway, here were the questions and my (serious) answers to each of them.

The bold type represents a title for an very small column in which we had to respond. The italicized represents my though-out, concise, poignant, terse, irrelevant comments.

What makes the AP program in NBISD premier?

Knowledgeable, qualified teachers
High expectations and academic rigor prepares students for college Open access for all students to try the program.

Impacting Details:


What barriers exist in keeping our district’s Pre AP / AP program premier?

Equating open access with open success
Too many students in for wrong reasons (ex. Weight for class rank—top 10%)
Taking autonomy away from knowledgeable, qualified teachers

Impacting Details:
I'll begin a long-term, longitudinal study and get back to this question in 15 years.

What changes would you like to see for the NBISD Pre AP/AP Program (if any)?

Increasing autonomy and trust in teachers as professionals
AP exam grade tied to semester grade
OR financial rebate to students who pass AP exam

Impacting Details:
Has it been 15 years already?

The survey closes with this disclaimer:

Thank you for taking the time to complete this information. It is our goal to increase the educational value for all of our students and your input will be of great help and influence.

Reading between the lines, this disclaimer actually translates into the following:

Thank you for taking a moment from your valuable time which was probably spent reinterpreting the new rules of our school's and district's grading and late-work policy. We strive to increase a false positive public perception of our PreAP and AP program, and by public, we mean a "single self-serving parent. It is not our goal to upset nor undermine our Knowledgeable, qualified, frustrated, teachers, it just happened that way. As teachers' salaries are finally competitive, whereby qualified teachers are finally earning close to what they deserve, it is our goal to increase the amount of work, time, and effort that teachers must put in to earn their new, increased wages, and to empower the student with the power to get more and more for doing less and less. Your input will be of great use in helping us pass the time during our mandatory meeting on the afternoon of early release.

I know I sound cynical and curmudgeonly beyond my years, but it IS how I feel. Ultimately, I will continue to cling to my ideal standards and try to implement what I feel is my proven professional philosophical product within the framework of any new regulations. If there is one shred of positive in all this that I truly feel will help me better prepare my students for the demands and rigors of college and ultimately in their successful careers, I'll jump all over it and incorporate it into my curriculum package. Unfortunately, though, if you keep a mind that is TOO open, you risk letting the rubbish in with the rubies!

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