Thursday, December 22, 2011

What's wrong with our schools part III

I havn't written about education for a long time. I've shot off the random bitch, or posted a link, but in terms of education policy, ideas, and battles, I havn't had the heart. After some introspection, I find myself very disillusioned, and the new job overly taxing. I knew what I was getting into, but perhaps I vastly over estimated my zeal, patience, and ability. Drunk on success from last year, I find myself wallowing in the hangover at my new surroundings. It seems as though I'm still attempting to process what the hell just happened and why my job now feels so different.
This oddly accurate and cheesy graph must have been created by some veteran teachers. It does feel like I've started my first year all over again

Between my years as a classroom aide, a quasi-teacher, and at my prior school that went from dysfunctional to moderately operational, and now into a black hole I feel I have seen, experienced, and can pontificate on what makes school's functional, and what makes them dysfunctional. I've been pondering many of the root causes of failing schools and have come up with a list of basics, which if in place, can get a school into mediocrity. I will expound on these in greater detail in the future, but here is the short and sweet.

1. Teacher morale

The number one affect on a teacher's ability to perform their job with zeal and passion, is morale. As with all careers, happy employees equal productive employees. The number one effector of teacher morale is whether a teacher feels successful, and supported by administration, instead of on an island, persecuted or under siege. There is a reason most people leave the profession within 5 years (Teach For America included). We are professionals, respect our judgement.

2. Behavioral consequences

When a student is chronically tardy, habitually disruptive, disrespectful, breaks teacher's noses, or any other behavior within the student's ability to control, there is a clear due process based, non-confrontational consequence. When there is no structure, students exploit, and the teachers end up being put in the role of mentor, and enforcer, two that do not go together. Often, the enforcement is nonexistent and empty due to no support or system.

3. Academic consequences

If a student cannot complete grade level work, do not pressure teachers to pass on students to the next grade level. When teachers are partially evaluated on their fail rate, it sends the wrong message. Some teachers fail students because they expect grade level work, not last minute assignments. Standards based grading does precisely this. When students are graded on their ability to fulfill vague "standards" of education, they no longer have to be productive, except on a test. Other gimmicks like "No Ds" cause grade inflation and contribute to the growing problem of college remediation courses.

4. Community support

Do neighborhood kids go to neighborhood schools? School "choice" is leading to wage based segregation. Schools for poor kids, and those for the lucky. When communities quit disparaging their public education, and instead play a role in it, rising tides float all boats.

5. Administrative support

Career administrators, with strong classroom backgrounds who want to move from teacher to administrator in the same school should be courted, compensated, and rewarded. Recruit the best and brightest. When a district sets up a system of yes men/women, who expect an advancement every two or three years up the ladder, their is no commitment, investment, or relationship with staff, community, or school. Or better yet, eliminate most administrative positions and let the teachers run the show!

6. Parental support and accountability

We are not your babysitter. Give your contact info to the school. Feed them! Ask about their day, even if you work the night shift and just got home. Ask about their homework. Come in and meet their teachers. We often see them more than you, and a completely different side of them that you should be aware of. Oh yeah, when they don't have passing grades, send them to summer school.

7. K-8 preparation

It's hard to point the blame at other teachers, but when whole classes of students arrive that are below grade level, I wonder what the previous teacher did. Don't inflate grades. Make a student pass basic skills tests to move on to the next grade, otherwise districts should provide mandatory summer schools to prevent students from falling behind. That costs more money, but if a student still reads at a 4th grade level by grade 9, something has gone terribly wrong.

8. High expectations


It never ceases to amaze me how low the expectations of rigor, effort, and skill the students are held to. Every year the students seem lower and lower. Systems should be put in place to correctly place teachers in their position of strength on a vertical alignment, so that freshman to senior teachers can communicate clearly, and share lessons and ideas, so that students are ready for each grade.

9. Teacher's contracts are honored

I am yet to work at a school where teacher contracts are honored, and the principal actively seeks counsel from teachers. When districts break our contract it tells us we don't matter, and that decision making will be top down, not with those who actually teach.

10. Monetary support

It took all semester to get the textbooks for my AP class. Enough said.

11. District interventions

This incorporates all that have been said above. Community and administrative support, accountability, summer schools, money, contracts, and ensuring students are prepared when entering a new level of K-12 education. If a student enters college and needs remediation, the school has not done an adequate job.

Although not perfect, this list does allow a school to move from dysfunctional to mediocrity. I plan to address each point in their own post. For the time being, it will allow my "disillusionment" stage to take more focus, and perhaps, some "rejuvenation."

Sunday, November 6, 2011

AP and cultural bias

Around this time last year I wrote an entry detailing my dilemma about teaching half-truths, and having to give up the real value in history for basic content. Now, in a new school, and teaching AP(advanced placement) courses to students who are in no way prepared, I find myself hitting a similar wall. My new dilemma reminds me of my old district's attempt to get us to teach about jingoistic militarism from the Medal of Honor curriculum, which I also wrote about.

This time, I found myself in an AP Saturday institute, learning the ins and outs of the curriculum to be taught. It became very clear to me that the expectation was a watered down, worthless and uninspiring curriculum. It was rote memorization, learning test taking skills for the one AP test, and reactionary bias. I found myself sitting amongst a bunch of other well intentioned white teachers, discussing the validity of Andrew Jackson and his love of "democracy".

In reality, what all students need, and especially mine, is a history curriculum that promotes activism, assertiveness, and social awareness. I know for a fact, that the curriculum last year, which was heavy in social history and activism, gave my students the confidence to protest my principal, stand up to power, and catapult them into a life of social activism. That is what all social studies teachers strive for. With AP, the opposite seems to happen. The chart above should be alarming. The problem with AP is that it is supported, created, and perpetuated by those who go through the program. The curriculum, though unintentional, become self-serving.

For example, the suggested curriculum being pandered by the College Board requires US History to be covered from "Pre-Columbian Societies" for one week, to Jacksonian Democracy and "The Early Republic" for two weeks, and all the way to "The United States in the Post-Cold War World" for two weeks. Realistically, you cannot cover the depth of US History in such sweeping breadth. The curriculum is sanitized by its immense scope.

The curriculum is further sanitized by those who create and perpetuate the test questions and course syllabus'. An attached model syllabus from AP includes:
Jacksonian America (2 weeks)
In order to understand the development of evolution of democratic institutions in
the United States, the student will be able to:
A. Characterize the rise to political prominence of Andrew Jackson
B. Evaluate Jackson's domestic and foreign policies
C. Analyze the issues involved in the elections of 1836 and 1840
D. Explain the causes and results of reform movements in the United States during the early to mid-nineteenth century
While on the other hand:
Manifest Destiny and Sectionalism (1 week) (emphasis mine)
To recognize the importance of westward expansion and the looming issue of slavery in the United States, the student will be able to
A. Identify the causes and results of American settlers' moving west
B. Discuss the causes and results of the Mexican-American War
C. Analyze the issues involving slavery and potential disunion during the late 1840s and through the decade of the 1850s

As in life, all decisions come with an opportunity cost. When you choose one action, another possible scenario is never realized. To teach about Jackson, but neglect the trail of tears. To spend double the amount of time on the facade of emerging democracy (read: now includes white dudes without property) than on the most undemocratic institutions in our history, imperialism and slavery, where one in ten Americans was owned by another American is not only negligent, but is downright white-washing (pun intended). Is the data to the left at all surprising?

Students in AP not only have to deal with a fast paced, uninspiring curriculum, but at the end of the year the cultural bias of the curriculum is transferred into the test. The test has 80 multiple choice questions. For example:
Alexander Hamilton's economic program was designed primarily to
A. prepare the United States for war in the event Britain failed to vacate its posts in the Northwest
B. provide a platform for the fledgling Federalist Party's 1792 campaign
C. establish the financial stability and credit of the new government
D. ensure northern dominance over the southern states in order to abolish slavery
E. win broad political support for his own candidacy for the presidency in 1792.



I made bold all of the words and phrases that my students would not understand. Not only is the curriculum rather irrelevant in the lives of everyday Americans then, as now, but the nature of the question favors the business and economic minded well read students with high vocabulary. Guess where they go to school? The test is designed for students with privilege to get a discounted college education, while the opportunity cost for poorer students is high.

Last year, my students were unable to think independently or critically. By the end of the year they were the highest scorers on district tests and politically active. This year, I have this to start with this.

The AP test does this student no favors. Although unintentional, the AP test is culturally biased and does nothing to help out students who have not had the privilege of a stable home, middle class income, and other opportunities people like myself have been fortunate to have. To change this, we need to stop pandering poor curriculum choices for our students.

I am under pressure to make sure that the student who's work you see above gets a passing score in the AP test. It won't happen. When you read at a 6th grade reading level, write at a 5th grade level, and when the entire test is set up for a 12th+ level with culturally irrelevant information, how on earth can I lie to that student and say that they can do it. I'm a decent teacher, but I'm no messiah.
It is possible, reading standard histories, to forget half the population of the country. The explorers were men, the landholders and merchants men, the political leaders men, the military figures men. The very invisibility of women, the overlooking of women, is a sign of their submerged status.

If history is to be creative, to anticipate a possible future without denying the past, it should, I believe, emphasize new possibilities by disclosing those hidden episodes of the past when, even if in brief flashes, people showed their ability to resist, to join together, occasionally to win. I am supposing, or perhaps only hoping, that our future may be found in the past's fugitive movements of compassion rather than in its solid centuries of warfare.
-Howard Zinn
That is what inspired my students last year. It inspires all students. Why destroy that? I am struggling again this year. How can I inspire and teach such a culturally repressive history?

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.

What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places -- and there are so many -- where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

-Howard Zinn

That is what I need to teach, but I don't know if I can keep my job and do my job at the same time.



Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Parting shot

My former colleagues this week leaked an email to me that went around my old school. Our state assessment results came back. In a celebration email, the Assistant Principal made a conscious decision to leave my name in the results.

I was the top performing teacher. My ELL classes and honors classes combined to place my students in the 75th percentile, meaning they outperformed 75% of the state's students on non-fiction writing and reading. The closest other teachers were 67% and 63%.

I still give no respect to the state test, but I would've loved to have been a fly on the wall when my former principal opened that email.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hitting the reset button

With summer break quickly dwindling away I found myself in a new and wonderful position: entertaining multiple job offers. As it turned out, a few districts had buyers remorse with their candidates. As the seemingly perennial second place, I got the nod.

I had three choices. The first is an exurban school that was predominantly white and wealthy where I would teach Economics, Sociology, and a US History. One semester contract, with assurance of it becoming full year.

The second was a suburban middle class school that had wide diversity with an IB program in the most respected district in the state. What I would teach is TBD. One year contract, with likelihood of it becoming continuing once older teachers retire.

The third is a homogeneously Latino poor urban school with a one million dollar turnaround grant from the government, which has an all new administration. I would teach AP US History, Honors Geography, and Geography. Full year, continuing contract.

I chose the urban school. Out of the three options, it is there where I can make the most difference with a very high-needs population. Also, being on the ground level of a school-wide rebuild can be immensely rewarding. One of my references will be my Assistant Principal and evaluator. Good hook-up. Also, my schedule was tailor-made for me, and I got a third floor room overlooking downtown.

The feeling is phenomenal. I'm desired instead of shunned. My new school is exactly where I want to be. I welcome the challenge and look forward to the success I know is coming. A totally new district with a lot of room for advancement. Now I can quit writing about my mental states and get back to writing about education.


Last weekend a group of friends and I went on a canoe trip through some canyons in Utah. The water was cool and fast, with the consistency of chocolate milk. When I jumped into the water and floated along the canoes the trauma of the non-renewal, board process, and administrative leave from my last school melted away. The feelings of betrayal, helplessness, and anger are gone. I feel ready. My mind is reset. I wouldn't be anywhere else. Well, almost.


We took this shot from our cliff palace campsite. "Find a happy place"

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer has begun

With all the drama going on with finding a job, I am finding myself decompressing, finally.

While I was out of town, my car was flooded by a massive rainstorm. In the back seat floor of my car was all my documents from the kids. I had my stack of anonymous student surveys, student letters to me, stacks of student essays, performance reviews, and copies of the student petitions.


Although reeking of mildew, and unable to be used again in interviews, I have been drying them on my floor for the past week. Drying, reading, and preserving each one has been a reminder. An orange mouse of sorts.

Those reminders have been continually cropping up over the past weeks as I withdrew from the job hunt. The students asked me to lead them on more Outdoor Club hikes. Unaffiliated with school of course. I happily obliged with parental consent and participation. You can never be too careful in situations such as that. I have another outing with the kiddos in a few weeks.

Tomorrow, I am heading to my former school to join the Environmental Club students in a barbecue, next to the garden I helped them get. I abandoned the club after last year due to my percieved apathy of the students, and the mounting responsibilities of being a Department Chair. My co-sponsor more than came through with the club, and got the garden put in the ground. I decided to create a gift for her.


It says, "Never loose focus of whom you advocate for," and is all native plants. I created it from a toolbox I found in my basement. The person I made it for has recently run afoul of administration, as is their nature. The quote is meant to inspire her to remember she works for the kids, not the directive commandments from the Oz that is administration. She knows that well, and I'm hoping that garden proves motivational. I am going to give this to her tomorrow morning at the barbecue.

I also created it for myself. I want one too, but I promised myself that I would give it away. I have continued my drawn out epiphany that I wouldn't change anything that happened to me, kind of. What happened reaffirmed my career/life choice. Now that stability is on the horizon, I can stop letting the anxiety take over, and really double down on what I've accomplished. After three years, a $10,000 federal grant for a community garden, an active outdoor club, politically active youth in school and out, and beating the system, albeit for a week only, I feel accomplished and proud. Teachers can be the most powerful force in a kid's life and can influence far beyond their classroom. Or, they can fill a space. The former is not me. My need to teach is driven by more than intrinsic value, it is activism. It was the students and community that gave that feeling to me. It is a feeling I will never forget.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Victory.

Found a job. Boy, was I being dramatic.


Notice: the removed head

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Orange mice

My cat has this very bizarre fascination with orange mice. Unlike other toy mice, the orange ones never disappear, and linger for months, until finally beheaded. I find them on the futon, under the covers, in the laundry, and in my shoes. Peter likes to hide them in places for me to find them, so I can then throw them and be reminded of his cuteness. For as long as I live, I will probably always associate orange mice with him.

My life now has the constant reminder of what I once was. Orange mice like facebook messages, places, people, and everything I have surrounded myself with, remind me of teaching. It is impossible to escape, or remove from my mind.

The job hunt thus far has been an anxiety ridden roller coaster ride. At the end is financial and personal doom. I am 0-7 on the interview front, persistently second place. Everyone is keeping my resume in case another position opens. That matters little, because you are either first or last. This blog has become another orange mouse. It is now something I will purge from my life until life improves. Teaching was never a job, it was a calling. And right now I cannot stand being marooned. See you in a week, or a year, who knows.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

You know you're doing something right when...

You find your students registering people to vote at PrideFest.
You find others there who say they are praying for you to find a job.

Found another student in head to toe purple body paint and a feather headdress looking at the bongs for sale. Totally hysterical.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Interviewing update.

I have been applying like mad for jobs in the area. The first round of interviews has resulted in one terrible offer of $18,000 no benefits, three denials, two pending, and one upcoming.

I have a third round interview coming up in the next two days. Fingers crossed.

Not even the fucking dignity of a phone call.

I hate job hunts. Two interviews, and this is what I get.

Per instruction from the interviewing committee for the job # 585413, I would like to thank you for interviewing with us. At this time you were not selected for this position. You are welcome to apply for future openings that we may have.

Thanks.



Sunday, June 5, 2011

Summer "break"

Summer is upon us. This is the time of year I am incessantly reminded by snide assholes that I get paid for doing nothing. The true welfare queens of the modern era. Nevermind the fact that my summer pay is payment for services already rendered, and districts stretch out the pay over 12 months so that teachers don't return in August emaciated and starving because they blew all their money in Vegas back in June.

Ah, but I am now a welfare queen in more than one way. Unemployment insurance! Today I get to file a claim because I am officially unemployed. The government teat is sweet. Maybe I can milk this for 99 weeks and earn our bad reputation.

Since being placed on leave after the student protest, I have been an applying and interviewing fool. It brings back all the terrible memories of applying straight out of college. Over 100 districts, a dozen job fairs, no bites. Non-stop anxiety and confusion. This time around is different though, and I'm hoping I get picked up in the first round of interviews. Then I can enjoy my summer with the comforting knowledge that I will have a paycheck for the next twelve months.

The other day, the students put in the $7,000 community garden from my club, and a teen political summit was organized by a State Senator who was inspired by my student's protest. Awesome accomplishments for a four year teacher I think. That State Senator now wants to give me a job working for her during the summer. Sweet government teat.

One of the more striking realizations from the garden and political summit, was the complete lack of interest by the district or media, despite invites. I suppose it is just another painful reminder that nobody gives a shit about education anyway. They just wave their hand and expect magic to happen, and when it doesn't, they criticize and then forget. Oh, well. Perhaps that is best. Stay out of my way and we'll all be better off.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What's wrong with our schools? Part II

How do we attract and retain effective teachers? Besides the obvious altruism or idealism, money matters. Unfortunately, there are many amateurs who are trying to change the way teachers are compensated for their skills. Performance or merit pay should be viewed with a healthy degree of skepticism. It cannot be competition, but only an incentive to keep and retain good teachers who otherwise might leave education to increase their income.


One day, you too can hold the stick

As a new teacher I made $38,000, minus $6,000 for health insurance, despite having the highest scores in the department. I used to make double that doing construction. I will make in 20 years what I could have made in my teens. I'm not complaining for myself. I know that by the time I retire I will be comfortable. However, other people who may want to be teachers will steer clear of education due to the lack of monetary reward.

Those that are pushing for performance pay have a very controversial way to evaluate teacher effectiveness. Should a teacher get paid more because their students perform better on tests? According to Gallup, 73% of Americans seem to think so, while at the same time 81% said they should be paid by whatever advanced degree the teacher had earned. What?! Looks like the American public is confused.

First, standardized tests are not a reliable measure of what students can and cannot do. One, the students have no motivation to try on a test where there is no reward or grade. Second, each year teachers get a different mix of students. This year I could have very capable students, next year I could have many who need significant help. Different scores over the years are normal, and don't signify success or failure. Finally, standardized tests are inherently biased against non-white working class students. For example, a test question that uses tennis as its setting benefits the kind of student that has been exposed the most to tennis. Or, when students must interpret an archaic piece of literature or historical document riddled with cultural bias. Standardized tests are not, nor have ever been a reliable or valid form of assessment.


Those pushing merit pay disagree. California billionaire and public school meddler Eli Broad of the Broad Foundation paid for the first year of merit pay for NYC schools. Broad said
...urban public schools are failing and must adopt methods from business to succeed, such as competition, accountability based on 'measurables' and unhampered management authority--all focusing on the bottom line of student achievement, as measured by standardized tests.

Over half of all businesses fail in the first four years. We can't afford half of our schools to fail, Eli. Unfortunately, these are the people with the money, the voice, and the influence. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Broad and his followers are "reformers" or "visionaries".

The question remains though, can the possibility of more money increase teacher performance? It seems logical to us that yes, it would. If I could make another $20,000 by staying later and working on better lessons, I would. But, Dan Pink showed at TED that incentivizing difficult or cognitive tasks actually does the reverse of the intended outcome. When people focus on the monetary reward, they lose creativity and the ability to step back and think, decreasing performance. He used the example of Google's 20% time for employees, where 20% of employee time is devoted to working on whatever that employee wants, and where there was no incentive beyond the intrinsic. Unfortunately, intrinsic motivation cannot be fostered by the proverbial carrot. The carrot only works in low cognitive tasks such as an assembly line. For most teachers, motivation for teaching is intrinsic, not monetary.

Based on a
study in Greece, teachers are professional/technical

Those findings are also confirmed by a Harvard study of New York's merit pay program. The study found no significant gains in student achievement, and little return for the investment in merit pay. Good job, Eli.

So, if the incentive of more money wouldn't work to increase student achievement, why do it? There is still the problem of half of all teachers leaving education in the first five years. Education needs to attract, and keep effective teachers. Paying a highly qualified teacher, who society has placed a great responsibility, less than a bagger at Trader Joe's is socially irresponsible.

The current pay scale for teachers rewards years of experience, and educational attainment level. It was created in a time where discrimination in the workplace was routine, which the pay scale combats. It is not obsolete, however. I still believe the current pay scale plays a role in assuring a level of job security, and to financially plan for the future.

Merit pay could be used to supplement to current pay scales. Here is a fairly normal pay scale on what teachers make. I saw one interesting model where teachers were put in three categories based on performance called novice, professional, and expert. Within each category you have ranges of pay from year 1-35 and degrees from bachelors to PhD. In theory I could be a third year teacher with a bachelors, but be in the professional category, and thus be paid more than $38,000.

However, the problem remains, who decides, and how is it decided what performance tier a teacher is in. Administration is the most unaccountable and subjective group that power could be trusted with. Perhaps the only way would to be to allow an opt-in long-term portfolio based assessment of teachers. Has the teacher been given multiple opportunities and demonstrated success over multiple years over multiple criteria? If so, they deserve excellent pay and to be moved up the chain.

Who decides? It would have to be a diverse group heavily weighted with good teachers. In a perfect world, schools would be 100% teacher run like MSLA in Denver. Teachers know good educators when they see them, nobody wants to teach with incompetent colleagues. Teachers motives for awarding merit pay would be proper student preparation, and an effective teammate. If we trusted our teachers to make the right decisions, and held them accountable for it, merit pay could be fair and just, while at the same time attracting more qualified individuals to become, and stay teachers. This of course, is only a model. It is not, and cannot be perfect.

The problem arises when a top-down approach is imposed, and teachers are unfairly assessed by those that don't understand the profession. We need to trust our teachers, and allow for teacher led reform of the system. Just because teachers don't have money, doesn't mean we shouldn't have influence. Unfortunately, the system has currently designed it that way, and those like Broad will continue to meddle and be unsuccessful in something they do not understand.

My student's testimony to the board

In early April, when the BOE was considering my non-renewal, the students showed up and saved my job for a week. This is their testimony. I have removed names to the best of my ability. I am Mr. _____. A simple _____ generally is the name of my school.

G.L.P., sophomore at ________, spoke about her education in general, adding that you guys are all about our education.

Students are constantly being told that what is important is our success, our education, and that is why you are all here. You are doing it for us, not for yourselves. If this is true, why are we rarely asked about things that are going on around our school? You guys are always saying, “You guys are most important to us and you guys matters to us.” You guys say it so often, but there are people who do not say it often, but mean it more. Teachers like Mr. _____ and Mr. _____ do not have to tell us daily that they care about our education because their actions clearly show it. Sometimes actions speak louder than words.

Yesterday, we had a protest and it was a peaceful assembly. As far as I know, we have freedom of speech. All of a sudden, they started making a big deal out of us standing up for our rights. I read on the [school] website that they wanted us to leave our school prepared for the world and apply what we learned to our environment. When we tried to do that, they stopped us. Several students did a sit-in and were told that they would be suspended even though they were not yelling or being disruptive. We did not just go out and do this for no reason. We tried talking, but were not listened to; we are never listened to. You guys seem to think that we are immature and do not know what we are talking about. We tried talking to the principal and were ignored. This is our school and our education.

They called our parents and said that we would be suspended. I don’t know why because we did not do anything wrong. They suspected that our teachers were the ones who involved us and it was their fault. What are they trying to say? Do they think we are stupid and can’t come up with something ourselves? We can’t stand up for our own rights? We are brainwashed by people and told what to do? We do not have brain, thoughts, feelings, or emotions? We can’t do something by ourselves and decide that this is not right and we want to change it? We were personally involved and wanted to do something about it. Now our teachers are being blamed and they had nothing to do with it. Thanks for listening to what we have to say and I hope you take it into consideration.

A.R., junior at _____, shared that this protest had been planned for a couple of months. It started as a discussion in a classroom, specifically Mr. _____ classroom, because that was the first teacher who we learned about being unfairly let go. We conducted an investigation to find out what is going on with our good teachers who we feel inspire us and create the perfect image for learning as far as making it fun, enjoyable, and excitable. They give us the information we need in a new creative way that has not been introduced to us before. They also make the learning environment a stable place to learn. Their students are under control, focused, and nine times out of 10, you do not see a classroom that has almost 100 percent participation in what’s going on. I have been in a lot of these classrooms because I currently have some of these teachers or had them in previous years. A lot of these teachers are in full control of their students as far as willingness to participate or stepping out of their comfort zone to address an educational issue in which people tend to shy away from.

As you all know, the protest took place during school hours. It did move outside because we felt that was best for our rights as far as not infringing on the school’s rights and moving it to a public forum. We also kept it outside so we would not disrupt the learning environment, but we wanted to make sure that we raised awareness in the streets. Some of us took our protest to the Colfax corner to raise awareness and asked drivers to honk for good and quality teachers.

We feel that some of the teachers who are being let go are not the teachers that should be let go. We feel that the way that they were determined to be let go are not just means. We are asking you to reconsider and to let you know that we did a protest as a public statement and are willing to fight for these teachers because that is how strongly we feel about them. We are inspired by what they have created as far as the learning environment, and in that inspiration, we have decided to make it known as public as we can about what is going on.

M.G., parent, commented that these students are fighting for their education and deserve the best teachers. He shared that schools outside [school's] neighborhood have everything and questioned why the best teachers were being removed. He noted that these kids are strong and have a right to protest, adding that this is the United States, not Cuba.

MG is proud of the kids for defending their education and supports them. He has two kids who attend [school] and they are both hard workers.

E.G., senior at _______, asked to clear a misinterpretation or room for misinterpretation regarding a comment made by A.R. in which he shared that the protest originated in Mr. _____ classroom.

EG shared that what he meant was that when it was made public that Mr. _____ was being let go, the students were inspired and took it upon themselves to protest. The punishment for both the students and the teachers who supposedly instigated this protest was incredibly drastic because the students were simply expressing their opinion, like many of us said, the freedom of speech and the freedom of opinion. The teachers who have been punished severely, not necessarily for their support of the protest or the students ditching class, but for their support of students voicing their opinion and being able to speak out against it. I do not think that they should be punished for that. This was the only miscommunication that I wanted to make clear.

State Representative RF thanked the Board for their service to ____. What you do and the decisions that you make are not easy.

RF cares about education, students, the community and the types of decisions that are being made. The students and faculty at _____ should be extremely proud. I have had the opportunity to tour _____, and have talked to the principal and met some of the teachers. I am proud of the work being done at _____. I think that students’ minds are shaped by teachers. When you have students who are critically thinking about what is going on in their school and want to take a proactive measure to protest or voice their opinion about teachers and budget, it is a good thing. I represent the state of ______. At one point, we were looking at trying to make a $350 million cut to K-12 education. Today, there is a proposal to reduce that down to a $250 million cut to K-12 education.

When I hear that, it makes me want to protest. It makes me want to sit down and have a conversation about why we are taking these drastic measures to cut the future, which is our kids. I can relate to the decision that these young people have made in reference to wanting to support their teachers and their learning. This should be celebrated.

RF’s position at the state is to not tolerate a $250 million cut to K-12 education, adding that we cannot continue to cut to solve the problem. We need to have meaningful dialogue and discussion about what we should do moving forward. The student protest was just one way for these young people, families and the community to say that we cannot tolerate having these cuts impact the classroom and teachers. This is just a way for them to cry out to the administration as a way to be heard. I am here for the students and their families and am proud that they didn’t decide to drop out of school, but elected to engage the administration and have a dialogue about how to go about this. These students are saying that they care about their fellow students, teachers and their school. I want to make sure that they continue to have a say at the table because their voice is important.

Board President reminded the audience that public comments are limited to three minutes. She shared that the Board cannot carry on a conversation with speakers as we are unaware of the nature of your comments. She commented that we talk about trust and transparency, but there are things that Board members are not allowed to say whether it is morally right or prohibited by law. She emphasized that the Board shares what is appropriate, and hopes all understand that the Board is listening to comments and take each into consideration before making a decision.

RL, parent, has six children at various levels in district and is worried about their education. She understands budget cuts but questioned why quality education for students was being cut. She shared that problems at _____ are a clear example that children are fighting for a real education, a quality education. She noted that Superintendent _____ shared that cuts would be minimal at school sites a few days ago. She understands that there is limited funding, but questioned why the focus was on teachers who have an intellectual capacity in terms of education for our students and asked that the focus be on the quality of the education that is being rendered for our children.

RL volunteers at several schools and expressed surprise that the majority of teachers who supposedly earned more are the ones being cut. She questioned if quantity rather than quality of education was being considered as this is what these teachers provide to our students. She shared that there are teachers who give additional time to find ways to help students understand was is being taught and other teachers who do not. She asked that the Board consider the education of our students and consider the future and quality of education in the United States.

Me, teacher at _____, asked that data and letters from students and staff be provided to the Board.
I discussed the non-emotional part of why he wants to teach and why he is being non-renewed. During his first year at _____, he was asked to teach Latin American history, a brand new course without any curriculum, textbooks or preparation. Throughout the course of the year, he received commendations on how well he did it. He also shared that writing examples from his civics students were used as examples for the entire district. During his second year, he taught five courses, and his US history students earned 100 percent proficiency on the interim assessment. He received a commendation from Superintendent _____. His civics students also performed far and above any other students in the school. During his third year, he taught US history again and students are currently studying the civil rights movement. This year, he was recognized as a leader and became a department chair. He was asked to be the PLT leader for the professional learning team to help raise test scores in US history.
I created a Facebook page about his classroom in which kids debate history at the college level. He shared that it is not a threat to anyone’s power to reverse a decision, adding that the Supreme Court does it 81 percent of the time. He asked the Board to consider the facts in front of them. He has also written the Board a letter in detail in response to his non-renewal recommendation. He sincerely hopes that the Board listens to the students, parents and his colleagues. He concluded that there is only one person at _____ who does not want him there and hopes that the Board listens to the 99.9 percent of the rest.

KK, sophomore at _____, shared that during her eighth grade year, Superintendent _____ came to her school and shared that his job was to make sure that their education was properly bestowed on them.

These teachers have changed my life. I recently found out that my mom has breast cancer and Mr. _____ supported me through the entire thing. Teachers like that should be at _____, not the teachers who do not care about their students’ personal life and what they have accomplished. We love our teachers, and the ones that we love are the ones that they want to get rid of, not for budget cuts or professionalism. These teachers are so professional and use learning in a way that no one else can. _____ is who we are because these teachers make us believe that we can become lawyers, doctors and educators because they provide that knowledge. Without them, we would not have the strength because they put it in us. We have the power. Like Mr. _____ said, we are learning about the civil rights movement. We are telling you how we feel because there are other people telling you how we are supposed to feel. _____ shared that students know a good teacher when they have one. These teachers are good teachers. They are the ones that care and say what needs to be said to get work done. I hope you reconsider this.

BJT, junior at _____, shared that teachers are being cut or their contracts aren’t being renewed because of supposed budget cuts. We understand that there are budget cuts, but we have seen things such as tardy carts and TVs that none of us even use. We’re getting five new mats that cost over $2,000 a piece. Why don’t we put this money toward things like our education? And you’re firing teachers that are unprofessional? If teachers can get the job done, and show performance on grades and test scores, I don’t think these teachers should be fired because you say they are unprofessional.

Our gym and art teachers are being fired. Our principal base cuts on classes that don’t have many students. We are only allowed to take five classes since we’re juniors and seniors. Sophomores and freshman are only allowed to take six classes. If you need a class, you won’t be able to take the class that you want. But you’re going to fire teachers that do a good job, support kids that hate school completely and are coming to school just to see that teacher. You’re going to fire them?

Our teachers should be fired based on whether or not their performance is good, and whether students like and learn from them. We have teachers who refuse to help students, and we’re firing teachers that spend hours and hours after school, before school, during their planning periods and lunch period to help students. We get that certain things have to be taken out because of budget cuts, but let’s take out things that we don’t need. We have Promethean boards in classrooms that don’t get used. All we need is a projector, the old school projector, a screen or a whiteboard. That’s all we need. We don’t need these high priced things. Earlier this evening, they were talking about video teleconferencing. We don’t need that. What are we going to use it for – to talk to somebody in China? It would be amazing for a foreign language class, but why do we need to talk to somebody in China in a math class. Thank you listening to us.

EP, sophomore at _____, shared that students are here on their own time, without obligation, to speak about what matters most, which is trying to save our valuable teachers.

We are fighting for our future, future of students, and the future of our teachers and their goals to continue to enrich our knowledge as young adults. I am disappointed because the school administration excuses this choice by replying that it was based on their performance as other students have mentioned. They tell us it’s budget cuts. But, it is really because they are unprofessional in the classroom and I don’t disagree with that. I think that within our classroom, the way that they teach is customized to the way that we learn. We have different learners in the classroom, including visual, hands-on, and audio, and our teachers are willing to do all three. Even if they have to stay before school, after school or during their planning to figure out what helps us learn better.

It’s really ironic how they are cutting our teachers months before they reach tenure. I don’t understand that. I am also aware that when the excuse of performance is used, teachers can no longer obtain a job in the [city] Public School district for five years. That is ridiculous. The false accusations would undermine their record. We cannot continue with cuts within our classroom because this will create an imbalance in the school as a whole. Cutting our teachers who have been with us these couple of years will leave the school with a lot of yearning souls. Students who have the capability to do more than they think they can. You cannot cut the teachers who have helped us grow as individuals; you cannot take this away from us. It will leave us with no more challenges, no more obstacles, and no more chances to create strenuous goals with the materials that they assign to us. They challenge us by adding additional work to the skeletal methods that the administration wants them to follow. They teach us through their procedures to understand the environment of societies; socially, politically, emotionally and mentally. I can honestly say that they’ve changed our ways of thinking and I can now observe everything through the techniques that they use to help us discover the absolute picture of a situation.

Today, our teachers were suspended. The administration believes that it was not the students who organized us, as a whole, to protest and come here to share what we had to say. Today, I feel like there was a pause, a gap in our education. Without our teachers, it feels like there was no point in coming to school. It was a black and white environment.

We speak for ourselves, with open minds, and without the influence of teachers, the administration, or those directly tied to this decision. We, as individual students, and I come together, motivated by our own thoughts and our own minds to rise up from below and finally take action for a situation that has been abused and taken advantage of in a capitalistic way.

AM, sophomore at _____, was surprised about the possibility of some _____ teachers being fired. I know that I have not had them for a long time, but I know what great teachers _____ would be losing. They teach us in ways that make the material understandable and they make it interesting for us to participate in school. They have helped us strive.

PR, sophomore and _____student, asked the Board if they had ever had a teacher who had a class that they were excited to go to and were actually passionate about learning. I have personally, along with other classes, but most importantly, Mr. _____'s US history, civics, and geography classes. I was enrolled in his class during my freshman year, two years basically. At first, I, along with my fellow students, asked “what did we get ourselves into?” Long informative essays and major readings; yeah, he was all about the big things. We all came to learn that was part of our education along with many characteristics of Mr. _____. He might be young, but he has impacted the lives of many students and teachers in ways you could only get if you knew him. When we first got our essay project for the quarter, we were like “what is this,” but we came to learn that we were well-prepared for what was coming. He said that these essays were equivalent to something that you would do in college and I have now improved my writing skills but how I learn. He goes beyond the box to teach his students, not just giving us worksheets and telling us how to do them. He explains ideas that I would never ever think about. You should see our hard essays, projects, interim assessments and many other classroom activities.

The motto for _____ is “world class.” Is it really “world class” when you get rid of “world class” teachers? Mr. _____, along with many other favorable teachers at _____, are extraordinary and have improved our lives. Are you really supporting education by taking away these teachers? Does the higher power of administration really value student education at our school?

SJ, sophomore at _____, has a 4.47 GPA and is the sophomore class president. She shared that the following is her own opinion and thoughts, and on her own accord. It has not been influenced by an adult, teacher or otherwise.

The termination of Mr. _____ will only damage the instruction of students at _____. We are already feeling the budget cuts in the classroom and our school cannot afford to lose a valuable teacher like him. Students, along with parent support, have already proven what this man means to our education through petitions, meetings, phone calls, letters and emails. He is an MYP IB history teacher who expects the best from his students and pushes us to success. He is admired and cherished at _____. I can assure you that any one of his students, past or present, would be willing to vouch for him and the impact that he has had on our lives. His class and its environment is one that gives students a new perspective on history and life itself and prepares us for higher level classes in all subject areas. It worries me that incoming freshmen and sophomores will be deprived of having Mr. _____ as a teacher and deprived of the learning experience that his classroom gives. I ask that the Board look at the evidence of his capability as a teacher and to put the education of the students first. After all, today’s students are tomorrow’s future. Thank you.

MA, sophomore at _____, is in the MYP program and will be in the IB Program next year.
I have come to this meeting for the same reason that many of us have attended. We have tried to communicate with our school many times, including a petition which got more than 600 signatures, and a student-organized protest. The protest was blamed on teachers and they were suspended; my sincerest apologies to the teachers who are suspended.

According to our count, the protest had about 200 students. There are many variations as to why we’re here, but the bottom line is that we want to fight for quality teachers who are being fired. The news and publicity indicates that we are fighting for “our favorite teachers,” but that’s not exactly true. I want to emphasize that these are not only our favorite teachers; these are teachers that don’t just cram textbooks in our heads or make us study and memorize things that we will soon forget. They help us learn, push us beyond our comfort zone when we get stuck, and let us apply new knowledge to things in everyday life. Isn’t that what education is about? Well, these are the same teachers that _____ administrators are trying to fire. These teachers not only help us learn; they are involved school-wise. Doesn’t firing these teachers defeat the whole purpose of building a world class? We need to keep these teachers in our schools; not only for me and my fellow students, but for the next generation to come. This is why so many students are uninvolved as individuals. As unorganized as we are, as you guys may know, we came together and are taking a stand and fighting for this. Doesn’t that say anything?

KB, sophomore at _____, shared that most our teachers were non-renewed today and suspended. When I went to class today, I didn’t feel like doing any work because I knew that our teachers were not there. They are there for us and love us. They love teaching and are here to help us. I’ve been struggling through school since ninth grade. Whenever I need help, I go see Mr. _____or Mr. _____and spend an hour after school each day with them until I bring my grade up to where I like it. As you guys might be able to tell, my voice is also gone because yesterday I was protesting to help keep my teachers.

AR, sophomore _____ student, shared that if you are a teacher and you can bring students to tears because you are going to leave a school, you can obviously see that it is going to hurt the school. I really hope that you would reconsider. I was going to try to count how many students were at the protest yesterday, yelling their brains out. I lost my voice and when I woke up this morning, I could not even say hi to my grandmother. You can tell when a student is dedicated to keeping their teacher’s job when they are outside from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., feet hurting, starving because you can’t get back on campus to eat lunch, head hurting and back hurting. I actually have a bit of a pain in my bicep from fist pumping too much. I hope that you see that these students are dedicated to their teachers and much as these teachers are dedicated to their students. Whether it was a teacher that particularly understood their educational needs, every teacher has touched their lives. They have gotten many of us through school, and at times, were the only reason some students even came to class. However, _[district]____has shown that these things don’t matter. They are teaching our youth profits over pride, and that is not okay. This is the same youth that we expect to one day run our country better than the previous generation that has destroyed the environment. Adults have only themselves to blame for what our children become. The administration’s greed, I don’t mean to insult you, but I have heard about the conference room. Yesterday, there were 20 to 30 students who handed their IDs over knowing that they would be suspended. These are [program], IB, AP and Honors students who know that a suspension on their record will hurt them. Commonly described as [school] hoodlums, these kids stood outside yesterday, protesting for the teachers who they love. I am expecting and somewhat know that these teachers love us too. It would me a detriment, not only to _____, but to [district] as well.

LB, freshmen at _____, does not have any of the teachers who are up for suspension, but is very upset that she will not have them next year.

I have met Mr._____ once and I saw the relationship that he has with his students. He has given them opportunities to express the way they learn. It upsets me that students are brought to tears because they love their teacher so much. I know what it feels like to lose teachers and I know what they are going through. I’m here for [district] students and parents who supported us. I’m here for education. We are not allowed to exercise our rights to assemble peacefully and state our opinions. Granted, our assembly was slightly disruptive, but the passion and dedication of the students and parents was there. We are not only fighting for our education, but for our rights as Americans as well. It outrages me that a parent was told that her daughter loses her civil liberties as soon as she walks into [school]’s doors. Regardless if this is a view of the district or not, a staff member who would state that should not be hired to work in an environment with children. Quality teachers, like the few being let go, are what gives us the tools to succeed in our future and the motivation to learn. We want to be able to go to school and know that we are getting what we need to excel, including good teachers and an administration that is behind us. Let’s not be hypocrites. For example, when the school tells us not to use much paper, but they then send our schedules on full pieces of paper. Our slogan states “Flight Above the Rest,” but we cannot fly above the rest if we are repressed or punished. The slogan on the wall behind states “Graduate Every Student With The Choice to Attend College Without Remediation.” If students do not pass high school, how are they supposed to get to college? We need teachers who will give us the attention we require and teachers who speak to us rather than at us. In order to obtain the proper education, we need support from quality teachers.

RB, is a parent and former [district] graduate. Her daughter, AR, is in the IB Program and is a student of Mr._____.

Barley hopes that the Board will not let these quality educators leave. They are helping our children make a difference in their future and lives. Our children are our future and will decide our medical care some day as senior citizens. By keeping the teachers in our classrooms, I feel that our children will better themselves in society as doctors, lawyers and educators for their own children. It is your choice who our children will be with the educators we have right now.
Barley is not just here for Mr. _____, adding that she met him and he is an awesome teacher. My daughter is more comfortable in his class than in any other educator’s class that she has been in. I hope you make a good decision and decide to keep him. It affects me because I see what my daughter goes through when she comes home from school. Her grades are good and she will be inducted into the National Honor Society on Monday. From a personal standpoint, my daughter lost her father four years ago. She is doing so well now and I don’t want her to lose this. Mr. _____ is a good teacher and I hope you decide to keep him.

JN, sophomore at _____, expressed concerns about the valuable teachers who are being laid off at _____.

Hundreds of students, including myself, find these teachers to be some of the most inspiring, dedicated and contributing teachers at _____. They constantly motivate the student body and do their jobs as professionally as possible. This issue was conducted by doing a petition in which we gathered about 600 signatures and presented it to the principal and other administrators at _____. We were told that there would be no further discussion about it. Letters were also sent to the Board as well. Students believe that the protest and the actions that we took were necessary since nothing else that we had done was considered. The grand majority of us who are against these decisions are part of your distinguished IB Program and [special district Program]. You do not see us doing things like this ever, but it shows the immense importance of the issue to us. I would also like to say that no teacher forced us to conduct any activities. The students of _____ request to have all teachers back and resume their responsibilities. Mr. Superintendent, you want us to learn – right? Then, we need our teachers for that.

KV, sophomore at _____, shared that Mr. _____ is one of her favorite teachers and has been there for me.

Mr. _____ pushes us each day in class to do better. I do not know what your version of unprofessional is, but in my opinion he is professional each day in class. The only aspect that I think changes is that each day he brings fun to his class and we want to be there. I know that he was suspended today and when I went to class no one wanted to do any work. We thought that we would have a packet or something when we went to his class. Kid refused to do anything because of what happened to him and literally wanted to walk out of class. We ended up watching a movie, but no one wanted to be there because Mr. _____ wasn’t there. I know Mr. _____ personally, but Mr. C_____, Mr. S_____ and the other teachers have a passion for what they are teaching. I have friends in Mr. S and Mr. C’s class. My friend looks forward to Mr. S’s class every day. She has trouble at home, and Mr. S has helped her through it. I know that by firing Mr. _____ and letting these teachers go you will affect us and our future. Mr. _____ makes us want to be at school and by letting him go, you are letting go of one of our reasons to be at school I have other teachers who make me go to class and all we do is take notes. We do not want to go to their class anymore. In Mr. _____’s class, we have projects, we have fun, we watch movies about the subject, and we talk about what is going on. I am in his MYP IB history class and we relate things that happened 70 years ago to things that are happening today. We see how we can change what is going on and by doing that, he is teaching us how to create a better future for not only us, but for generations to come. I really think that you guys should change your minds about letting him go.

VO, parent, shared that her son is a sophomore at _____ and was in Mr. _____’s MYP IB civics and geography class last year. She shared that her son is stronger in math and sciences, but loved Mr. _____’s class and would come home and share his experience. I do not know how a teacher can go from being an excellent performer to a poor performer in a school year. I feel that these teachers were targeted. I do not know for what reason, but it was not for their performance.

VO currently has a daughter who attends [other district school] and will be going to _____ in three years. She is now rethinking about enrolling her at _____ because she is not happy with the current situation.

RP, junior at _____, shared that we, the student body at _____, gathered for a peaceful assembly yesterday. We stood outside for eight hours, sunburned faces before you, to beg you to save our teachers. I have never had Mr. _____, Mr. S or Mr. C, but I feel cheated because I see the love that the students have for them and I wish that I had had the privilege to sit in their class.

Ms. T and Mr. H are two P.E. teachers who I had this year. Ms. T actually got me to run, and if you can get RP to run, you have made an impact in my life. I hated gym and now look forward to it each day. I decided to join cross country next year because of her. She was there when I needed her as more than a teacher. When I needed a shoulder to cry on and motivation each day, she was there. Mr. H makes the class fun and makes the day go by a lot easier. I do not dread going to his class and actually enjoy it. You are cutting teachers who make _____ a school that should be tops, number one in the district because of its teachers. Every single teacher who is on the cut list, just so happens to be the best _____ has to offer. It we had not come together yesterday, I don’t think _____ would have ever been positively heard on the news. We’re also portrayed negatively, but _____ is world class because we have teachers who teach because they want to, not because they have to. I want you to overlook every teacher on that list and listen to us. We are not doing and repeating this to be a broken record; we are doing it because these teachers deserve to teach. Not every teacher has that privilege, but these teachers do.

MA, junior at _____, has been open enrolled at _____ since the ninth grade.
I would like to point out that since my freshman year, the only teachers that have changed my life are here tonight. Whether they are on the line or not, they are the only ones that I will remember. They are the ones that actually push me to do stuff. Last year I went through a lot and Mr. _____'s room actually became a haven for me as it has for a lot of students. Ms. T and Mr. H, teachers who are getting fired, don’t only impact _____ they impact the community around them. Mr. H has a charity where he provides dinners and Christmas toys to kids.
I would also like to point out that the teachers who were suspended, were suspended for unjust reasons. They had nothing to do with the protest. Five people, students at _____, started this protest and it grew. Students who had never talk or seen each other, stood together across the street from _____ because cops were preventing us from going back into school. Students inside the school who probably never shot us a second glance were cheering for us for taking a stand. _____ has pushed us around long enough; our administration has implemented rules that don’t even make sense. They take away things that are important to us. I personally put my open enrollment on the line, I put my IB diploma on the line, and I put my prom on the line. I never got into trouble before and I put a suspension on my record just for these teachers and to prove that these teachers are more than what the administration is making them seem to be. They don’t deserve to be fired when their performance has always been above and beyond. I was in Mr. B_____’s class last year, and I promise you nobody in his class loved him at first. We all hated him because he made us do so much work, but it paid off. He is somebody that you learn to love because he doesn’t tell you “oh no, you can’t. “ This year, I have a lot of teachers that have told me I can’t make it anywhere in life just because they don’t want to be teachers. I have a teacher that doesn’t want to go back, but has tenure and can ride it out. I also have a teacher who will not help when asked and will not stay after school. I am an IB student and a gymnast, and do not have all the time that everybody else does. I’m about to go to college and I feel that Mr. _____ and Ms. E are the only people that have actually prepared me for those courses.
The people who were suspended, did not get suspended for the right reason. They were suspended because they took us food because they knew we had been out there since 7:00 a.m. I was at the sit-in at 7:40 a.m. when there were only twenty people, and I willingly handed over my ID knowing how much trouble I was going to be in. I just want you guys to know that our administration is not who we are; the students are who we are. I think we proved that we can stand together for the greater cause.

AN, sophomore at _____, understands that there are budget cuts and everything revolves around the economy right now.

I don’t understand why some of the most innovative and thoughtful teachers are being let go. Their Facebook pages are so much better than the presentation that was presented earlier this evening because we’re all on Facebook 24/7. For him to put up discussions and homework assignments for everyone to discuss, comment on and be part of are great ideas. We interact with each other that way, learn that way and can relate to other students and teachers.
When the administration threatened us with suspension and told us we would have to come up with excuses or reasons for why we have a suspension on our record because of yesterday, made me think that we are fighting for our education. All of us are IB and [program] students and we had to come down here and fight for what we want. We want an education, and it’s not fair that we have to come down here and demand it. Like the State Representative (RF) said, everyone should be proud of what we did because we stood up for what we believe in, we didn’t drop out, and we fought back because we want an education. My theater teacher told me that once you have knowledge you can never go back to ignorance. Mr. _____, Mr. S, and Mr. C gave me that knowledge. With them being gone, we won’t get that knowledge anymore. I feel that it is unfair that they are being let go because they’re in that leap for tenure. I also feel that this “unprofessionalism” that they are talking about is just an excuse. If our administration cared about us they would be with us right now. There are teachers in this room who are tenured and they are standing next to us. But, I don’t see Ms. [Principal] and I don’t see Mr. [Assistant Principal] here.

GT, sophomore at _____, shared that she did not have Mr. S at the beginning of the year. I was in a normal Spanish class and I didn’t really know what I was getting into. To be honest, I didn’t really communicate in Spanish at home. I am ashamed to say that I talk to my parents in English
they encouraged me to take Spanish. When found out that I was being placed in MYP Spanish with Mr. S, I really thought that I wasn’t going to make it. I thought that I was just going to die because I wasn’t really that fluent in Spanish. As I went to his class, I started having so much fun. He made Spanish so easy. I actually loved it and started talking Spanish at home with my parents. When I found out that he was suspended today class wasn’t even fun. We watched a movie in Spanish, but without him it was not normal. It was different and you could feel the emptiness.

Mr. _____’s class is awesome and fun. I purposely walk my friends to class just because I like visiting his class. He is really fun to talk to and I wish that I had taken his class because he seems like an awesome guy. You are letting two good teachers go and more teachers behind us. It’s not fair. Adults have always told us to speak up for what we think is right. We’re doing that now, but you’re ignoring us. We stood up for what we believe in and we’re still standing up for what we believe in. Because of these teachers, we have all done good. We are not bad kids even though it might seem like we are because of what happened yesterday. You guys need to reconsider that. These are good teachers and you shouldn’t let them go. Because of Mr. S, “Hora habla espanol.”

MM, parent and [district] volunteer, shared that she is a supportive mom, but corrects her children when they are wrong. She shared that her daughter is an excellent student, but was lazy and unorganized until she attended Mr. _____’s class. He was able to help her with organization and influenced her to read. She used to make fun of me for watching the history channel, but is now watching it with me thanks to Mr. _____.

Martinez shared that Mr. _____ may not have conventional methods of teaching, but that is what makes him unique and special, and is what makes all of these teachers special. She also shared that Ms. T is also amazing. She is aware that her daughter is a gymnast and encourages her to practice and has developed different warm up exercises for her. Her daughter has various medical conditions and was in severe treatment last year. She always made sure to let me know that we had to go in early as she did not want to miss Mr. _____’s class. For my daughter to say that, it was shocking. I have never seen her so motivated as she has been since going to Mr. _____’s, Ms. T’s and Mr. H’s classes.

MM shared that if there must be budget cuts, take out the electric signs in front of the school. The school does not need to look pretty. It just needs books, which they do not have thanks to budget cuts, and quality teachers. I have tried to meet with my daughter’s English teacher multiple times, adding that he has no people skills or time to speak to parents. He has been on Facebook every time that I have attended parent/teacher conferences. She remembers when she first came to the United States from Germany and the impact that her teachers had on her.

LS, sophomore at _____, noted that all three teachers who spoke tonight were suspended. She was not able to go to her classes today and enjoy them because they were suspended for unfair reasons.

Mr. C, Mr. S and Mr. _____ are all amazing teachers. I have never had one moment where I ever looked and thought “Why am I here?” “Why do I let these teachers teach me?” “They’re no good?” Mr. C makes fun of me a lot, but he is one of the best English teachers that I have ever had. I go to his class each day and look forward to it because it is fun. Mr. S, I don’t know Spanish, but I’m doing pretty good. He’s taught me so much and I have just succeeded in his class. Mr. _____, I hate History. But everything that I have ever learned in his class I have shared with my mom or grandpa, who was very good at History before he passed away. To hear that these teachers may not be at _____ next year is terrible. I may not have them next year, but incoming freshmen and sophomores might need these teachers. I have experienced it and know for a fact that these teachers can do anything. They can motivate any student to do what they want, be what they want, and do their very best. Without these teachers, students are going to be missing out on so much good English, good Spanish, and good history lessons. I think that it is sad that future students will not be able to experience what I have and what many other students here today have experienced. I believe that we should reconsider who we cut, why we cut, and things that we are cutting. Like many students have previously commented about the budget, there are a lot of unnecessary things that we can get rid of rather than quality teachers who provide quality education and help motivate students. It’s not about teaching; it’s about what they make their students believe and how they make their students feel. I believe that those teachers present tonight have done so much for me and so much for all of these students. I think that we really need to reconsider their position at _____.

JR, sophomore at_____, shared that when she feels stared at it makes her think about her little sister and her problems focusing.

It’s is hard to know how I actually feel, and sometimes I do not have anyone to talk to since my mom’s been out of the country. The teachers present tonight are the only ones that are going to help me get through this quarter. They are the only ones that are going to tell me that I will get through it. I talked to my tennis coach today and she also said that it would be OK. She did not make me feel like I was carrying a weight or a load. They actually make me feel like there are people who I can lean toward on.

I worry about my grades and education. My little sister is seven years old and gets these packets with so much work in it. I sometimes ask her to explain the work, but she says no. She has problems focusing, but at the same time, why do they give her so much work. I know that she leans on me. I feel like my little sister because I’m the one that leans on my teachers. Without them it is so hard. It is hard to focus when there are so many things going on around you and the only thing that you can think of is that you will have their class tomorrow and can speak to them then. Knowing that I can do this not only for my mom, but for my little sister means so much to me. I think it’s important to not only think about the criteria and books, but also how teachers make you feel and understand everything. They balance everything, including personal issues and school issues and know how to control both. They make us feel stable and secure. They know me better than my friends. My principal does not know me; she knows me by the number on my ID. How do you think we feel? There are gates around the school; it’s like a prison. After school they try to move us out. But when that day comes for them to get money for students, they text us and tell us to come to school. The only teachers that care are right here. Why aren’t the rest here? Why isn’t the principal here? It’s unfair. I think that if so many people want to talk to you about the issues and give you statistics about what’s going on, you should give us more than three minutes. You should really get to know things before speaking to the principals or the people who think they know. But in reality, like we all said, we’re the students. They might lead, but the only people that they’re really leading are the teachers. The teachers lead in a way that works for us, and like they said, it’s just amazing how we all came together. You guys see and hear us crying, but we don’t care because we are explaining to you how much we care about our teachers. I just love these teachers and even though I’m going through so much, they are here for me and help me every single day.

Board President asked for the number of students, staff, and community members in the audience in support of the teachers to raise their hands.

VG counted 35 supporters.

BI, president of the _____ Education Association, thanked the Board for providing time to speak.
In this country, we talk a lot about wanting to have a quality education for all students and that is being upheld by the president, secretary of education and voices across the country. We talk about wanting the very best teachers to educate students and to be sure that all students, regardless of their income or color of their skin or race have the opportunity for a quality education. In order to do that we know that we need teachers who empower students, engage them and encourage them to see that education offers them a different route and a different path in life and that they can have what they want and need to be successful.

I don’t think that you would have seen this number of high school students speaking to you from the heart tonight if they did not know that the teachers who are sitting behind me and who I have had the pleasure of representing do just that. They bring their passion and their commitment to class every day and they do what’s necessary to engage these students and help them understand that there is a bigger and a better world out there for them, and if they stay in school and do the work that is necessary that the world will be waiting for them with open arms and will encourage them to be successful. We have something wrong in our system that says that based on the determination of one individual that teachers can be told that they are not a fit for a school. This is not about a budget issue because these positions will be refilled. And yes, we know that we have a budget crisis going on, not only in the state and school districts, but that is not what this is about. This is about probationary teachers who are being told that they’re being non-renewed and about the students. All of these students who are sitting here and the ones who have already spoken have said that these teachers are making a difference for them and that’s what we want. Yet we are ushering them out the door. We lament the fact that probationary teachers are leaving this profession within the span of five years, but we don’t talk about the teachers who we help leave because we say that when they get to year three it’s time for them to go. We don’t want to keep you.

I hope that you are thrilled by the students who came tonight. I think that we should applaud them all because they were remarkable. I think that what they said needs to be taken into consideration. This is their future and this is their life that we’re talking about. I hope that the Board will take into consideration the words that were spoken tonight.

B plans to vote no because of the students, Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chávez and so many other people who have stood up for their rights and for good people. I admire every single one of these students and teachers who had the courage to come forward and speak to the Board because it was not easy.
S shared that the _____ students make her proud to be a _____ graduate.
Roll Call:
The consent agenda was not approved on a vote of 5-2.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What's wrong with our schools? Part I

I'm tired of it. The armchair quarterbacks, bellicose pundits, venture capitalists, "curriculum" consultants, and alleged reformers have finally gotten to me. They have gone from an annoyance into influential. Who doesn't have an opinion about our public school system anymore? Whether it be Obama, his advisers, big city superintendents, billionaires, or film directors, the opinion is universal. Schools are bad, m'kay.

Hold on a minute. In this debate, it's currently not a discussion, who is getting listened to, and who is not? What biases, positive and negative, are getting the most exposure time? Are we using science or proven techniques, or are we relying on gut and intuition? I think we all need to step back and take a breath.

Money doesn't make you smart, powerful, or a positive societal influence

It used to be that educators could rely on the consistent support of the public to listen to teachers, and predominantly do the right thing. Today is different.

If we look at the Gallup poll on American's perceptions of public schools:
77% of people said their child's school an A or B
49% of people gave local schools an A or B
18% of people said the nation's schools deserved an A or B

Yes, my school is good, but not those other schools. The huge divide of 77/18 shows clearly that if you have a child in a public school, you are more likely than not to give it a good rating. If you have no children in school, more likely than not you will give public schools a negative rating. The clear difference is EXPERIENCE. Those who know best are involved in the system. What a novel idea.

Who is most involved in the system, and is there more often than not for altruistic reasons? Teachers. We are trusted to teach, but not on how to teach best.

Those that are trying to take control and demolish the public school system are preying on people's misperceptions. Schools are bad, so we must fix them, right? I'm sick and tired of amateurs fucking with my profession.

In this series, I am going to examine those who are attempting to influence our public schools: billionaires and Broad graduates, poverty and affluence, unions and administrators, parents, teachers, and students.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

I am a dangerous man


Yesterday, I had my final meeting with the district to discuss the findings of their "investigation" into my involvement in the student protest to save my job. I was treated like a pedophile, and charged with nothing. School ends in a week, and I will not be there.

It took the district five weeks to discover that I had a conversation with an Assistant Principal, where I asked why he was suspending students for staging a sit-in. Apparently, I had that conversation too close to the kids, and was deemed unprofessional. Strange how the Superintendent shared my opinion that students shouldn't be suspended. I am unprofessional.

The remainder of the "Letter of Concern" that I got listed how I had answered students questions on assignments after being given instruction to have no contact with students or staff. Damn me for helping a student. Damn me for having students that cared.

What I am most disappointed in, is the fact that the people who run our schools are the exact people you don't even want running Enron. I inspired some students, and they got mad. In response, the district takes me out of the classroom, fakes an investigation, and gives a sub for the students, while still paying me. The community garden that was to be put in was destroyed, the Outdoor Club was suspended, and my students started ditching and failing. It takes an amazing amount of cognitive dissonance to not see that the actions of the district have significantly harmed students who cannot afford it. Damn them. Damn them all.