Piling On: The United Way, way

A friend said, I thought the United Way just helped pay peoples light bills. Well if that is the case a significant amount of people are out of luck as they recently dedicated a 180 thousand dollar grant to study teacher effectiveness.

“Duval County has many effective teachers”, Connie Hodges, chief executive officer of the local United Way, I imagine begrudgedly so, acknowledged, though I wonder how many effective teachers she thinks we actually have, fifty percent, sixty percent on a good day.

I found the announcement of this study insulting, but even more so ironic and that’s because the local United Way gets much of its funding from local teachers. Every school has a United Way campaign and then they filled with hubris say, we don’t think a lot of teachers are that good, so we are going to have a study to find ways to improve some of you and get rid of the rest and oh by the way, thanks for financing it. Well I for one will not be helping you finance anything anymore and I know several other teachers that will be joining me.

Then Duval County School Board Vice Chairwoman Nancy Broner chimed in saying “People do not always agree on the qqualities of an effective teacher. People consider such things as achievement gains, test score results and helping children overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.” I wonder if she knows one of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles teachers face daily is the school board itself.

In its zeal to prove the Duval County school board is the smartest school board in the room the ratcheted up graduation requirements they have destroyed rigor in many classes. They have created dedicated magnet schools, that not only handicap the neighborhood schools by taking many of their best students and most involved families but the fact that we have them and that they play by different rules (can drop kids or academic and behavior issues) have made where you go determine what type of education a child receives, something many believe has no place in a public school system. They have allowed the superintendent to gut discipline by tying principals evaluations to suspension rates, put all children into a one size fits all curriculum by eroding the teaching of trades and the arts, allowed anybody to take advanced placement tests to pump up the numbers and practically weaned out flexibility and creativity in teachers by making them adhere to strict pacing guides and learning schedules.

The real problem ladies and readers is not teachers, though they should always be seeking to improve, it’s our education leaders and the policies they have created that puts many teachers and students in no-win situations. You want to do a study how about one seeing if the 10 extra hours a week I spend compiling data helps, or if the kids even notice the standards based board I am required to spend an hour a day making, or if the two page lesson plan I have to create are more elective than the four to a page lesson plans I used to be able to write ten years ago. How about doing a study on how having no electives affects student performance, or testing kids constantly or how many kids plan to use algebra II and chemistry once they graduate. If you are going to study problems in education ladies and gentlemen there are plenty it seems a little easy to pile on teachers.

Instead of jumping on the blame teachers, while giving administrators, politicians, policy makers, parents, and the children who make no effort in my classes a pass, bandwagon, why not look at yourselves and see what you have done to improve education, ask how are you making things better, because if you think continually dumping on teachers and putting them in no win situations is helping, well then you are incorrect.

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