A teacher at Perth Amboy High School, who will remain anonymous, provided this to NJ Education Report. It has been widely circulated throughout the district, which has been much in the news after a stabbing of a fifth-grader at Shull Middle School and subsequent outcries from students, parents, and other community members.
Introduction: The Ignorance Campaign (IC)
As a Schools Development Authority (SDA, or formerly Abbott) district, Perth Amboy receives an additional 22% more funding than other districts. This additional money is “creatively spent” and needless to say, would be dearly missed by our organization should it diminish. In order for Perth Amboy to maintain our SDA status we are required to demonstrate a: “failure to achieve what the DOE considers passing levels of performance on the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA).”
In other words, if our student’s test scores rise enough and our student learning increases, we could lose our SDA funding ,which currently exceeds 50-million dollars per year (of our nearly 300 million dollar budget).
Our Primary Objective must be to bring student learning to the lowest levels possible without raising suspicions of the NJDOE, city residents, and several B.O.E. members. We must give the appearance of a hard-working and competent district while ensuring poor learning among our students. Action must be diligently undertaken to ensure a managed level of ignorance prevails among Perth Amboy High School students.
At 50 million dollars a year, Poor Test-Grades is Perth Amboy’s primary industry.
We have an obligation to our community. We have some of the worst test scores in the state and we need to keep it this way. Some ask, “How is it possible for a student with 1,000 hours of class time in a year, not to learn?” Simply follow these instructions.
The Key Aspects of the Ignorance Campaign (IC) are as follows:
- Teachers Distracted, Misdirected, Over-Worked and Hopeless: Teachers are the key to student learning and are the primary target of our campaign. Do what it takes to ensure teachers’ inability to pass on their knowledge and skills. Administrators should burden teachers with none learning tasks while simultaneously maintaining a positive teaching facade. Any tedious task, unrelated to learning, will do. New, inexperienced supervisors sighting the latest blah, blah, from their masters-correspondence course works well. They should not allow teachers the time to develop engaging lessons, organize an activity or become familiar with colleagues. This is best done by requiring reports, and submitting documents and tasks unrelated to student learning.
- Here is a key tactic that is very powerful in breaking a teacher to the point of quitting: Each teacher has an innate desire, a mentoring dream, a vision of a productive and enjoyable way to run their classroom. You must crush this. Stop it with any means possible. Neglect, redirect, overburden, dishearten, trivialize, misinform and keep the teachers transient whenever possible.
- Redundancy is key. Supervisors with little experience and zero leadership training will have a natural talent for this. Keep all staff running in emergency mode, so that little constructive progress can be made. Creating engaging lessons takes time so ensure teachers have none. A key tool for this is the SGO [Student Growth Objective] process. Validate SGO’s. Act like they have teaching value. Demand elaborate and ever-changing SGO requirements. Sell the SGO as a “student learning tool,” not a flawed teacher evaluation tool. If possible, tie the SGO debacle into some other unneeded data software for maximum dysfunction. The more software the better– it’s distracting, frustrating and a waste of time- exactly what we’re looking for. Ensure all data is manually transferred software to software to maximize inefficiencies.
- Remember, data is our friend, it can be twisted, spun, altered, sorted, manufactured and, changed for our benefit. Spin it positive: students won’t know they have been scammed for a very long time.
- Diminish Teachers’ Ability to Teach: Allow teachers as little prep time as possible. A prepared teacher is an effective teacher. An effective teacher needs to create lessons, grade work. get to know their students. We must not allow this. Have teachers attend meetings and duties to maximum allowed by contract. Teachers should meet in [Professional Learning Communities] PLC every day with a bunch of strangers from other subjects. This will eliminate one-third of the teacher’s free time. Do not give them time to create interesting and engaging lessons. These can be strong learning tools and must not be permitted. Prioritize non-learning tasks (SGOS, Domain-5, etc.) making learning tasks ambiguous. While other schools cookie-cutter these tasks, we will maximize the effort and pain. Departmental meetings should never allow time for creative lesson planning or inspirational concepts. Waste time teaching the latest software or testing protocol; there are so many to choose from, or better yet (ha), go over test data. We need at a level that makes teachers ‘give up’ and simple go through the motions of teaching.
- Chase off Talented/Hard Working Teachers: Force the talented, hard-working staff members to quit. We have an excellent record of this, but must step up our efforts. These go-getters are one of the greatest threat to our campaign, they are key to student learning and must be stopped or eliminated. There are several ways to do this within contract-
- Take away their pride and joy. If they love that classroom or assignment, change it.
- Under no circumstance complement, credit or acknowledge their efforts.
- Limit the resources they are given.
- Work longer days than other schools.
- Under pay and under-reward them.
- Burden them with tedious tasks.
- In addition, do not, give teachers a say in the operation of their departments or programs as this would be truly detrimental to our cause. True, most have decades of experience and are more talented and/ knowledgeable than their supervisors, but in our imaginary world, it does not matter. That level of wisdom could truly wreck our ignorance campaign. Getting our best to flee should be easy since there is now a teacher shortage in NJ and vacancies, abound in functional districts. Most represent a better opportunity than here. Our low-salary/reward strategy has been very effective in eliminating substitute teachers and our certified staff, but don’t let your guard down.
- Our key strategy: Spend a lot of money on staff, just not for teachers. Keep the percentage of teachers as low as possible compared to other staff. Hire every type of non-teacher you can imagine: counselor, tech, aide, secretary, coordinator, supervisor, media rep, custodial, assistant, supervisor of supervisors, data coach, IT whatever, mentor, advisor, etc., and then cry “we’re tight on money!” Anything but teachers, teachers are the ones that teach; that is how the students learn, we must not feed that tree. Teachers were once 100% of adult staff in a school. Can you image? Let’s keep that number below 39%.
- Drag your feet on any teacher hiring. We save a lot of money paying just coverage or a sub and allowing the teacherless students to learn nothing. Do not post when a staff member gives notice, wait until well after they leave. Use teachers as substitutes: it will distract them from their primary goal, and pray we don’t get audited.
Smother Staff in a Toxic Environment
- Eliminate any comfortable zones where staff members can rest, recharge, or recuperate. Any gathering areas are to be as unproductive and unpleasant as possible. As a rule, staff areas should be noisy, very public and trafficked, with strong chemical smells from copiers or stinky air fresheners. Bright, glaring lights will add stress. The key is to make all would-be rest areas as traumatic as possible. Give them no say in the management of their areas. Do not discuss terms with the teachers, just tell them what to do. Create some bogus committees for teachers to vent their ideas, giving them a phony sense of 94 participation, on their own time, as a way of gathering and discarding ideas, while pacifying them.
- Teachers should never know who the people making decisions about them are. Everything is an act of God. No supervisor, administrator or board member should be held liable for their decisions. The party responsible for a particular management decision must always be a mystery. The swirling revolution of 98 management staff and policy should make this easy.
- New supervisors should have total power and say over entire departments of seasoned veteran teachers. These newbie supervisors should control every aspect of a teacher’s existence, from scheduling to teaching assignments to room placement to material acquisition. Use it: this obscene tactic is fully board-approved. It is a gem at sustaining dysfunction and low performance across the board. Using out-of-district supervisors will mask their incompetency. Pressure, overburden, and under-reward the newbie supervisor to ensure their speedy departure. Hold information as long as possible and then surprise the teacher last minute. Making supervisors look good, keeping them out of trouble is a high priority, since they will be interviewing soon.
- Use the “Assume Positive Intent” tool liberally. No one is to speak the truth about our deficiencies. Although it is clearly a form of lying and deception, it neatly eliminates any acknowledgement of a problem. If there is no problem then no problems need to be fixed. We can halt positive growth before it starts. We will create our own ‘positive’ reality, except that part where students go out and have a productive life.
- Teachers must know that there is absolutely no one in their corner and no one watching their back. Teachers are an isolated, vulnerable pittance of an individual that can be effortlessly admonished. Although teachers are the highest-level staff member that sincerely cares about student learning, they should be treated as irresponsible underlings.
New Admin and Supervisors
- Keep new, inexperienced administrators running the high school. Do not provide them with operating procedures or guides of any sort. Assignments must be no more than two years. They should have no high school experience. They should operate in emergency mode at all times. This will naturally cause systemic dysfunction, low morale, and rampant stress throughout the staff. There should be no time to return emails. The inconsistent policy, inefficient efforts, and low productivity will ensure poor student learning, while we appear to be doing our best. If an administrator is performing at a high productive level, have them transferred at once, the adult school is the easiest choice, their productivity there will have little effect.
- Inexperienced and misleading supervisors are absolutely key to our campaign. It is difficult to convey the far reaching devastation that misguided, overwhelmed and self-preserving administrators can cause. 128 Keep it up. CYA. Use care in your timing however; we recently posted jobs for 4-vice principals in a single posting; good job but take note of your pacing. And remember, important decisions should always be made an administers far removed and uninformed about the situation.
Keep Students Out of Class
- Schools function best with routine. Regular schedules increase productivity and student learning. Therefore, maintain an irregular schedule whenever possible. Irregular schedules must become the norm: Homeroom holds. short days, assemblies, and testing are key tools. Giving short notice and limited details will greatly add to confusion and poor learning. Create home room holds for the most trivial of tasks, anything to get the school running off schedule, Irregular schedules the first two days of school is a brilliant tactic in establishing unscheduled dysfunction.
- Students should be removed from their classes as often as possible. This can be facilitated by taking students on field trips, various conferences, make-up exams, in-school activities, cheering, catering, etc.. Individuals should be called to all corners of the building during key classes for any reason, or without reason. Anything but them attending class. Call teachers during class and interrupt the entire class to pull a student out. Allow any teacher to retain a student from their next class for any reason. Policies allowing student absence from class clearly sends a message of how unimportant class time is.
- Think of any way to take large groups of kids over to other schools, a clever method to double the idleness. The key is for a class to reach that critical absence percentage (about 22%) where the entire lesson must be repeated on another day, or that students making up the missed work disrupts future lessons. The teacher will waste time getting them caught up. This tactic wondrously snowballs into glorious levels of dysfunction.
- End the school year early. There should be absolutely no learning in the month of June. Use exams and graduation procedures to ensure that no productive classroom activities are possible in the last four-weeks (10%) of the school year.
Waste Time and Effort with Testing
- Testing is our primary tool in eliminating teaching time. If done correctly, we should be able to eliminate up to 21% of the teaching time in the year. Yes, one out of five days, just by testing. Start with the state tests and SAT/PSAT tests. Ensure that learning comes to a standstill for all students, not just the testers, pull teachers out of their classes to give tests if necessary. Be sure to take up as much teacher PD time with tedious and redundant training sessions, whether they are giving the exams or not. On test days, herd non-testing students into large non-learning environments. Learning must come to a complete stop during testing.
- Create quarterly exams that require a week (4-weeks total, 10% of school year). Be sure to use some sort of laborious process that totally consumes and debilitates the administrators and staff, eliminating any time for positive progression. Pull teachers out of class to give make-up tests, halting those classes. Create a schedule that is as bizarre and confusing as one can imagine. Repeat periods, twice in one day, cut lunches down to 22 minutes- its testing time; a complete free for all.
- Administer the exams in a way that teachers cannot or will not provide comments to students; eliminating any learning from the exam process. Extend the debilitation of the Exam process with make-up exams for several more days. Ensure that teachers waste time manually transferring all of their grades from software to software. Pretend that the tens of millions of dollars we spent on computers increases student learning.
- Do not allow teachers to simply give their exams during a regular schedule, taking one or two periods (days) to do so; using established software and class procedures; this would scarcely disrupt the learning process at all.
- Develop more tests: ELL, ASVAB, and bi-literacy are all great ways to stop the learning process while looking like we care about it. Ironically, testing sounds so academic and yet is so devastating to the learning process.
The High School Will Have No Set Procedures or Protocols
- Do not allow the development and organization of procedures and policies. Having comprehensive procedures for aspect of the high school would allow staff and administrators to function efficiently and decrease tension and anxiety. This might allow the administrator du jour and other disoriented staff to gain immediate proficiency. Hours upon hours of meetings would not be necessary, in short, a disaster for our campaign. If staff don’t know how to do something. they probably won’t. Limit clear communication.
- In order to appear diligent on procedures and policies, however, we must provide some sort of illusion of such, therefore, we will provide operational information verbally, quickly at meetings, scattered throughout emails, blurted out during announcements, weekly letters or tucked away in a variety of g-classrooms. Modest contradictions, irregularities and omissions are strong tools in hindering comprehension. Weekly Administrative messages should be ridiculously long (90+ pages will suffice), redundant, unsearchable and boring.
- Along these lines, each new principal should bring an entirely new system of communication to the high school that suits them best. It will take the other 150-staff members a year to learn, at which time we’ll get a new principal and repeat. This should breakdown the most important lines of communication which is key to our poor performance. And always remember: Information only flows down from above, do not allow teacher ideas to penetrate the bureaucracy.
Student Ignorance- Direct Attack
- High-level students should be distracted with as many non-learning activities as possible. It should be possible to keep a high-achieving student out of class up to 25 days per year, or more, with excused events. Allow cheerleading. theatrical events, heroes and cool kids, award ceremonies, team pep, art projects, ROTC, fund raisers, and administrative projects- during class time. Get them out of class for that is where they learn.
- Bringing the test scores of our top students down is key, and distracting them with non-learning activities and getting them out of the classroom will achieve this. In addition, these students often benefit the learning process of an entire classroom, so removing them from class has a double benefit for widespread student ignorance.
- We have had excellent success keeping the English language learners untaught, but we must not put our guard down. Given half a chance, they could flourish. Stick with the plan: we pull them out of their ELL classes before they are ready and have them drown in mainstream classes. Unable to understand their overburdened teachers will ensure poor learning while negatively impacting that entire class, stretching differentiated instruction to its breaking point. Understaffing and under supporting all ELL classes will ensure these students are unprepared for mainstream classes. Use non-Spanish speaking substitutes whenever possible, but go easy, their test scores can’t actually get much lower.
- Maintain the hall-walk plan. Allow the ELL students, or others, to walk the halls during classes; do not address or punish them. The more time they spend out of the classroom the better. Progress is on track for this year with volumes expected to triple in spring. This will have an added benefit of distracting functioning classes, exhausting security and promoting ignorance. Be sure to utilize the stairwells, cafeteria and bathroom areas as well. Allow students to wonder back to their favorite teacher anytime of day. Do not require students to wear or carry their ID or sett strict policy for presenting Ids when asked. With a policy in place, teachers may get involved. Best case scenario, students should not even have IDs, resulting in the teachers and security staff having no viable recourse. Do not give security staff any tools in combating the crowds.
It is time to step up our campaign; the move to the new high school is approaching. Although we are at peak dysfunction now and the new high school will provide ample opportunity for student ignorance through our inability to deal with and manage new situations or to utilize our experienced teachers, it still represents a potential learning environment. Address it properly. Lack of knowledge must prevail. Our local economy is counting on us, so intensify all aspects of the ignorance campaign. Succumb to dumb stay on your toes. and look for opportunities.
Remember, a revolving door of administrators, beaten down/neglected teachers, fleeing talent, empowered/distracted students, poor communication, diminished trust, positive facade, and misdirected resources are key to our success.
We must not let our students learn.