Sunday, June 22, 2014

Giant piles of horse$#@&

Washington state teacher certification maintenance is a complex and tortuous affair.  The requirements to keep your certification (once you have gone through the time and expense of getting a certificate to begin with) are byzantine and obscure.  Which process you are required to go through depends partly on when you received your certificate.  For example, while you have a continuing certificate you have to earn clock hours (continuing education credits).  After a certain amount of time teaching your continuing becomes a residency which doesn't require clock hours.  This is not made clear, so the money you spend to get clock hours (you generally pay for them yourself) is actually just a big waste of hard earned dollars.  After you have had your residency for five years you have to  upgrade to a professional certificate which requires you to pay $500 to submit a giant portfolio to the state. (Oh, at which point you have to start collecting clock hours again)

Not enough that I have positive feedback from significant numbers of students, positive feedback from significant numbers of parents, positive feedback from other teachers, excellent reviews from my administration, and that the school board has chosen to keep me on as a teacher at the high school.  I have to prove to the state, above and beyond this evidence (and pay them $500 for the privilege) that I can ...


Prove that I can what?

I can presumably make all this up as I go along, pulling on my actual experience in the classroom (nine years worth).  Three entries, each with a maximum of 22,000 characters and supporting evidence.

(Petty BS Aside: who measures writing in characters?  I have written hundreds of papers and never once have I been told that I needed to write a minimum or maximum number of characters.  This caused me another issue as my brain translated this to 22,000 words, a seemingly ridiculously large document.  I looked at it numerous times, and every single time my brain just translated.  Knowing that I had a virtually unattainable (by me) limit I wrote eloquently and completely about my accomplishments and goals, only to find that I had exceeded the "character" limit by significant amounts and had to spend another three to four hours trimming out individual words and phrases to fit within the limits)

OK.  So having accepted that this hoop is the price of continuing to teach in Washington state, I start working.  First step, download all the materials so that I know what to do.  Three entries, one on Professional Growth, one on Learning Community, and the third on Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment.  I can do this.  I'll start with Entry 1 (the very beginning being a very good place to start according to conventional wisdom).  I finish Entry 1 over the course of several months, squeezing time in between actually teaching students math, doing all the professional development that the district requires as well, working in my Harley shop, and having a (teeny weeny bit of) life.  No real rush since I can also get a one-time, two-year extension on my teaching certificate so long as I am working on my portfolio.
Wait, what?  What do you mean I have to have it completely done by June 28th or start over again, including another $500 registration fee? What about the two year extension?  
this registration window is now closed and no changes or refunds are permitted after your registration window has closed
Please be advised that the Washington ProTeach Portfolio does not issue educator certificates/renewals. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) issues the WA residency certificate/renewals. Please contact OSPI for further information about your WA residency certificate.
Apparently you can apply to OPSI for the two year extension but that has no bearing whatsoever on what you have to do for the portfolio requirement. Two different offices, two different issues.
So here I am, a sunny weekend during the summer, seven hours of cramming on a Saturday to get Entry 2 done.  Not quite as complete as Entry 1, not as eloquent, not as supported by artifacts (samples of student work, etc) but still pretty good evidence that I actually know what I am doing and am making a serious effort to be a better teacher.

Sunday, here early.  One entry to go.  I should be able to do this.  I am getting the hang of writing this stuff, I understand the standards and criterion, I should be able to get Entry 3 done in another long day of writing.

Wait, what?

For this entry you must choose 3 focus students who:
  •  represent a range of learners in your class
  • represent the diversity in your classroom (learning styles, cultures, special needs)
  • show growth over time during the lesson, unit or assignment
Great.  It's summertime,  I have no students.  I can't collect student work artifacts, I can't analyze their initial performance levels, social/behavioral range (because I have no students); choose learning targets for the students to focus on based on their prior learning (because I have no students); state evidence from student work demonstrating understanding of the learning targets (because I have no students); or vary instructional strategies to facilitate learning for these three students (because I have no students).

Screwed.  So the state of Washington will get another $200 for me (minimum, assuming that my other two entries are acceptable to the scorers who look over these things), I will go through another year of stress while I try to figure out all this garbage on top of everything that the district will pile on me in the name of professional development, and I will hate this a little more every day.  When I am done, I will have a "Professional Teaching Certificate" which basically means that the State has generated $700 (or more) of meaningless make work jobs,  reduced my disposable income by $700 resulting in fewer actual productive jobs being created when I bought something I wanted for $700, and done nothing other than confirm to the satisfaction of some bureaucrats in Olympia what the students, parents, teachers, administration, and school board already knew. Namely that they want me to keep teaching math.


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