Why are Kids Failing?

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Are Teachers at Fault?

I received the following comment from Scott, who identifies himself  as a teacher.

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“I think you are under the false assumption that all teachers are as enthusiastic about teaching as you!
There must be a strong system in place to ensure teachers are fulfilling their obligations to students. ”

“I have seen far too many teachers taking the easy way out (read this chapter and do this worksheet) to rely on teachers to always do the right thing. Anyone can put on a dog and pony show for PDAS’s one formal observation! What is that teacher doing the other 186 days? As a teacher and a parent that is my greatest concern.”

“In many cases I belief that the failure of the student is the direct fault of the teacher and not the curriculum.”
As any good teacher should be able to teach regardless.”

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Response from Janice VanCleave

Scott, I taught for 27 years in public schools. I was more familiar with what fellow science teachers did and with few exceptions, the teachers who only had kids reading the text and doing worksheets were coaches. A large percent of Texas school administrators were coaches who may have been great coaches but not always so good in the science classroom. While coaches may be good at many duties of an administrator, they are are always good at judging the value of curriculum. But an administrator doesn’t have to be knowledgeable in science to know that a teacher is not doing his/her job.

PDAS, which is an evaluation sheet that administrators bring with them . It is a checklist. An evaluation system should be built around goals and growth rather than checklists, critiques, especially where a teacher stands in the room and if students are in groups having fun. I’ve worked under different administrators and know the good the bad and the very ugly. I’ve visited many school districts and in schools where there is a working relationship between the teachers and administrators, the atmosphere is different. It is called “a growth-focused environment,” and teachers are excited about their jobs.

Scott, you are correct that good teachers are able to teach regardless of the curriculum, but it is stressful when the administration is ever watchful to make sure the curriculum is being followed.

Scott, you promote the instructional materials from the Education Service Centers, CSCOPE and now the new name TRS. I challenge you to prove how the Instructional Focus Documents (IFDs) being sold to Texas schools prepares students to take the 5th grade science STAAR tests. I have studied the IFDs for 5th grade science and they are little more than the TEKS written in outline form. Without textbooks–which was promoted by the ESCs–teachers are spending a lot of time researching for every lesson.

Your statement about teachers using textbooks and worksheets has been repeated by directors at the ESCs promoting the sell of CSCOPE. It’s ironic that CSCOPE only had worksheets for student with no resource information. Kids reading textbooks and answering worksheet questions may the kids who are passing the STAAR tests. All the answers to to 5th grade 2014 science STAAR test are the out dated science book that my local school district has had stored away since 2011. Books have not been used since CSCOPE was implemented in 2011. Remember that CSCOPE was promoted as lower cost for instruction material because textbooks would not be needed.

Are there ineffective school teachers? You bet and the number is growing every day. This is because veterans teachers are being run off. Veteran teachers are considered negative influences because they promote traditional education of providing students with information first and then challenging them to develop their critical thinking with monitored discovery investigations. The “21st Century Progressive” teaching methods promotes students teach each other. Turn around classrooms— Students discovering everything is like reinventing the wheel instead of starting with the wheel and improving on it.

The 21st Century Progressive methods are a foundation for socialism. Students are not being taught to think for themselves. Instead they work in groups and share ideas. No one points out that group work is generally the work of a few. No one points out that the STAAR/EOC tests are not taken by groups. Thus those who are doing the work in the groups do well on the STAAR/EOC tests and the other fail.

Teachers who have to teach in spite of the controlling administrations burn out and retire early or find jobs where they are allowed to teach.

Yes, good teachers can teach in spite of not having books and quality curriculum etc… if administrators are not monitoring:

  • where they stand
  • if they are  within arms length of a student at all times
  • if they have the TEKS for the lesson printed on the board
  • if they are following the mandated schedule (doesn’t allow teachers to answer questions about current events)to make sure students are having fun –yes a teacher was given a negative report because students were not having fun. There are times that students don’t understand concepts and may feel frustrated–if given freedom to teach, a good teacher can solve problems but it might not happen within the 3 minute walk-through that administrators make to evaluate a teacher.

Who is evaluating administrators? Good administrators do not need check-lists to know which teach is doing a good job. Sadly, because of poor discipline of students, teacher turn-over in some districts is high. Administrators don’t often have a choice –they have to hire anyone with a pulse.

So let’s take a look at parents. Why is the discipline so bad? If a teacher is not good, why are parents putting up with this? The bottom line is that too many parents want their children educated but do not want to spend time making sure this is happening.

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Comments

  1. Fil Barnes says:

    I have heard that story and many similar ones before. I have never had a coach ask me to change a grade, though I did have a principal do so for the same reason. I asked him if he wanted a chance to reword his statement before I called someone to get him removed from his job. I was there for many years after he left.

    I do know that everything you just said is true. I just wanted to make the statement that we do have some excellent coaches out there who are also excellent teachers.

  2. Fil Barnes says:

    So much to say on this. Perhaps it should wait until I can write more.

    Scott, I have been teaching for 20 years. In that time, I have seen the direct relationship between the attitude you expressed of teacher’s needing a strict system of supervision and the lack of passion among teachers. It is not the teachers who are not passionate – none of us get into this business for the easy money, you have to really want to do it. It is that the passion is systematically drummed out of teachers by the constant barrage of new programs and the intense scrutiny concerned with meeting all of those non-negotiables.

    You are right, most of us who cared have been driven away, but do not ever question that it was the system that killed the passion, not the lack of passion that necessitated the system.

    And just so it gets said, some of the best teachers I have ever been taught by or taught alongside were/are coaches. So were some of the worst, but not necessarily in any greater proportion than non-coaches.

    • Janice VanCleave says:

      Thanks Fil,
      I must admit that I have a negative view of public school coaches. I totally support the athletic program and encourage kids to get involved in sports. Sadly, many coaches do not feel the same about scholastic courses. I’ve tutored football players who could only meet on Sunday afternoon because the coach had the team practicing 6 days a week. This same coach asked teachers to give failing football players on the varsity team a grade of 70 so they can continue to compete. This is common and all one has to do to confirm this is to follow the grades of football players during football season and when the season ends. 70s during the season for some really drop after competition is over. This being privileged because of athletic abilities continues into college and the pros. Since a coach’s job security is a winning team, having the best players in the game is important. Unless one is the head coach, often assistant coaches are required to teach –history or science generally. Most teachers spend a lot of their own time preparing for their classes. Coaches spend time after school preparing athletes and do not have the extra time for class preparation. Since the majority of every community wants a winning winning football I see no change in this problem. I taught in a school district that was going to state competition and one of the star players was failing not one but several courses. This player depended on the coach to fix his grades and some of the teachers said no. The student was failing because he not only did not apply himself but was a discipline problem in class. The coach was very persistent –parents got involved—even students wanted the player to be given a passing grade so the school could compete in the state playoff. It didn’t take long before it turned really ugly–the teachers were doing their job but even the administration wanted the glory of winning state. One newspaper article and UIL swooped in and the team was disqualified. Should star athletes be given special privileges? Would it have been better for the teachers to just pass the kid and let the team compete? Parents and the community were so mad at the teachers that there was an investigation of the ethics of the teachers. Every teacher in the school was interviewed by the superintendent. It was very cloak and dagger. A person came to my classroom with a walkie-talkie. She spoke into the machine saying, “I have VanCleave, are you ready for her now?” WHAT? is who ready for me. What’s going on. I was only told that the superintendent wanted to ask me some questions. ABOUT WHAT? I was led into a small room and told to sit down. The superintendent turned on a tape recorder–yep! it has been some time ago but the memory is still very vivid. The questions was, “Has any administrator ever told the faulty not to be so by the book about grades?” I truthfully answered that administrators always encourage students to not let grades be the only deciding factor in whether a student passes or fails. For example, if a student’s grade is 69 and he or she is doing their very best, teachers should make a decision on whether it is to the student’s advantage to be failed. After all teachers had been interviewed the report was that two teachers had given my answer. Only two teachers were awake during the numerous faulty meetings where this was presented. HA!!! But with this report the teachers who chose not to change the grades of the star athlete were asked if they had ever changed a student’s grade. They said no because they had never passed a student who did not make any effort to complete work and failed tests. The school district administrators took the grade book of these teacher and averaged every student’s grade in every class. They found that the grade of one student during one grading period was averaged to be 69 and some fraction. The teacher had recorded the grade as 70 on that student’s report card. With this evidence, the teacher was fired for lying to the administration. Yes, lawyers were involved, the teacher was publicly humiliated in the press. In some obscure column on the back pages of the newspapers was an article stating the administration had wrongfully fired the teacher and that a settlement was agreed on. There were several notes such as this and the school district lost quality teachers, but the administrators remained in place as did the coach.
      Doing the right thing is not always supported. Doing the right thing can often bring you hardships and much stress. But the teachers who stood their ground would do the same thing if asked to be dishonest and encourge a child to expect others to pave the way for them. These are our college and professional athletes who have never had to be responsible for their actions. They don’t expect to be punished because they never have been. HURRAY for teachers who care enough about children to make them be responsible. Hurray for teachers who do what is best for the child. I am asking for teachers to stand up and report child abuse in their school districts. I am talking about abuse of not educating children. Abuse of only preparing for the STAAR tests. The list goes on and on……

  3. Fil Barnes says:

    So much to say on this. Perhaps it should wait until I can write more.

    Scott, I have been teaching for 20 years. In that time, I have seen the direct relationship between the attitude you expressed of teacher’s needing a strict system of supervision and the lack of passion among teachers. It is not the teachers who are not passionate – none of us get into this business for the easy money, you have to really want to do it. It is that the passion is systematically drummed out of teachers by the constant barrage of new programs and the intense scrutiny concerned with meeting all of those non-negotiables.

    You are right, most of us who cared have been driven away, but do not ever question that it was the system that killed the passion, not the lack of passion that necessitated the system.