DeSoto County’s commitment to PARCC and common core is astounding considering other states are dropping out at an alarming rate. In the fall of 2010, we were told that the primary grades would be moving toward common core during the 2011-2012 school year. A team was established to study common core. Common sense would tell a reasonable administrator if you want to prepare the schools for this you should actually select participants from schools where the new curriculum would be implemented. But our committee consisted of about 20 administrators that included a large portion from middle schools and high schools. The first meeting for this group was a party theme where a PowerPoint showed all of the cities this team would visit for training. There were a total of three trips to major cities for the entire committee where no expense was spared. Then they were all given their new iPads (paid for by DeSoto County Schools). Needless to say the majority of the committee was not interested in the training because they could not relate to the primary curriculum and they would not be implementing this for 2-3 years. But they were all interested in trips and soldiered on.
By the spring of 2011 the party was over and it was time to get to work on this curriculum. Even though several companies had great resources that would aid the implementation of this curriculum, it was decided that we would write our own. Now who could write this? Perhaps the person who is paid a large salary for this job or the 20 people on the common core committee who were given 10 more vacation days for the pay cut they had to take? No it must be the teachers who had just taken a pay cut with no extra vacation days the year before. Select teachers were brought in to write the k-2 math curriculum and the 3-5 language arts curriculum. They were told they would be writing this during the regular school day (so they would not have to pay them) and during the summer (where they would pay them $27 an hour) Teachers at first were pulled from their classrooms twice a month then it increased to weekly to get the curriculum written. At first it was the regular school day and then increased to nights as late as 9:00 p.m. on occasion. One day the math committees returned to the district office to continue writing and were told the units were all crap and would have to be rewritten. They were told they were so bad they could not even be sold. Teachers were not aware they were writing units to sell. Rumors surfaced that the k-2 language units had been sold to a company that provides staff development for DeSoto County for a large donation for a DeSoto County candidate. This did not deter the teachers as they continued to write for the betterment of their students. The summer work was even better. They worked long hours with working lunches (not provided by district) and when it came time to pay them they were offered a free iPad instead. Some refused the iPads and were paid the $27 an hour and others took them to find they all had Property of DeSoto County stickers attached to them.
The teachers are working hard on writing and implementing the common core standards because they are sold a bill of goods that this will benefit the children of DeSoto County. Who is benefiting from this? DeSoto County jumped on this to receive the “Race to the Top” grants from the Department of Education and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (One and the same since two top executives who worked for Gates are now working for the Dept. of Ed.). Why is Mississippi getting anything to do with “race to the top” since we have been on the bottom for decades? With states dropping out of PARCC like flies do we even question why Mississippi thinks this will get them to the top? In a survey last year of technology in Florida schools, the state education department estimated that 1,616 schools would need new “high-density wireless” systems, and 67 districts would have to get upgraded broadband to prepare for PARCC.
Even in California, a Smarter Balanced member that has earmarked $1.25 billion over the next two years specifically for districts to implement the common core, the targeted money is also intended for textbooks and professional development, not just new K-12 technology.
New hardware and wireless capabilities are not the only issues. Brandt Redd, the chief technology officer of Smarter Balanced, said the consortium is trying to help school systems figure out what to do when Microsoft’s support for its XP operating system, used by a vast number of districts, ends in April.
Do we wonder then why the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is so interested in this?
At this time the money is benefiting the top administrators in DeSoto County. DCR has tried unsuccessfully to find out the salary of the highest paid administrator in the district. Our only hint is this person was making salary of 91,000 in 2010 when the assistant superintendents were making 137,000 so this would lead us to guess this salary is now in excess of 150,000. How many of the teachers working hard for common core at $27 an hour wouldn’t love a salary increase of 60,000 in 3 years. The teachers will be lucky to have their pay cut taken in 2010 back in the next three years. In two years when the dust settles and the enormous costs of testing and meeting the technology requirements of this program kick in, where will we be? The backbone of this program (the teachers) will still be ranked last on the national pay scale; the administrators will still be ranked 9th or higher on the national pay scale and the students in Mississippi will still be ranked last in the nation on test scores. But we could be ranked Number 1 in per pupil expenditure because we will be the only state still in PARCC that is paying the enormous amount of money it will take to test children. In order to keep up with these costs corners will be cut everywhere else. So for you teachers, who have not had a substantial raise in years, let me be the first to tell you that you are not going to get one. (DeSoto County is still working on giving you back the pay cut you took in 2010 thanks to pressure from DeSoto County Reform). The Title I program that provides benefits to the poor schools will exist not for the poor children of DeSoto county who desperately need these funds, but for DeSoto County’s elusive “Race to the Top”. Fifty percent of these funds are now being used for our “Race to Nowhere”.
Why do we stay the course? Take a look at the PARCC board to see if there is a high ranking member from our district. Has anyone from our district made the news lately regarding PARCC.
Our teachers are being forced to work hard to make sure there is a place for this person to go making the exorbitant salary we are paying when DeSoto County says, “We have had enough of this nonsense.” She can then move on up the ladder away from DeSoto County and be proud to say” I got where I am today off the backs of DeSoto County teachers and children.”