The Oregon Department of Education recently issued a ruling (a “final order” in agency-speak) on what constitutes supervision by a licensed teacher. The ruling was in response to my complaint that my school fraudulently lists me as supervising classes. This matters because “instructional time” requires supervision by a licensed teacher, and the instructional time a school provides is used in school funding formulas and academic standards.
Remarkably, the Department’s ruling allows schools to count teachers as providing instruction even when they have virtually no involvement in grading, monitoring student progress, or lesson planning. Here are the circumstances that I related to the Department:
* …students are supervised by non-licensed personnel, and, b) progress isn’t monitored by a licensed teacher, and, c) grading and credits are not supervised by a licensed teacher, and, d) teachers are listed as having taught the “class” (in Synergy, for example) with no involvement in planning, and, e) teachers provide no assistance to students
* …for these classes that I allegedly supervise, I don’t know the testing conditions, and suspect I don’t approve of them (e.g., in the past we’ve allowed notes for multiple-choice tests, which I don’t approve of). One of these courses is biology, but I haven’t seen the biology curriculum.
* The supervising teacher controls nothing you’d assume a supervising teacher controls: I don’t decide passing scores for lessons, tests. I don’t decide testing conditions, such as monitoring (tests are mostly unmonitored. I don’t decide conditions of redoing lessons and tests. I don’t set rules for notes during tests, etc.None of this is within the control of the supervising teacher.
* …this student has around a 7-8th grade reading level, but we are giving her high-school level science text and telling her to teach herself. It is not, officially, my job to help her. I’m never in the room when she is doing this work.
* At the time of my complaint, the “supervising teachers” weren’t involved in any aspect of those classes at all; an EA did everything including the grading. Now, the teachers do a small portion of grading, but have no other involvement.
* I don’t help the students…..If a student can’t understand an explanation in her text, I don’t help her. She doesn’t email me about it and I don’t know she’s struggling. If she can’t get past a computer-graded assignment, i dont help her. I don’t monitor progress or check in with the EA….I am only a grader, and I provide some help around the assignments I grade, but that’s all.
* I don’t know anything about how much they are learning. I don’t see or grade their tests. I don’t see their computer-graded assignments. I only see their constructed-response assignments and sometimes check in with them about those–and only those–assignments. … I have little insight into whether they are struggling. If I suspect they’re struggling from the few assignments I see, I have no duty or ability to help. That is the EA’s job. All I can do is explain my grading of that particular assignment I see….I see these assignments only online, in my office. That’s my only interaction with these students… I don’t supervise anything. I dont supervise the EA. Or students. Or progress. Or understanding. Or testing. Or curriculum.
* To make this as clear as possible–I don’t decide the student’s grade in the class…. Yet, I am listed as the supervising teacher.
* I grade by logging into my Odysseyware account, and seeing activity in science classes. Some of that activity is flagged “manual grading” and those are the assignments it’s my job to grade, because they can’t be computer graded. I click on one, read the student’s answer, and give it a grade. Then I logoff. That’s all I do in these classes….I can’t interact with the student in practical terms because when she’s in the computer lab doing this work, I’m teaching a class….I don’t even know what grades my students got last term.
The teachers cannot determine assignments or tests, supervise testing, set policy on retakes or notes, decide weightings of assignments and tests in final grade, monitor student progress (except when students email, which they do rarely and only after reaching frustration levels), or implement changes to prevent cheating. We cannot perform the necessary functions of a supervising teacher.
In response to this complaint, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Salam A. Noor ruled that these conditions don’t preclude a teacher being considered a “supervising teacher” and counting the students as receiving instructional time.
I teach at a school overseen directly by the Oregon Department of Education. It is a school in a state juvenile correctional facility. So, for the Department to have ruled that reporting such activity as instructional time is illegal would have constituted the Department admitting it broke its own rules.
However, in making this ruling, the Department has established a precedent applicable to any school district. State law requires agencies to be consistent in the application of a rule, officially stated agency position, or a prior agency practice.
It’s a safe bet that, in fact, the ruling is utterly inconsistent with any ruling the Department of Education has made in the past, or will make in the future, regarding the definition of instructional time. It’s hard to imagine the parents of the Portland Public School District tolerating such poor educational conditions for their children. The truth is that the Department of Education applies a standard to other districts it doesn’t apply to itself.
Why? When in doubt, follow the money. Public schools in Oregon are underfunded, and cutting corners around instructional time got several of districts in trouble a few years ago. The Department of Education investigated, and said the districts were violating state rules. In filing my complaint, I essentially pointed out that the Department is cutting corners in the exact same way. The Department is unwilling to acknowledge that even the schools it oversees can’t meet its rules with the amount of funding the state provides.