The testing really isn’t the worst of it.
Why tests are so impossible to navigate isn’t even the test themselves, but that the state standards they are based upon are always changing. In Oklahoma, the tests are aligned to the OAS standards, or rather, the revised OAS standards. For now. This post will probably be out of date in a few months as they’ve changed the standards numerous times in the last 5 years. Two years ago it was unironically called the PASS skills, and before that, we were doing Common Core. You see, the standards on which teachers are expected to teach are revised nearly every single year.
Why? Because Oklahoma voters are pissed that kids are failing, but the voters don’t understand the problem and think nothing is being done. To appease the voters, the most politically expedient thing to do is issue out new standards because apparently, people assume the old standards aren’t working, but mostly just to look like they are earning their paycheck. The problem is that a change as big as this would require at least five years, maybe a minimum of three, for all the teachers to adapt to it.
The standards are killer because it effectively limits what you can teach, as almost nothing in the way of books, assignments, and classroom materials aligns with them. This forces teachers to throw out everything they used the year before and start from scratch. If it doesn’t align with Oklahoma Education Standards, it’s gone. And something so sad it’s funny… if you actually work in a school that can afford books… you have to throw them out too… because they absolutely won’t align to whatever new standards were cooked up in Oklahoma City by non-educators working for political interests (including you lefties).
I want you to imagine yourself as a teacher. You go to work every day, but then you work hours every night to prepare for next week too. (Frick, I haven’t even mentioned the hours of her life lost with grading papers by hand!) Now, it would be nice if you could use that time you invested into next year, right? No. That’s not how it works. You start over every time there is a major set of reforms. In my wife’s five years as an elementary school teacher, they have reformed the standards three times. Remember, we’re asking a 22-year-old new teacher currently building a textbook from scratch from activities she found on freaking Pinterest to throw it all away next year! All the nights she’s put into making her own curriculum… gone. You don’t have that at your job. You get to refine your processes year to year and develop best practices that make sailing the ship a breeze. Not for Oklahoma teachers. Here, everyone is a first-year teacher, even if they have been teaching for decades.
This creates a chaotic work environment. Hell, it creates a terrible life. Look, I know a lot of teachers who would be happy to work for the pay we get. Expenses in Oklahoma are low. It’s possible to have a higher quality of life here with less pay. But it isn’t worth it to have low pay and a chaotic life. Most new teachers wash out, which is criminal as most are fine teachers, but can’t handle the overwhelming nature of bureaucratic mess they have to deal with. So they either become refugees in Texas or Arkansas or do like a friend of mine and sell coffee.
And now you know why many teachers never marry, because who has time to date? Actually, that’s not funny either, as one teacher explains: I cannot be both a good mother and a good teacher. This is a real thing for teachers. They feel that they can’t have lives outside of work. If you want honesty, there a lot of people who get fulfillment out of working 80 hours a week, but a lot of teachers don’t. When their pay is artificially capped in the woods of around $30,000, then yeah, why would you demand such things of them? Honestly, many would be fine without more money, but creating a terrible life where they can’t even be there for their families? That’s a problem that needs to be solved.
This is part of a series on Education in Oklahoma:
Thank you for reading. If you liked this series, please like and follow The War Elephant on Facebook. This page is made possible by donations through the social funding site Patreon. If you want to help me make more content like this, please visit my Patreon Support Page to support the page.