Monday, November 2, 2009

SQR- School Quality paRade

With the dawning of NCLB and the standards movement really taking off, it's important to be aware of all the red tape, fake red tape, legal requirements of testing, reviews of your school, etc. Part of the whole accountability thing in New York is the School Quality Review (SQR) which takes place in every school every two years. From what I've heard (this year was my first and only experience with it), in most schools it's a ridiculous dog and pony show that really doesn't show anybody how a school is actually doing.

Principals Under Pressure
According to the people I work with, it seems that the only person to whom this thing matters is the superintendent and the principal. Reliable sources told me about their old schools and how much of a farce it was there. Apparently one principal created fake classes to show the superintendent, pulling all the high-end kids into a single classroom and creating a lesson for them to complete that would make them and the school look brilliant. At our school there was a push to complete the vacant bulletin boards up around the building, but everyone said things were eerily quiet in the admin offices. Your administrator may or may not let you know who the classrooms to which they'll try to direct the SQR folks, but that may not mean anything. My assistant principal assured me twice that I would be visited and it never happened.

Quality Review Day
On the day(s) of the quality review you'll prep your students by telling them there may be a visitor in the room. You'll make sure any graffiti is scrubbed away, any sketches of genitals are washed off visible surfaces and you may even tack up some recent work from students. The bulletins boards in the school will be redone and if funding provides for it new paint will be applied and the floors will be buffed. You administration should have prepped the students with some kind of inspirational speech and most of the teachers will wonder if their room will be the one into which the superintendent walks.

Does it Matter to the New Guy?
To be honest, if a superintendent wants to see how well things are going in a first year teacher's classroom and wants to use that as a measure of how well the school is doing, that superintendent is a moron. This is not to say he/she should expect chaos in all first-years' classrooms, but the focus should really be on the supports you're getting in the first year rather than if your students are adhering to and excelling with your curriculum. Your principal might try to feed you lines about what to tell this guy- what the school's mission is, what services you provide or "provide," etc.- and it will be your call when it comes to how much of the truth you want to tell. All I know is that if I'm working for someone who wants me to lie for them, they deserve to deal with the truth, but that's coming from the second year who didn't even get the chance to chat with the super.

Today's Wine: Chateau de Pennautier, Cabardes 2007. I haven't done many French wines on this thing. This one is from the Languedoc region, which is on the southern coast of France. In France people seem very concerned with precise locations of vineyards, and this seems to be no exception- the Cabardes region of the Languedoc region looks pretty small on the map at least. As for the wine, was pretty fruity and went well with the pizza I ate it with.


  1. The school quality review is the brainchild of the Klein/Bloomberg administration. Apparently there are not enough quality educators in New York to evaluate(?)our own schools. The Department imports British Educators to come in to preside over the dog and pony show, leaving one to wonder how many supplies, books and extra programming could be purchased with the money used to fly them in and put them up in hotels

    I've been involved with several SQRs and I can assure you it is almost impossible to steer them into a particular classroom. They pretty much go where they want to. The only rooms they will intentionally skip are those of the teachers who are mostly likely unsatisfactory. So whether or not the reviewer made it to your room take it as a vote of confidence that your were warned they might actually show.

  2. Good to know on all accounts. I knew that Klein was a businessman, not an educator, but I didn't know he'd gone to such great lengths to outsource positions in the NYC DOE.