On Witch Hunts

The Rochester City School District has made national headlines again. This time because Chief of Schools Beverly Burrell-Moore sent an email to the principals she supervises asking them to share names of teachers who have encouraged parents to refuse to allow their children to take state exams.

Per your building, please identify teachers who have sent letters or made phone calls to parents encouraging them to opt out their children from the NYS Assessments.  Also, identify teachers who you have evidence as utilizing their classrooms as “political soap boxes.  I need this updated  information no later than Tuesday morning for follow-up.”

In a follow up email to staff our Superintendent wrote the following:

“I know that many of you may have seen an email from a member of my team about this topic. If that email was interpreted as intimidating or offensive in any way, I apologize. Rest assured that no actions will be taken against any teacher or administrator engaged in the difficult work of educating our children simply because they expressed their views.”

I am not offended or intimidated. I am angry.

I am angry that these scare tactics are being used to justify a senseless, money-making scheme that is neither research-based nor a valid measure of student learning.

I’m angry that there are teachers out there who are scared and being bullied into teaching to an arbitrary test instead of instilling curiosity, wonder, and inspiration in young minds.

I am angry that the direct correlation between poverty and student performance has been confirmed for years, and yet the false rhetoric that teachers in poor districts are somehow lazy and incompetent persists.

I am angry that our Governor is holding “$413 million in aid that the law requires and New York state residents have paid in income taxes,” hostage from Monroe County schools and that we are collectively receiving less aid than we have since 2008.

I am angry that out of the 19 Monroe County Superintendents that called for an end to high stakes testing being used to evaluate teachers, the RCSD (the District most affected by high stakes testing because of the high concentration of poverty) Superintendent’s signature was the only one lacking.

I am angry because I suffer the repercussions of standardized testing every year.

I am an ESL teacher. My students are learning to speak, read, and write in English, all while striving to graduate in the four year, state-allotted time frame.

The ESL state exam (NYSESLAT) is a four part exam that theoretically tests a student’s reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills, then mandates a level of support services depending on where they score.

Theoretically is the key word here.

If a student misses a part of the test, he or she is given a zero for that section. That means that students who missed a part of the exam are labeled beginner ESL students, even if their teachers, their parents and themselves can prove otherwise. Because of the federal mandate around ESL services, many of these students languish in classes with students who are truly new to the country and language.

In previous years when I brought this up I was told that my “opinion on a student’s English level was not welcome.  Not only do I have a Masters Degree in Teaching English as a Second Language, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to talk to a student and figure out if he or she knows zero English or just missed part of an exam and “failed.”

What do you think this leads to? Attendance problems, students skipping the yearly test, and oh yes, my rating as a teacher plummeting.

I am angry because my students are stuck in a system so broken no one knows how to fix it.

I am angry because I LOVE MY STUDENTS and they DESERVE equal access to education, yet don’t get it.

I am angry that my opinion only counts if I’m pro students opting out, but doesn’t count when it comes to actually assessing how my students are performing in school.

So Rochester City School District, put me on whatever list you want.

Please excuse me, I’ll get off my political soapbox now.

Copyright: ©Kelly LaLonde, and urbanesl, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given with appropriate and specific direction to the original content