Stories from the Classroom #teacherexpertise

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The summer vacation is coming to an end for teachers.   A former colleague shared her feelings about the upcoming year in the Baltimore County Public Schools.   These stories are not well-known or publicized for the simple reason that teachers are unwilling to be identified if voicing any criticism of the current climate and practices.  The following account from a high school teacher is typical.  It is a sad commentary.

“I am sick to my stomach thinking about this school year. Did you know that Dr. Dance either forced to resign or moved most of the specialists/coordinators? Have you investigated the New Grading policy? How about the required small group education (I have four preps of upper level students. If I were to group them as desired, I would basically have 12 preps every day). I am no stranger to change and it doesn’t scare me, but making all of these extreme changes in one year is a recipe for disaster. The new grading will not benefit the lower functioning kids. They are to be graded only on assessments. They will have no credit for classwork, homework, participation… and will be allowed to take assessments over and over until they pass them with at least a 50. There is no grade below a 50.

There were still over 100 positions left to fill as of last Friday. There will no doubt be an exodus of new teachers in a few months once they become totally confused and frustrated. I could go on and on. Something needs to be done. I wish I were retiring so that I could speak up, but I might wind up being fired in the current environment.”

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About Anne Spigelmire-Groth

Thank you for reading my blog. I was a teacher for 35 years, 30 in the Baltimore County Public Schools and five years in International Schools in the Netherlands. Experience: Elementary classroom, elementary reading specialist, middle school reading specialist, middle school English teacher, elementary school library media specialist, adjunct college instructor, and National Board Certification in Library Media
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7 Responses to Stories from the Classroom #teacherexpertise

  1. Anon3 says:

    Your source should provide a list of coordinators or specialists forced to resign. It would be an extremely short list.

    They probably meant to reference the ELA and Math Resource teachers who had to re-apply for the new positions, due to a different take on that position for the new school year. The job was different enough that the powers that be decided to treat it like a new job. Most of the former resource teachers opted to transfer back to schools or retire.

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    • Anon3 says:

      Also, they should try reading the new grading policy. It is true that homework is no longer part of the grades, but classwork most certainly is still a major factor, much larger than assessments.

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      • Anonymous Teacher says:

        I’m a BCPS teacher, and I’ve read the policy. There are no weighted categories any longer, just “graded” and “ungraded,” so using classwork as a graded element does not have as much impact as an assessment would. The entire concept of assessments has to be reconsidered as we are now “assessing” students to see if they have met specific standards and achievement of those standards constitutes the grade. There are no more grades (that count anyway) for completion, for participation, for homework, for formative assessments, for worksheets, etc. Grades are now based on “a body of evidence” of the summative variety that illustrates achievement of one or more standards. The end result is fewer actual grades that constitute a final letter grade – but this is misleading because teachers are expected to review and provide feedback on “non-graded” work as well as providing students the opportunity to redo the actual graded work multiple times. I’m not a fan of any of this, though I sort of understand the rationale behind it – the desire to get kids to focus on actual learning as opposed to being motivated by a grade. While this is a desirable outcome, it doesn’t consider the reality of working with kids. As with any other initiative in education, some kids will excel just as they always have, some kids will embrace the opportunity to try again and learn something from it, and others will do poorly because they choose to give minimal effort and don’t redo work when the option is presented. I don’t see that this policy will solve any of the problems we hope it will, but hopefully it won’t create more. Time will tell.

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    • I think we all know what “reapply” means… it’s second level change. Tear down and rebuild. Important question: where is the change management team in all this? It seems that those who champion the change never have to bear the strain. Perhaps those who chose to retire or take a classroom position really had little choice. Or they were just tired of the ready-fire-aim leadership style. Educational trendies tend to eat not only their young, but also their elders. Retirees: goodbye years of knowledge and experience. Classroom teachers: if they took a classroom position it was probably because they knew the classroom is where they can do the most good and be true to what they know to be good instructional practice. After all, they are the ones with the teaching certificates – the ones who have the licenses AND the desire to use them – to actually teach day in and day out.

      I would love to hear from a teacher who praises the new grading program. So far, just silence.

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    • Nicole Yoder says:

      Question- then why isn’t Jane Lichter still an Area Superintendent? I heard that anyone above a principal but below Ms.White, Chief Academic Advisor, had to reapply for their position. Ms. Jane Lichter is one that I noticed no longer had the same title. Neither does Dr.Scott. Now, there are only 4 Community Superintendents and then executives that function under them. Jane Lichter is now an executive.

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  2. Ed Kitlowski says:

    I taught at a school that had a grading policy of nothing below a 50%. At first I thought it was absurd but actually began to like it. I taught English found that I could give student a 50% and have the student redo the assignment, sometimes several times. It may not be what happens in the real world but I found it had kids actually work more. I taught the standard classes.

    Many years ago when I was a department chairman, I entered the AP pool. I spent a year as an AP Intern. What I saw was not what was advertised. BCPS states being an AP is a leadership position. My experience was I had to follow orders even more and worse, I was expected to make sure the teachers followed orders, some of which were not educationally valid. I took myself out of the AP pool even though I had several offers and stopped being a DC. I returned to the classroom as that is the place where the most difference can be made.

    The other day I was cleaning out a cabinet and found some letters students had written to me. It was heart warming to read that I made a difference in their lives. It is such a privilege to have another allow you to be that influential. I believe it speaks more about the student than about me. The consistent message was they thanked me for believing in their ability, sometimes more that they did. They did not thank me for teaching what a prepositional phrase was or how to include in text citation. The current “educational reform” damages the relationship between student and teacher, which adversely affects learning and student success. It has also destroyed the partnership between teacher and administration.

    I retired from BCPS but will continue to teach in other avenues including universities. We need to shift the perspective the general public has regarding our comments. Many hear them as selfish teacher complaints. In order for authentic reform to occur, we need to be heard as the protectors of education and the heroes of their children. Yes, there are ways for doing this.

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