No, I’m not digging out from an anomalous May snowstorm, but I do feel quite overwhelmed by end-of-the-year paperwork. Like other teachers, I have mostly assessments and annual school wide forms to complete this time of year. My pre-k program has additional sets of the former handed down by the district and the state.
The state mandates the use of ELAS, a performance-based assessment system focusing on six language arts/literacy expectations. Normally, I would not voice concerns about ELAS; despite the tedious paperwork involved, it has been very helpful as a tool for targeting the strengths and weaknesses of my students. My concern is this: the collection period for ELAS ends in June, but my support person from the Office of Early Childhood has insisted we hand in the paperwork nearly a month earlier. Why? My guess is because other pre-k sites have been delinquent in handing in paperwork on time in the past.
The problem with this creative revision of the ELAS timetable is threefold:
1. This time of year many pre-k students start to demonstrate remarkable academic progress, especially those who entered pre-k younger than the other students. If we stop collecting anecdotes and work samples from those children in mid-May (to ensure we can finish the paperwork before Memorial Day), we may fail to capture this growth and, thereby, provide the state, our schools, and parents with inaccurate results.
2. We are also responsible for a social skill checklist and the district’s experimental assessment forms (requiring the collection of anecdotes covering over 30 expectations) in the same time frame. Now, I am all for an Amazing Race-style challenge for teachers to balance three assessment systems, simultaneously, while also instructing students. But, if we are really in early childhood for the children and not just to satisfy the sadistic cravings of paperwork hungry bureaucrats, we should think realistically about how our demands on teachers affect their ability to perform in the classroom.
3. I have always handed in paperwork on time along with additional individualized action plans for my students. If the folks at the Office of Early Childhood were as organized and well managed as they should be, they would put additional pressure only on those teachers who need it. In a sense, they should differentiate their approach to employees in the same way that they require teachers to differentiate our approach for the varying needs of our students.
Well, I have to go now…because this paperwork is not going to fill out itself.