Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Letter to Lawmakers

The following letter went out to Representative John Yarmuth (D), Senator Mitch McConnell (R), Governor Steve Beshear (D) and Mayor Greg Fischer (D). If you can think of someone else in the government I need to send this to, please let me know.


I am writing to you because I feel that you can help me and my students. As you can see my from my email address, I am a Kentucky teacher. The last several months have been by far the worst in my very short teaching experience. Why? I teach in one of the audited schools.

The audits have to stop. They need to. They are an incredible waste of funds for schools to find out what they already know, they need help. Only, now the help comes with the caveat that a large portion of the teachers will be leaving, most probably unwillingly. This requirement made getting hired in our district last year a nightmare, with some teachers being placed the day before school started. Considering it took me nearly a month to get my room in order my first year, I can only imagine how stressful this must have been. The aftermath of the audits was the only part I saw last year. This year, I saw them in their full glory.

I work at [school name redacted because I'm uncomfortable revealing that much on my blog]. We are a good school with low scores. There are many valid excuses for this, but I won’t bother to tell you them. You can read for yourself in the results of the audit from my school. However, what was most interesting about our audit was the debriefing meeting meant to discuss their findings. Our school was lovely. Our administration was helpful. Our teachers were wonderful. Our students were polite, calm and nice. Lessons were great. Hallways were clear. The only problems they found were our test scores, and they said as much. In paying the auditors alone, the week cost nearly a quarter of a million dollars, not including their hotels and food, to tell us what the KCCT results told us back in September.

They also brought up our “lack of parental involvement” and suggested that we make committees to entice parents to come to school more often. I don’t think I need to tell you that not having enough committees to join is not going to get parents who can’t or won’t come to school to help out.
To make matters worse, we were insulted. That wonderful school climate I mentioned? In the debriefing meeting, the lead woman suggested with a “joke” that the students were coached to behave this way. We did nothing of the sort. Our students were genuine the entire week, but the implication was clear: “Your school is bad, so your students must be bad.” They are not. Every school has some challenging students, but they do not make up the whole of our student body.

Our student body. That is who we need to be worried about with these audits. If I am shuffled, I’ll get a new job. If I’m unhappy, I can always take a pay cut and go private. My kids? They don’t have that luxury. For many of our students, the only strength, stability and reassurance they get is from their teachers. The thought of losing their teachers has driven some to make statements like “If you get shuffled, I’ll just quit school.” This is not an empty threat. They will do it if their support is no longer available. Perhaps that’s what the state would like? Students with poor scores should just quit school and then we don’t have to worry about their scores? Well I see more than scores when I look into my students’ eyes. I see the struggles and triumphs. I see the motivation and dedication. I see the desire to better themselves. I see a student who entered high school at a fourth or fifth grade reading level having never read a novel who is now at the apprentice level by graduation. He is a failure to the state, but to me, he’s an incredible triumph who is the first in his family to graduate from high school. What do you see when you see my students? Please end these audits. Not for the teachers. Not for the money saved. Do it for our students.

5 comments:

  1. I wish you were my child's teacher.

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  2. I am at the mid-Atlantic NEA Convention, and am sharing your blog with other members currently attending the Priority Schools meetings. You are amazing, keep up the awesome blog! You have more fans than you will ever know!

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  3. What a great letter. You wrote with passion, conviction and honesty. I really hope you're able to effect change.

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  4. Best of luck in this situation. I hope they will listen to you!

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  5. My son's school had to endure something like that 2 years ago. They were audited and were almost taken over by the Department of Education. They were placed on Academic Probation, and had a year to get things fixed, or they were going to be taken over. They got things in shape, but it was at the cost of several wonderful teachers.

    Arkansas also recently passed a law that any school districts with <200 students had to be consolidated into a bigger school district. A few of the smaller schools in my area had to do just that: Be absorbed into another district. The smaller school board, the principal, superintendent, and the teachers had nowhere to go. This also created the problem of bus routes. Some kids are going to be on the bus for over 2 hours ONE WAY to and from school. It's utterly ridiculous.

    Good teachers are like diamonds: rare and valuable. Thank you for your love of teaching. I believe it is a calling, and I would be honored for my son to have a caring teacher like you.

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