Woodward, Okla. —
Q&A WITH LEADERSHIP TEAMS FROM WOODWARD SCHOOLS
Barresi ended her visit to Woodward with a lengthy meeting with leadership teams from each of the 6 schools in the district. These teams were comprised of teachers, school administrators, support staff, parents and a few students.
The state superintendent began the meeting by saying how she is "always looking for more ways to get feedback from and communicate with" those in the educational community. She said this includes Education Department newsletters, a Facebook page, a weekly blog and online chat sessions.
She also discussed some of the resources her office offers to teachers including online training opportunities through an iTunes U portal.
Barresi then provided a quick timeline for the transition to the new standardized testing, known as PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). She said the PARCC exams, which are being developed as part of a 32-state consortium, will be field tested next year prior to going live in the spring of 2015.
The state superintendent then opened the floor to questions, saying "everything is on the table."
Many of the questions focused on the new PARCC testing as well as the transition to common core curriculum, with a lot of teachers frustrated with not knowing what to prepare for and not having the right materials to prepare.
Several teachers wanted to know what content would be covered in the new tests so that they would be able to plan their curriculum accordingly to prepare their students for the tests, especially since their students' success as well as their own assessment as teachers depends heavily on the outcomes of those tests.
However, Barresi wasn't able to answer their questions, but rather implied that the new tests will be more about covering certain concepts rather than specific subject matter.
"I had a 2nd grade teacher at another workshop ask me, 'so when do I teach money?' I said you teach it whenever, just do it within the standard of addition and subtraction," Barresi said, noting that from pre-kindergarten through 3rd grade the standard for mathematics education is to develop a complete understanding of addition and subtraction.
Another main topic of discussion was the ongoing teacher shortage and all the factors that play into that. For example, Woodward School Board member Roxy Merklin said, "we need a stronger teacher pay scale" in order to be able to better compete with private sector jobs, which are taking away teachers who are looking for more money.
Woodward Middle School literature teacher Sonya Covalt said there needs to be "some relief from all the demands placed on us."
Covalt said all the mandates placed on teachers, such as for data collection and test preparation, means that "teaching is now such a small piece of our jobs."
In addition, she said that "there is not enough time to meet so many demands" and that she is so busy herself, "I barely have enough time to enter grades in my grade book."
"If you don't start making this a job that we can accomplish, you're not going to be able to bring more people in to a career of teaching," Covalt said.