No Teacher Left Behind.
Date: Tue, 22 May 2007 11:49:47 -0400
From: Elyssa Durant
To the Editor:
The City Paper featured a front-page story (“Metro School districtbegins revamp of failing elementary, middle school,” May 21, 2007)that completely sugar-coated the situation in two metro middleschools that have fired (via involuntary transfer) the entire staffand faculty as a result of their failure to meet NCLB benchmarks.
For the last 5 weeks, I have been working as a substitute teacher atJere Baxter Middle School and the experience has shaken me to thecore. Everything I used to believe about school finance reform hasbeen turned upside down. Jere Baxter is a Title I school withaccess to numerous resources including a math specialist on sitefull time, district mentors to advise and assist new teachers.They have mental health specialists come into several classrooms ona weekly basis, and it is not uncommon to see caseworkers andprevention specialists from a variety of community agencies oncampus.
However, despite the plethora of enhancement activities and accessto resource materials, the majority of the 7th and 8th graders donot know simple math such as long division, subtraction (if theyhave to carry the one) or their times tables. You could throw amillion dollars into this school, and it would not make a bit ofdifference!
For the first two weeks, I was assigned to a self-containedclassroom At one point, the Assistant Principal walked in,observed the children, and even acknowledged the small black andwhite television hidden in the teachers aide desk tuned in to theYoung and the Restless. She smiled and walked out. Apparently,she did not have a problem with the children watching Tom & Jerry,Sponge Bob and BET music videos from 10 a.m. through dismissal. Afew days later, I gave a make-up assignment during the students“free time,” (lunch-time through dismissal) and I was told that myexpectations were simply too high. That class in particular lost15 teachers this year alone—16 including myself.
The children are running the show at Baxter and they know it. Thefaculty receives little, if any, support from the administration.As a result, the majority of the teachers have simply given up.Dealing with disciplinary problems has become the primary focus inthe classroom displacing teaching, learning, and cooperation.
The numerous behavioral disruptions that occur each and every dayprompted the administrators to pull the most effective teachers outof the classroom to enforce (or re-enforce) school policy whiletheir classrooms remained empty or were covered by floatingsubstitute teachers.
The children are completely out of control and simply refuse to doany work. I was told not to give any student a grade below 75--even the one who threw his crumpled up science assignment in myface and walked out of class shouting profanities. What thestudents have learned is that there will be no consequences forinappropriate behavior or actions. The administration treatsteachers with complete disrespect: in front of students, teachers,and guests, completely undermining any sense of autonomy, authorityor cohesiveness. Even I was embarrassed for them, and I was onlythere for a few weeks!
This is a classic example of a top-down policy failure. As a policyanalyst, I always advocated for equity in education, and believed onsome level that throwing money into poor schools (poor performance &achievement records to disadvantaged students) might help level theplaying field for disadvantaged schools, translating into betteroutcomes for students and the community.
The City Paper glossed over the magnitude of this desperatesituation by calling it a “fresh start.” These teachers have beentreated poorly enough by students and administrators, and now wehave a number of young professionals who are underpaid, uncertain,and unemployed. We all know that teacher pay is ridiculous tobegin with, but coupled with the added stress of the re-applicationprocess, Metro may lose a large number of educated, motivated,displaced educators to surrounding districts, counties, and states.This is simply ridiculous. By cleaning house, Baxter will lose thefew experienced, dedicated teachers they have, prompt the youngerset to leave the profession all together, and discourage futureteachers from applying for jobs in Metro.
Everything we know about the positive outcomes in neighborhoodschools is their strong reliance upon community buy-in and parentalinvolvement. One thing that makes magnet, lottery, charter schools,parochial, and private schools so good is the fact that parents,teachers, students, and administrators fight to get in, and fightto stay there. The act of choosing, in effect, leads to anenhanced sense of community and builds a supportive, consistent,and structured environment. Calling this decision a fresh start isridiculous-- it would be more accurate to call it a very bad ending!
In this case, No Child Left Behind is, in effect, leaving No Teachers Left Behind.
Elyssa Durant, Ed.M.--Elyssa Durant, Ed.M.Nashville, TennesseeE-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
"The paradox of education is precisely this-- that as one begins tobecome educated, one begins to examine the society in which he [orshe] is being educated." - Baldwin
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"The paradox of education is precisely this-- that as one begins to
become educated, one begins to examine the society in which he [or
she] is being educated." - Baldwin