Testy Teachers

Superintendent says reforms may well drive teachers away

“The schools we grew up in are long gone and even the schools of tomorrow won’t look like today.”
Ron Hitchcock PUSD Superintendent

“The schools we grew up in are long gone and even the schools of tomorrow won’t look like today.” Ron Hitchcock PUSD Superintendent Photo by Andy Towle. |

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Times have sure changed, Payson Unified School District Superintendent Ron Hitchcock told the Rim Country Democratic Women’s Club. To prove the point, he offered a comparison.

“I got this in an e-mail,” he said. “Now, I want you to go back to your high school days ...

“Scenario No. 1, 1957: Jack goes quail hunting before school, pulls into the school parking lot with a shotgun in a gun rack. Vice principal comes over, looks at Jack’s shotgun, goes to his car and gets his shotgun to show Jack.

“Scenario No. 2, 2013: School goes into lockdown, FBI called, Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers. That summarizes how the schools we grew up in are long gone and even the schools of tomorrow won’t look like today.”

Hitchcock then touched on the additional roles today’s schools play, including feeding and clothing homeless students and satisfying onerous federal legislation from “No Child Left Behind” to the “Race to the Top” and the sweeping Common Core standards.

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PUSD Superintendent Ron Hitchcock warned that excessive reliance on testing may drive off good teachers.

“Sounds like Obama has his own set of legislation for schools,” said one attendee.

Hitchcock said that the new norm in education is to measure everything. No longer will broad, sweeping statements about how students are doing suffice.

“Our district mission statement is, ‘We endeavor to have every student become a productive citizen,’” said Hitchcock. “How do we measure that?”

He said the new Common Core standards seek to quantify student achievement and teacher effectiveness. Administrators will now evaluate how well teachers do by keeping statistics that attempt to measure how much their students improve.

Teachers will use new standardized tests based on the Common Core to decide if they are successful or not.

“We’re going to be assessed by PARCC (the test to take the place of AIMS) with their own electronic devices,” said Hitchcock.

After talking about all of the changes, he joked, “So, I’m recruiting. Anyone want to be a teacher under those conditions?”

No one raised a hand.

Hitchcock said that didn’t surprise him, since a high percentage of those who train to be teachers do not remain in the profession.

In an article for the American Educational Research Journal, Richard M. Ingersoll wrote that although the turnover rate of teachers both public and private is close to 16 percent annually. Teachers represent 4 percent of the U.S. workforce.

That is five times the turnover rate as for lawyers or professors and twice the turnover in the ranks of registered nurses.

According to an analysis by the Bureau of National Affairs, most teachers leave for personal reasons or job dissatisfaction.

Out of those leaving due to job dissatisfaction, teachers cite poor salary, inadequate administrative support, student discipline problems, lack of faculty influence, poor student motivation, classroom intrusions and large class sizes.

None of that is news to Hitchcock. He said instead of taking classes to learn how to connect with students through different classroom activities, those studying education now must take classes on psychometrics, which deals with designing, interpreting and giving tests to measure intelligence, aptitude and personality.

“They’re taking classes on psychometrics to learn this is how you test, test, test,” he said.

However, Hitchcock has hope for Payson schools.

He praised the members of the Democratic Women’s Club and residents of Rim Country for making a difference.

“Let me guess, you don’t have a child in the district, but you have an interest in what is going on in the schools,” he said. “I have never seen the likes of this community involvement before in my life. It takes the whole dang town to raise kids,” he said.

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