Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Repeatedly Refusing

I am continuing the letter I started on February 23 "Flashback to September 11" in which I respond to a disciplinary letter from Ms. Rotula.

Ms. Rotula’s letter(continued)

An agenda item of the Science department meeting was the departmental pacing calendar. We discussed the importance of clearly identifying the essential learning outcomes of the science curriculum and of teachers following the pacing calendar to ensure that all students have learned key concepts that will be tested on the uniform interim departmental summative assessments.

Moriah’s response

During the summer of 2008 Mr. Gordon, (one of the junior members of the science department) developed a pacing calendar based on the textbook, New York Science published by McGraw Hill Glencoe. He basically took the textbook and divided it throughout the school year. The first two weeks of the pacing calendar that he developed are as follows”

WEEK ONE (9/1/09)

Set-up Notebooks

WEEK TWO (9/8/08)

Coastal Plains
Interior Plains
Folded Mountains
Upwarped Mountains
Fault Block Mountains
Volcanic Mountains
Weathering and Soil Formation
Mechanical Weathering
Ice Wedging
Plants and Animals
Chemical Weathering
Plant Acids
Effect of Oxygen
Parent Rock
Slope of the land
Erosion of Earth’s Surface
Agents of Erosion
Rock Slides
Glacial Erosion
Effects of Glacial Erosion
Glacial Deposition
Sheet flow
Rills and Gullies
Shaping Earth’s Surface
Effects of Erosion

I asked if this timeline was suggested or fixed. Mr. Gordon said “suggested”, but you corrected him and said that we had to follow the pacing calendar as written because it had already “been approved.”

I then said that the content of the pacing calendar in the second week was extremely dense and that there was no time for inquiry and/or hands on labs. It seemed to me that packing so much material into the first week of instruction would turn students off to science rather than engaging their interest during this important time of the school year.

Ms Rotula’s letter (continued)

During the science department meeting you stated, “I cannot follow the pacing calendar because I teach Inquiry Science” and “I refuse to follow the pacing calendar”. When I said that I will meet with you after the department meeting, you said, “I don’t have to meet with you.”

Moriah’s response

I did not “refuse” to teach according to the pacing calendar. I just shared my expertise that it was unrealistic to expect students—especially those with lower-level reading skills—to cover that much material in one week. I also shared that teaching through inquiry is encouraged by the National Science Foundation. I also stated that the first week of instruction should be a time when students are motivated through hands-on activities. This is not a good time for chalk, talk, and test. Finally, I said that it wasn’t necessary to speak to you after the meeting, because I didn’t have anything else to say on the subject.

Ms. Rotula’s letter (continued)

During the September 22, 2008 meeting I asked, “Why did you continuously interrupt the Science department meeting after I specifically told you that I would address your concerns after the meeting?” Mr. Baker responded “I don’t know if we are able to respond to it at this time.” You said. “You’re alleging that I interrupted the Science meeting. Mr. Baker responded by stating, “We will respond in writing.” I also asked, “Why did you state, “I won’t be meeting with you, I’m teaching Inquiry Science.” You sat and refused to respond by not saying anything.

Moriah’s response

Your question “Why did you continuously interrupt the Science department meeting after I specifically told you that I would address your concerns after the meeting” is based on a false assumption and therefore cannot be answered. You are alleging that I continuously interrupted the meeting. That is a false allegation.

Your question, “Why did you state, “I won’t be meeting with you, I’m teaching Inquiry Science?” is based on an incorrect quote and therefore cannot be answered. What is more, I wasn’t aware that you were ordering me to meet with you. I didn’t think it was necessary, and said so.

Ms. Rotula’s letter (continued)

Based upon my review of the incident and your responses, I conclude that in your statement in your statement you refuse to follow the science department pacing calendar and refuse to meet with me constitute conduct unbecoming a professional. Additionally, please be informed all science teachers are required to follow the school science pacing calendar.

Moriah’s response:

I am surprised that you neglected to mention one more incident in which I interrupted the meeting. It was at the very beginning when we were discussing pre and post testing (the uniform interim departmental summative assessments, as you put it). Mr. Gordon had told us at the professional development meetings that we must give our first pretest by the end of the first week. He suggested that we use questions from the textbook.

During the meeting of September 11, 2008, I suggested to you and to the other members of the science department that we develop pre and post tests with questions from past 8th grade science exams. All of the exams are online at the following New York State Education Department website. They not only have the answers to each question, but they also have the specific standard that each question tests. I showed you a sample test that had been cut and pasted from several of the 8th grade exams. I also showed you the "Intermediate Level Science Core Curriculum Grades 5-8".

It was my understanding that the whole point of the “uniform interim departmental summative assessments” was to more precisely identify areas of strength and weakness for each student. In order to do that, we need to know what each question is testing. Because you wanted to start pre and post testing immediately, I suggested that we use tests that had already been aligned to the standards.

You did take my advice without acknowledging my contribution. On election day Mr. Gordon brought in “The Intermediate Level Science Core Curriculum” and copies of the last eight 8th grade science exams with the instructions to cut questions from these exams and paste them into unit tests.

I said during the election day meeting that we still needed to know which standard was represented by each question. Mr. Seray, the other 7th grade science teacher, and I made a chart that listed all the standards and the questions that tested them.

On the first day that I was reassigned to the basement conference room (February 6,2009), you requested that I electronically cut questions from the 8th grade science exams and paste them into unit tests for the seventh grade. Ironically, you are asking me to do what I volunteered to do back on September 11, 2008, when, according to you, I was continually interrupting and repeatedly refusing.

Ms. Rotulla’s letter (continued)

Please be advised that any repetition of the conduct you demonstrated during the Science department meeting may lead to further disciplinary action that may include an unsatisfactory rating and your termination.

Moriah’s response

You have directed me to refrain from sharing my expertise with other educators, and you have threatened me with termination if I continue to do so. You have therefore established a top-down management style that refuses to allow the free exchange of ideas among educators.


17 (really 15) more years said...

How does anybody seriously expect you to teach that amount of content in a week? How about a month (and quite frankly, that's stretching it).

Moriah Untamed said...

My sentiments exactly. I think they just wanted the kids to read, read, read--as in ELA TEST RESULTS MUST GO UP!

Anonymous said...

OMG, how can you stand it? I'm just flabbergasted. We have the opposite problem here - Admin is trying to do what you suggested (align tests to standards, use released items) and our teachers b*tch and moan and basically won't do it. I can't believe you are trying to improve your students' achievement and they are giving you such flak about it!!! Keep fighting!

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