I haven’t written much on my blog about why I left teaching last year. I meant to. I even have a document in my blog file labeled Why I Had to Leave with a long list of topics to write about. I was furious about being driven out of my profession by the choices made by my school district. After I was gone, however, and facing my new career as a full time writer, I decided it would be better not to burn any bridges.

This week, however, I learned from my former co-workers that my school district (still my district because I live in it and my daughters attend school there) is making some changes to personnel and student schedules.

You know what? See that bridge? Burn, baby, burn.

burning bridge

photo credit: burning via photopin (license)

I didn’t think our district could sink much lower than they did last year when they fired all the custodians (members of our community, some of whom had worked in our schools for decades), outsourced the cleaning, and used the saved money to create a new administrative position and promote a principal into it.  In other words, they put their lowest paid employees out of work and gave a raise to one of their highest paid employees.

But yes, they can go lower.

Last week – during Teacher Appreciation Week – they announced that they will be eliminating 6-8 positions for physical education teachers and drastically reducing the elementary P.E. program. They are also eliminating the intermediate science lab positions and slashing the music, art, and computer programs. All this so they can devote more of the school day to preparing students for the state tests.

You see, test scores have been trending downward in our elementary and middle schools. Over the past several years, our district has done a lot of things to improve test scores, such as:

  • Institute MAP testing 3x per year to track student progress
  • Analyze students by their scores on various assessments
  • Adopt the Common Core Curriculum
  • Standardize all assessments given to students in reading and math
  • Reduce instruction in science, history, and geography to provide more instructional time for state-tested subjects

Since student scores continue to decline, our district has decided we need more test prep. My fourteen-year-old daughter’s response to this decision was: “You mean, since all the test prep didn’t work, they’re going to do more of it? Doesn’t it occur to them that kids did better on the tests when they did less test prep and, you know, taught stuff?”

Again, she’s fourteen. And she saw this. Immediately.

Then she went on to say: “Does it ever occur to them that the problem is the test?”

Yeah, about that test … I have a lot to say on that subject. But that’s going to have to wait until Wednesday when I tell you about the test – the test teachers never get to see – the test students aren’t allowed to talk about – the test that changes every year – that drives our entire education system.

But today, I’d like to finish up by defending the teaching staff at my former school — they are dedicated, hard-working individuals who put in countless hours working under stressful conditions while going above and beyond for their students — and our PTA, who have always, always supported teachers and students and generously provided us with anything we asked for.

It’s the leadership in our district and the leadership in our state government that I’m pointing the finger at here. The people who view students as data points.

Why did I have to leave? Because 26 years ago, I became a teacher to teach students — not plot data points.