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Banning Books Also Bans Critical Thinking.

If you’re looking for something to read, you might want to consult the American Library Association’s (ALA) list of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books by year. The ALA has been tracking this information since 1990.

If you are a reasonably educated person, and especially if you are an avid reader, you will have likely read a number of these titles already.

And yes, the bible did make the top 10 in 2015 for “religious viewpoint,” though I am surprised that other issues, including violence, incest, and sexually explicit content, were not cited. (Genesis 19:30-38 and 38:11-30 are two eye-openers for would-be book banners who mistakenly believe the bible is sterile reading.)

Some titles that have made the list repeatedly include the following, with reasons for the ban:

George by Alex Gino

  • Reasons (2020): Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community.”
  • Reasons (2019): challenged, banned, restricted, and hidden to avoid controversy; for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character; because schools and libraries should not “put books in a child’s hand that require discussion”; for sexual references; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint and “traditional family structure.”
  • Reasons (2018): banned, challenged, and relocated because it was believed to encourage children to clear browser history and change their bodies using hormones, and for mentioning “dirty magazines,” describing male anatomy, “creating confusion,” and including a transgender character.
  • Reasons (2017): Written for elementary-age children, this Lambda Literary Award winner was challenged and banned because it includes a transgender child.
  • Reasons (2016): challenged because it includes a transgender child, and the “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels.”

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

  • Reasons (2021): Banned and challenged because it depicts child sexual abuse and was considered sexually explicit.
  • Reasons (2020): Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse.
  • Reasons (2014): sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues.”
  • Reasons (2013): offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence.
  • Reasons (2006): offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

  • Reasons (2020): Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience.
  • Reasons (2017): This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, considered an American classic, was challenged and banned because of violence and its use of the N-word.
  • Reasons (2011): offensive language, racism.
  • Reasons (2009): offensive language, racism, unsuited to age group.

The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier

  • Reasons (2009): nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.
  • Reasons (2007, 2006, 2005): offensive language, sexually explicit, violence.
  • Reasons (2004): offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence.
  • Reasons (2002): offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.

Other likely-familiar titles included in the ALA’s annual top 10:

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

The Kite Runner written by Khaled Hosseini

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

Beloved, by Toni Morrison

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich

Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer

The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

The Color Purple, by Alice Walker

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

For those who would ban books, here is something to consider:

Developing critical thinking skills requires that human beings are confronted with the unfamiliar and (perhaps therefore) uncomfortable and that we intellectually wrestle with that which does not fit readily and neatly into our current world schemas. To not allow students to be exposed to a variety of reading materials– and to insist that developing minds be “saved” from what others deem unpleasant– is to stymie the growth of the human mind and, ultimately, maturity of the human will.

Rather than rush to ban, a far better option would be to cultivate cross-generational relationships (e.g., parent/guardian-to-child) in which open, nonjudgmental, respectful communication is the norm and to develop a habit of reading and discussing books together.

If you feel a book that interests your child is age-inappropriate, consider setting a date in the future to read and discuss.

Besides, the surest way to prompt a young people to read a book is to vehemently campaign for a book to be off limits. Social media thrives on such undesired popularity.

Food for thought.

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Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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What Teachers Do on Labor Day

Wonder what teachers do on Labor Day, or on other holidays, for that matter?

The answer is that teachers work on Labor Day, or, if they want to have that particular day to themselves, they have already worked on the previous weekend, or on Friday before or after school (or both), or earlier in the week, to make room for having a holiday.

Some will go in early on the day after Labor Day to make up for taking a holiday as a holiday.

Many teachers begin their school year the day after Labor Day, and many of them have made similar adjustments, using their own, unpaid time to be ready to have students on Tuesday, September 6th, 2022.

The time allotted to us to set up classrooms and prepare for students is like an algebraic equation in which x is the paid time we have to prepare for z, what is necessary to be prepared:

z = x + “yeah, you know,”

where “yeah, you know” is however many additional, unpaid hours it takes.

Note that in our profession, the equation is never z = x.

In my case, our district started school a month ago, with teachers reporting August 1st and students, August 8th. So, I am a month into 2022-23. The way I handle my extra, unpaid-time contribution is by reporting to school an hour and a half earlier each day than the school day begins.

In other words, I put in six days for every five for which I am paid. Many of my colleagues district-wide do more.

But today, today for me is a holiday. I slept in and already took a nap because of exhaustion; I forced myself to take care of all responsibilities for my life (including school) in the days leading up to today so that I might purposefully rest– in order to put in an extra-long day Tuesday– for the usual school day plus Open House tomorrow evening.

I know I am running a marathon and must pace myself.

Happy Labor Day, teachers. I hope that you can squeeze in a nap.

Yeah, you know.

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Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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Student Debt Forgiveness Sounds Good to Me.

I attended Louisiana State University for my undergraduate (1985-91). When I graduated, I had no debt. A combination of scholarships, Pell grants, and both campus and freelance jobs kept me from having to take out any student loans. Given how the cost of college has ballooned since my time at LSU, I consider myself fortunate.

Former Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, made it his business to slash funding for public entities, including Louisiana’s hospitals and universities. From the 2015 Advocate:

Since 2008 — the year Jindal took office as governor — tuition at four-year public universities in Louisiana has increased by an average of 67.2 percent, the fourth-highest rate in the country, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In that same period, Louisiana’s state government cut per-student support for the schools by $4,931, the largest reduction in the nation, the study showed.

After choking public support for postsecondary education in Louisiana, in 2019, Jindal opened the door for those choked entities to annually raise tuition and fees. From 2019 Nola.com:

Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed legislation that ends Louisiana’s status as the only state to require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to increase tuition and fees at public colleges and universities.

The GRADAct does not grant Louisiana schools complete autonomy, but it will let campuses raise tuition by as much as 10 percent as early as this fall, provided they commit to improving graduation rates and other performance measures.

The plan, House Bill 1171 by House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Algiers, was among Jindal’s top legislative priorities and moved through the process with strong support from higher education leaders.

The Legislature already authorized tuition increases of 5 percent for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years, independent of the parameters spelled out in Tucker’s bill.

The first increase would be automatic, but all subsequent increases — the additional 5 percent in 2011-12 and 10 percent annually thereafter — would be contingent on improving performance.

The regents would have the final say over whether a campus could increase its rates. All schools besides Louisiana State University’s main campus would be barred from raising its fees beyond the average charged by peer institutions in the 16 states that make up the Southern region. LSU’s limit would be the national average of flagship public universities.

When I was a freshman at LSU (1985-86), tuition was approximately $1300 a year (fall and spring semesters). My dorm room cost $1100.

By 2003-04, average tuition for a full-time undergraduate rose to $3,970 per year (fall and spring semesters). The average for a dorm room was $3,150.

In 2022-23, LSU’s average tuition is $11,954, and the average dorm room, $9,130. If half of this annual amount for tuition and dorm is somehow paid for without using loans, and if all other expenses (books, transportation, food) are also somehow paid for without resorting to loans, an undergraduate student who manages to graduate in four years (attending only in fall and spring and not adding additional fees for summer classes) could still be saddled with student loan debt to the tune of at least $40K. (Note that it is likely that tuition and fees will continue to rise while the student is a sophomore, junior, and senior. Too, this projection assumes that the student loans are subsidized and are not accuring interest while the student is still in school.)

Otherwise, based on 2022-23 rates, the cost of four full-time years at LSU has a price tag of $150,000.

The idea of facing that kind of debt for my bachelors degree takes the wind out of me. (Note that I did my bachelors in six full-time years, not four; at today’s rate, the cost would have been at least $225K.)

As it is, for my PhD, I graduated in 2002 with $53K in student loan debt. Roughly $10K was purely interest accruing on an unsubsidized loan. I had half-tuition paid for my first year (I was an out-of-state student attending school in Colorado) and full tuition paid for the remaining three years (I filed for Colorado residency once I had been living there for a year). I was a research assistant one year, and I taught part-time at the university the remaining three years. That’s why my loan debt for four years was only $53K.

Even so, that $53K has been like a car note for me every month for the past 20 years. As of this writing, my student loan debt from my doctorate is just below $14K. It is a 25-year note scheduled to end in 2028.

I realize that I qualify to have $5K of that debt forgiven via the US Department of Education’s Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. I plan to submit my application this week. If approved, my balance would be reduced to roughly $9K.

(I also borrowed $3800 to buy a computer when I was working on my masters. I bought it in 1996 because I learned that trying to subsequently complete a PhD using only a typewriter was no longer realistic. Once I graduated with my PhD, I paid this loan off first.)

If President Biden’s Student Debt Relief Plan of forgiving $10K of student debt for those making less than $125K a year proceeds, then I could become one of the individuals whose student loan payments will come to an end. (The plan also includes forgiving $20K for those making under $125K and who received Pell grants in college, but I am not sure if this means who received a Pell grant in undergrad and who have grad-degree, not undergrad-degree, loan debt. It may. I haven’t yet seen any language that rules out such a situation.)

There are some who believe Biden’s debt forgiveness plan could be held up in court even though the Heroes Act has already been used to forgive student loan debt that former US ed sec and billionaire, Betsy DeVos, wanted students who had been conned by for-profit colleges to remain on the hook to pay. (in 2021, DeVos was required to show for a depostion in a class-action suit on the matter.) From the August 25, 2022, Slate:

Biden’s secretary of education, Miguel Cardona, already relied upon the Heroes Act to forgive $10 billion for public service borrowers. Now the administration is using the law as its basis for a much bigger, less targeted student debt relief program. This idea is not new: At the end of her tenure, Trump’s education secretary Betsy Devos tried to stop Biden from embracing it. She solicited a memo arguing that the Heroes Act does not permit “mass cancellation” of student debt. (In a twist, the memo was issued four days after DeVos resigned in protest of Jan. 6, and it violated basic procedural requirements.)

Under Biden, the Department of Education concluded that DeVos’ eleventh-hour memo was wrong, and that the agency can provide mass student loan cancellation because of the ongoing pandemic. The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel agreed. It pointed out that under the Heroes Act, the secretary gets to decide when relief “may be necessary,” deferring to his view of who, exactly, needs financial help because of the emergency. And because this help need not be provided “on a case-by-case basis,” OLC found that the secretary can “proceed by categorical rules.”

Going by the plain language of the law alone, Biden’s plan is likely legal. Sure, it’s probably not how Congress envisioned the Heroes Act functioning. But the program fits into the text that Congress actually passed.

Concerning the Biden student debt relief plan, there’s another important piece that is not getting as much press as the $10K forgiveness, and it has to do with federal efforts to ease payment of student debt:

Income-based repayment plans have long existed within the U.S. Department of Education. However, the Biden-Harris Administration is proposing a rule to create a new income-driven repayment plan that will substantially reduce future monthly payments for lower- and middle-income borrowers.

The rule would:

Require borrowers to pay no more than 5% of their discretionary income monthly on undergraduate loans. This is down from the 10% available under the most recent income-driven repayment plan.

Raise the amount of income that is considered non-discretionary income and therefore is protected from repayment, guaranteeing that no borrower earning under 225% of the federal poverty level—about the annual equivalent of a $15 minimum wage for a single borrower—will have to make a monthly payment.

Forgive loan balances after 10 years of payments, instead of 20 years, for borrowers with loan balances of $12,000 or less.

Cover the borrower’s unpaid monthly interest, so that unlike other existing income-driven repayment plans, no borrower’s loan balance will grow as long as they make their monthly payments—even when that monthly payment is $0 because their income is low.

Even though the above concessions do not address the profane cost of attending college, they demonstrate a notable, practical effort on behalf of the federal government to ease the financial strain that many Americans face due to student loan debt.

Any forward movement on this front sounds good to me.

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Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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The Quantification Shuffle: La. BESE Looking to Change School Grading Formula in 2025-26

In October 2011, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) began labeling Louisiana schools using letter grades, a Jeb-Bush idea featured by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in December 2010 and considered the “lynchpin” of test-based ed reform.

Also in December 2010, then BESE president, Penny Dastugue promoted the idea, saying “People can relate to grades.”

A. B. C. D. F. So clear, right?

Not so. The devil is in the formulas and scoring (shifting formulas and scoring, at that; see here and here, for example), which leaves sensible individuals wondering what it all means, anyway.

Here we go again.

Proposed for the August 23, 2022, meeting of BESE’s Academic Goals and Instructional Improvement Committee:

In August 2021, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) passed a motion to convene a working group of BESE members to explore how the state measures, values, and rewards growth in the accountability formula. Subsequently, the board expanded the role of the study group to study the entirety of Louisiana’s K-12 accountability system and provide BESE with considerations for adopting changes to the state’s accountability formula. 

The report is a culmination of those meetings and the recommendations of the study group. In addition, it includes a summary of feedback that has been shared by stakeholders.

Per BESE Accountability Study Group direction at the August 8, 2022, meeting, proposed revisions to Bulletin 111, The Louisiana school, District, and State Accountability System, have been drafted and included for board discussion and consideration.  Included in the proposed policy is an update to the measures identified by the work group.

The LDE recommendation is to approve, as a Notice of Intent, revisions to Bulletin 111, The Louisiana School, District, and State Accountability System, regarding accountability.

BESE has yet to make a final decision on the matter, but its looking like they will take a vote on August 23, 2022.

On May 25, 2022, the Accountability study group (membership includes Kira Orange-Jones, chair when present; Belinda Davis, Sandy Holloway, Michael Melerine, Ronnie Morris) produced this 26-slide report of its investigation of Louisiana’s school grading system. Note that “accountability” is narrow by nature since the focus is on “student academic growth and measurable outcomes” (slide 5). Therefore, if one cannot put a number on a quality or concept, no matter now desirable such a quality or concept may be, it cannot figure into a school rating. What does not lend itself to quantification is disregarded by design.

But it must work. It simply must work because, numbers.

Another iteration of the ALEC lynchpin.

Here is the link for Bulletin 111 (Louisiana School, District, and State Accountability System), including both text of the current accountability document as well as proposed changes, which are underlined. It is too long to post verbatim in its entirety, so I’ll present some of its *new-and-improved* key points and encourage all to examine Bulletin 111 for more.

First of all, the changes are proposed to be instituted in the 2025-26 school year. The scale is proposed to change from 150-point to 125-point. (Not being 100 points would guarantee interpretation complication right out of the gate.) Grades K-8 would get an additional component connected to “shifts made to improve measurement of growth.” Ninth grade would going to get a “success measure.” Data from 2024-25 would be used to set point ranges for the 2025-26 scale “that would result in the same distribution of A-C letter graded elementary schools and D and F graded elementary schools under the new scale as existed under the previous scale,” with subsequent annual adjustments to point ranges to be made “until such time as A=100, B=85, and C=70, or BESE takes other action to stabilize the distribution.”

Surely all readers *intuitively understand* these proposed adjustments.

Let’s go for more:

Something for K-8 embedded with K-2:

Beginning in the 2025-2026 school year (2026 SPS), the kindergarten through eighth grade assessment index will also include a measure of K-2 literacy and growth on student literacy. In addition, no earlier than the 2024-2025 school year (2025 SPS), the department will develop and establish an assessment or a screener to measure numeracy for students in K-2.

With the establishment of the K-2 literacy screener and baseline scores, the department will recommend how to incorporate K-2 literacy results in the school assessment index. The calculation of the kindergarten through eighth grade assessment index will always ensure that the weight of student scores on LEAP in grades three and above will always be weighted more than that of the K-2 results.

As for eighth grade, welcome to the weeds, folks:

Through the 2024-2025 school year, when eighth grade students only participate in the Algebra I test but not the grade-level math assessment, the Algebra I test results will be used in the middle school assessment index (80 for basic, 100 for mastery, and 150 for advanced) and will be weighted by content as noted in the table above. Middle schools will also earn incentive points for all high school LEAP 2025 scores of mastery or advanced earned during the same year in which the test was administered.

Incentive points will be awarded as follows: advanced = 50; and mastery = 25.

Beginning with the 2025-2026 school year, when eighth grade students only participate in the Algebra I test but not the gradelevel math assessment, the Algebra I test results will be used in the middle school assessment index (80 for basic, 100 for mastery, and 125 for advanced) and will be weighted by content as noted in the table above. Middle schools will also earn incentive points for all high school LEAP 2025 scores of mastery or advanced earned during the same year in which the test was administered, [with] advanced = 25; and mastery = 15.

The policy outlined in Subsection G of this Section will also apply to combination schools. The high school LEAP 2025 score will be used in middle school results for the year in which the assessment is taken, incentive points may be awarded, and the score will be banked for use in the high school score once the student arrives in ninth grade….

I’ll leave you with that. For more detail on these proposed alterations, see Bulletin 111 linked above.

If you are uncomfortable with these changes, the good news is that remedying perceived formulaic errors is so important that BESE proposes to continue to grade schools for three more years using formulas determined insufficient, thereby avoiding the perils of completely foregoing grades in the interim and rushing into correction.

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Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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Yep. Class Size Matters.

When it comes to the number of students in a K12 classroom, size matters.

This is not a new revelation for me but a fresh one after last school year, when I had the largest class sizes ever for the first semester of 2021-22 in my senior English classes: 28-30 students to kick off the year.

To accomodate so many students in my room (which is a good size and has no bookcases along the walls), I had to swich to smaller desks, which made the 53-minute experience each day similar to flying economy class for my students’ physical discomfort.

Desk number 30 had to be moved to the side and taken out only during my 4th period because that lucky student protruded into the walkway in front of the door. Fortunately, our helpful senior counselor was able to shift a student schedule so that 30 became 29, and in another class, 28 became 27.

I workshop writing with my students, which means I consult individually with each student multiple times if necessary for writing assignments, especially when working on seniors’ major research paper.

With 27, 28, 29 students in a class, I was not at my best as a teacher, not because I was not trying, but because I was spread too thin.

I did not teach as well. There was no professional development that could have helped me. No professional consultation, or study.

I had too many students.

Nevertheless, according to Louisiana’s education law, Title 28, Section CXV-913 – Class Size and Ratios, I could have had larger classes– up to 33 students per class in my high school classroom:

A. The maximum enrollment in a class or section in grades K-3 shall be 26 students and in grades 4-12, 33 students, except in certain activity types of classes in which the teaching approach and the materials and equipment are appropriate for large groups.

B. No teachers at the secondary level shall instruct more than 750 student hours per week, except those who teach the activity classes. (1. When a number of staff members are involved in a cooperative teaching project, the amount of each person’s involved time may be counted in computing the individual teacher’s load.)

C. The maximum class size for health and physical education in grades K-8 and in physical education I and II shall be 40. No class may be combined with physical education I or II if the total number of students taught is more than 40.

D. The system-wide, student classroom teacher ratio in grades K-3 shall be a maximum of 20 students to one classroom teacher. (1. An LEA may request a waiver of this requirement from the state superintendent of education provided that the teacher has demonstrated effectiveness as defined by BESE in Bulletin 130-Regulations for the Evaluation and Assessment of School Personnel.)

NOTE: Refer to Bulletin 1706-Regulations for Implementation of the Children with Exceptionalities Act for pupil/teacher ratios for special education.

La. Admin. Code tit. 28, § CXV-913

Pack ’em in.

You would think that lawmakers would stop and consider what they are really asking teachers to do by setting those state maximums so high. Effective, individualized instruction becomes a farce even before the max is reached.

For me, this year has begun better.

We are only a week into the 2022-23 school year, but so far, my class sizes are considerbly smaller than last year: 20 to 21 students per class.

A refreshing contrast to last fall.

I can successfully workshop writing with 20 to 21 students per class. With such class sizes, I can devote quality time to help my students improve their writing. If the numbers hold steady, in 2022-23, I will not be spread too thin.

Many thanks to my colleague and senior counselor who has helped balance my class sizes.

Based on my experience, 23 students in a class is the point at which I struggle to help each student with writing. It would be nice if the state took such information from seasoned teachers into consideration when determining maximum class sizes.

Thirty-three students would not even fit into my room, but if they did, my teaching would be diluted, and my seniors would pay the price with a substandard education that has nothing to do with my professional capabilities.

If lawmakers and other officials want Louisiana students to learn to write well, setting class size maximums with successful teaching and learning in mind is a good place to begin.

Admin, just say no.

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Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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Georgia Professor Shoots and Kills Incoming Freshman

I am a West Georgia alum (MEd 1998).

I never worried about this idiocy when I was a student.

Then again, I attended prior to Georgia’s 2014 gun law expansion.

University of West Georgia educator charged with murder in death of incoming student

NBC News

August 01, 2022

A teacher at the University of West Georgia who has since been fired is accused of fatally shooting an incoming student, school officials said.

Richard Sigman, 47, was arrested and charged with murder shortly after Anna Jones, 18, died in a shooting Saturday at a parking deck in Carrollton, Georgia, Carrollton police said.

Jones planned to start the University of West Georgia this fall, according to school spokesperson Colton Campbell.

Jones was pronounced dead at the medical center, and Sigman was arrested and charged with murder, three counts of aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of crime, police said. … He remains at Carroll County Jail, and his next court date is set for Sept. 2.

11Alive adds this detail:

47-year-old Richard Sigman is in custody in connection with her death. According to Carrollton Police, Sigman got into an argument at Leopoldo’s Pizza in Adamson Square. Police said security asked him to leave and he made his way to a nearby parking deck. 

Sigman then started shooting in the area and struck Jones who was sitting in a parked vehicle, authorities said. Friends quickly drove her to the hospital where she died.

Anna Jones planned to become a teacher.

So sad to read this news.

It’s the guns, folks.

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Teaching in Florida: 5-Year Cert, No Degree Necessary.

Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, and the Florida legislature are happy to hand over five-year teaching certificates to veterans. Not teaching veterans. Military veterans.

As NBC-2.com reports, this plan is an attempt to address Florida’s teacher shortage of approximately 9,000 teachers. Veterans who served a minimum of 48 months (4 years) are eligible.

The article opens as follows:

School is just weeks from starting in Southwest Florida and there is a chance your child’s new teacher may not have a teaching degree.

One edit is needed: The word “teaching” should be changed to “college.” Allow me:

School is just weeks from starting in Southwest Florida and there is a chance your child’s new teacher may not have a college degree.

No college degree necessary.

I am a supporter of the military. I have many family members who have served in the US Army, and my sister is an Air Force veteran. I appreciate their service to our country.

That noted, it is quite the stretch to count military service as experience logically connected to the K12 classroom. And in this case, it is the only experience necessary to be granted Florida teacher certification.

Below is the criteria for Florida’s Military Veterans Certification Pathway, as noted on the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) website:

For some reason, as noted above, Florida is also excusing veterans who wish to teach in Florida’s K12 classrooms from holding a college degree in any area at all, much less in education. Current enrollment in a degree program is also not required. No coursework on pedagogy, or human development, or classroom planning, or education policy/law, or special populations necessary.

One simply needs at least 60 college credit hours in any courses, taken at any time, and not necessarily centered on any course of study.

These folks would be certified to teach for five years– longer than it takes to earn a bachelors degree in education but without the requirement that college attendance continues at all.

Interested individuals do have to pass a subject-area test to “demonstrate mastery of subject area knowledge.” However, other Florida teacher candidates must also pass examinations on general knowledge and professional education. Not so for those on the military-veteran fast-track.

So, military veterans who do not hold a bachelors degree and who need not have any experience in the K12 classroom are excused from being tested on the following (from the professional education exam):

No need to know about “appropriate student-centered learning environments,” or “instructional design and planning,” or Principles of Professional Conduct of the Education Profession in Florida,” or “research practices appropriate for teaching English Language Learners (ELLs).”

No need to even know what an “English Language Learner” is.

But surely, surely, one must know something in order to be able to pass a subject area test.

Yes. But knowledge of subject matter does not automatically translate into legal, age-appropriate delivery of that subject matter in a well-managed classroom environment conducive to learning.

This idea has *litigation* written all over it.

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Want to sharpen your digital research skills? I have a book for that!  See my latest, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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Uvalde and Teaching in the Age of the School Shooting

On July 17, 2022, the Texas House of Representatives’ Investigative Committee on the Robb Elementary (Uvalde) Shooting released this interim report regarding the horrific events resulting in the deaths of 19 students and two teachers at the school on May 24, 2022.

I include excerpts from the committee’s findings at the end of this post, but I must say, in the terrible aftermath of yet another school shooting, as a public school teacher, I am tired of being expected by the greater society to also fill the role of safety super hero in my classroom and school.

I have a Louisiana friend who was raised in Uvalde, Texas, and who recently commented to me that what is needed is for all schools have only a single entrance and exit with security akin to that at airports.

Just increase security and have a single entrance and exit. It seems so simple, so easy to suggest.

I responded that our campus is not laid out like an airport; that we haven’t the money, personnel, time, and psychological energy to scan all who enter and exit throughout the day. There would be no teaching, which is frankly where I feel we are headed as I reflect on the increased burden for saving society that has been added to school day and school year since I began teaching three decades ago, in 1991.

More and more of my time and energy go into strategizing how I might actually be able to work around all that takes time away from instruction in order to effectively educate my students to some modest degree. School safety protocols appear to be an ever-increasing part of that demanding mix.

I am not advocating for a sloppy attitude towards professional expectations, or secure school campuses, or reasonable safety preparedness. However, I am a teacher, not a ninja warrior. Not James Bond. Not a security command center. Not a bullet-deflecting force field.

And yet.

And yet, I feel critically responsible for the safety of the students in my care precisely because I care for them.

When it comes to school safety issues coupled with the ready availability of firearms in America today, society has placed me and my teaching colleagues nationwide in the position of Sitting Duck, and I know it all too well.

I thought of further discussing the physical safety of my own classroom and school particularly in conjunction with certain report findings presented below, but I will refrain because I do not think it wise to divulge such information in a public setting.

On July 26, 2022, the principal of Robb Elementary, Mandy Gutierrez, was placed on administrative leave with pay apparently in association with some of the Texas legislative interim report findings regarding school security and facilities issues.

The report includes a dedication to the 21 victims who lost their lives; preface; background and history of the investigation; the attacker; law enforcement response; information flow, and factual conclusions.

Without further comment, I offer excerpts from the preface and background/history. I invite readers to read the entire document.

PREFACE
This is the interim report of the Investigative Committee on the Robb Elementary Shooting of the Texas House of Representatives.

Conscious of the desire of the Uvalde community and the public at large to receive an accurate account of the tragedy at Robb Elementary School, the Committee has worked diligently and with care to issue this interim report of its factual findings. The Committee’s work is not complete. We do not have access to all material witnesses. Medical examiners have not yet issued any reports about their findings, and multiple other investigations remain ongoing. The Committee believes this interim report constitutes the most complete telling to date of the events of and leading to the May 24, 2022, tragedy.

This Committee has prioritized factual accuracy, as will be evident from our attention to conducting our own interviews and documenting our sources of information. Still, based on the experiences of past mass-shooting events, we understand some aspects of these interim findings may be disputed or disproven in the future.

The Committee issues this interim report now, believing the victims, their families, and the entire Uvalde community have already waited too long for answers and transparency.

DEDICATION
The Committee submits this report with great humility and the deepest respect for the victims and their families. It is the Committee’s sincere hope that this brings some clarity for them as to the facts that happened. This report is meant to honor them.

You will notice the name of the attacker is not mentioned. We also will not use his image, so as not to glorify him.

INTRODUCTION & EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Of necessity, this report will describe shortcomings and failures of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District and of various agencies and officers of law enforcement. At the outset, we acknowledge that those same shortcomings could be found throughout the State of Texas. We must not delude ourselves into a false sense of security by believing that “this would not happen where we live.” The people of Uvalde undoubtedly felt the same way. We must all take seriously the threats to security in our schools and the need to be properly prepared to confront active shooter scenarios.

Other than the attacker, the Committee did not find any “villains” in the course of its investigation. There is no one to whom we can attribute malice or ill motives. Instead, we found systemic failures and egregiously poor decision making. We recognize that the impact of this tragedy is felt most profoundly by the people of Uvalde in ways we cannot fully comprehend.

The School
With hindsight we can say that Robb Elementary did not adequately prepare for the risk of an armed intruder on campus.

The school’s five-foot tall exterior fence was inadequate to meaningfully impede an intruder. While the school had adopted security policies to lock exterior doors and internal classroom doors, there was a regrettable culture of noncompliance by school personnel who frequently propped doors open and deliberately circumvented locks. At a minimum, school administrators and school district police tacitly condoned this behavior as they were aware of these unsafe practices and did not treat them as serious infractions requiring immediate correction. In fact, the school actually suggested circumventing the locks as a solution for the convenience of substitute teachers and others who lacked their own keys.

The school district did not treat the maintenance of doors and locks with appropriate urgency. In particular, staff and students widely knew the door to one of the victimized classrooms, Room 111, was ordinarily unsecured and accessible. Room 111 could be locked, but an extra effort was required to make sure the latch engaged. Many knew Room 111’s door had a faulty lock, and school district police had specifically warned the teacher about it. The problem with locking the door had been reported to school administration, yet no one placed a written work order for a repair.

Another factor contributing to relaxed vigilance on campus was the frequency of security alerts and campus lockdowns resulting from a recent rise of “bailouts”—the term used in border communities for the increasingly frequent occurrence of human traffickers trying to outrun the police, usually ending with the smuggler crashing the vehicle and the passengers fleeing in all directions. The frequency of these “bailout”-related alarms—around 50 of them between February and May of 2022—contributed to a diminished sense of vigilance about responding to security alerts.

Other factors delayed the reporting of the threat to the campus and to law enforcement. Low-quality internet service, poor mobile phone coverage, and varying habits of mobile phone usage at the school all led to inconsistent receipt of the lockdown notice by teachers. If the alert had reached more teachers sooner, it is likely that more could have been done to protect them and their students.

In violation of school policy, no one had locked any of the three exterior doors to the west building of Robb Elementary. As a result, the attacker had unimpeded access to enter. Once inside, the attacker continued into the adjoining Rooms 111 and 112, probably through the door to Room 111, and apparently completely unimpeded. Locking the exterior and interior doors ultimately may not have been enough to stop the attacker from entering the building and classrooms. But had school personnel locked the doors as the school’s policy required, that could have slowed his progress for a few precious minutes—long enough to receive alerts, hide children, and lock doors; and long enough to give police more opportunity to engage and stop the attacker before he could massacre 19 students and two teachers.

The Responders
Since the 1999 Columbine tragedy, the law enforcement community has recognized the critical importance of implementing active shooter training for all officers, regardless of specialty. Also, all officers must now acknowledge that stopping the killing of innocent lives is the highest priority in active shooter response, and all officers must be willing to risk their lives without hesitation.

At Robb Elementary, law enforcement responders failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety.

The first wave of responders to arrive included the chief of the school district police and the commander of the Uvalde Police Department SWAT team. Despite the immediate presence of local law enforcement leaders, there was an unacceptably long period of time before officers breached the classroom, neutralized the attacker, and began rescue efforts. We do not know at this time whether responders could have saved more lives by shortening that delay. Regardless, law enforcement committed numerous mistakes in violation of current active shooter training, and there are important lessons to be learned from each faulty assumption and poor decision made that day.

The Uvalde CISD’s written active shooter plan directed its police chief to assume command and control of the response to an active shooter. The chief of police was one of the first responders on the scene. But as events unfolded, he failed to perform or to transfer to another person the role of incident commander. This was an essential duty he had assigned to himself in the plan mentioned above, yet it was not effectively performed by anyone. The void of leadership could have contributed to the loss of life as injured victims waited over an hour for help, and the attacker continued to sporadically fire his weapon.

A command post could have transformed chaos into order, including the deliberate assignment of tasks and the flow of the information necessary to inform critical decision making. Notably, nobody ensured that responders making key decisions inside the building received information that students and teachers had survived the initial burst of gunfire, were trapped in Rooms 111 and 112, and had called out for help. Some responders outside and inside the building knew that information through radio communications. But nobody in command analyzed this information to recognize that the attacker was preventing critically injured victims from obtaining medical care. Instead of continuing to act as if they were addressing a barricaded subject scenario in which responders had time on their side, they should have reassessed the scenario as one involving an active shooter. Correcting this error
should have sparked greater urgency to immediately breach the classroom by any possible means, to subdue the attacker, and to deliver immediate aid to surviving victims. Recognition of an active shooter scenario also should have prompted responders to prioritize the rescue of innocent victims over the precious time wasted in a search for door keys and shields to enhance the safety of law enforcement responders.

An effective incident commander located away from the drama unfolding inside the building would have realized that radios were mostly ineffective, and that responders needed other lines of communication to communicate important information like the victims’ phone calls from inside the classrooms. An offsite overall incident commander likely could have located a master key more quickly—several people on campus had one. An offsite overall incident commander may have suggested checking to see if officers could open the door without a key—in hindsight, they probably could have. An offsite overall incident commander who properly categorized the crisis as an active shooter scenario should have urged using other secondary means to breach the classroom, such as using a sledgehammer as suggested in active shooter training or entering through the exterior windows.

Uvalde CISD and its police department failed to implement their active shooter plan and failed to exercise command and control of law enforcement responding to the tragedy. But these local officials were not the only ones expected to supply the leadership needed during this tragedy.

Hundreds of responders from numerous law enforcement agencies—many of whom were better trained and better equipped than the school district police—quickly arrived on the scene. Those other responders, who also had received training on active shooter response and the interrelation of law enforcement agencies, could have helped to address the unfolding chaos.

Yet in this crisis, no responder seized the initiative to establish an incident command post. Despite an obvious atmosphere of chaos, the ranking officers of other responding agencies did not approach the Uvalde CISD chief of police or anyone else perceived to be in command to point out the lack of and need for a command post, or to offer that specific assistance. Several will suggest they were misled by false or misleading information they received as they arrived; however, the “chaos” described by almost all of them demonstrates that at a minimum, responders should have asked more questions. This suggests a training deficiency, in that responding officers failed to adequately question the absence of command. Other responders failed to be sufficiently assertive by identifying the incident commander and offering their assistance or guidance, or by assuming command in the absence of any other responder having expressly done so. In this sense, the entirety of law enforcement and its training, preparation, and response shares systemic responsibility for many missed opportunities on that tragic day.

Robb Elementary is slated to be razed.

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Kentucky Teacher of the Year Speaks to Congress and Resigns

Willie Carver is the 2022 Kentucky Teacher of the Year.

Willie Carver

However, by June 28, 2022, Carver could take it no more– “it” being the politicization of his identity and attempts to erase him as a gay man.

He quit.

From the June 28, 2022, LEX18.com:

Kentucky’s 2022 Teacher of the Year announced he has quit teaching after dealing with homophobia.

Willie Carver, an English and French teacher at Montgomery County High School, has been teaching for 12 years.

Carver says he spent years watching school administrators try to stifle LGBTQ identities.

He says the “straw that broke the camels back” was when school administration failed to address repeated harassment against him and LGBTQ students.

In May, Carver testified to Congress about LGBTQ inclusion.

Carver has taken on an administrative role at the University of Kentucky for the next school year, working in student support services.

In April 2022, Carver tweeted that he “was afraid to return to the classroom”:

A state teacher of the year afraid to return to the classroom because of “this current iteration of fear and bigotry”– Carver’s words in the continued conversation on Twitter.

I am so sad to read this, and grieved by Carver’s painful experience, which he pointedly makes plain in his May 18, 2022, testimony before the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

Below are Carver’s disturbing and powerful words to Congress, followed by the corresponding video.

Testimony of Willie Carver
Before the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
U.S. House of Representatives
May 18, 2022

***
Chairman Raskin, Ranking Member Mace, and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to offer this written testimony on such an important issue.

My name is Willie Carver. I am a seventeen-year teaching veteran with a double endorsed MAT, a Rank 1 in French linguistics. I’ve worked at Montgomery County Schools since 2013. I sponsor multiple school groups, and am a published member of National Council of Teachers of English, the Kentucky World Language Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the Kentucky Philological Association, the Center for Collaborative Center for Literacy Development, as well as a contributing and active member of the Kentucky and National Education Association and the Kentucky Adolescent Literacy Project. I am a recipient of two Praxis Awards of Excellence, a Kendall Smith Kentucky Star Awards recipient, a 2021 University of Kentucky Teacher who Made a Difference, and I am the 2022 Kentucky Teacher of the Year.

When I was a kid in school, I used to teach my sister what I learned every day. She started kindergarten ready for first grade and to this day is still smarter than me. I was born to teach, and I’m good at it. I represent 42,000 Kentucky teachers as the 2022 Kentucky Teacher of the Year because I transform students’ thinking, abilities, and lives.

Impact of LGBTQ role models

I’ve faced hatred, bigotry, and discrimination my whole career as a gay teacher, and I’ve weathered the storm because my presence saves lives. According to the Trevor Project, 40% of trans people have attempted suicide at some point in their lives, and a heartbreaking 92% of them attempted suicide before turning 25. The Trevor Project also reports that just one affirming adult reduces LGBTQ suicide attempts by 40%.

Research on the impact of LGBTQ role models is hardly new. Research from the Journal of Adolescent Health from 2012 already indicated that having positive role models decreases the psychological distress of LGBTQ youth.

Schools have always been a major means of access to positive role models and behaviors. According to research published in Children and Youth Services Review, seeing teachers intervene in bullying against marginalized students increases the students’ likelihood to intervene themselves. Teachers are role models of inclusion of others and ourselves. Students need positive role models in their lives to be able to project an image of themselves into the future.

The need is immediate and the stakes are dire. Schools are dangerous places for LGBTQ students. According to the GLSEN 2019 Climate Survey, 59% of LGBTQ students feel unsafe at school because of their orientation, 69% are harassed because of their orientation, and 95% hear anti-LGBTQ slurs daily. Sadly, according to research by Mcdermott et al, those same LGBTQ students experiencing these conditions are 400% more likely to commit suicide than their nonLGBTQ classmates.

These numbers are almost five years old. As shocking as they are, they’ve gotten much worse in the wake of the current political attacks against LGBTQ youth.

Legislation to limit students’ rights

As of this writing, over 300 bills have been introduced to limit or attack conversations or rights of youth who are Black, brown, or LGBTQ. There are bills, mandates, or new interpretations of existing policies, like those in Texas and Tennessee, that would prevent trans youth from getting affirming medical care, despite the fact that every major medical association agrees that affirming care prevents suicide. There are bills preventing trans students from playing sports, despite the fact that all research shows that inclusion is the best prevention of suicide among LGBTQ youth.

Perhaps most egregious, there are bills that limit conversations about the lived experiences of students. New, confusing, ambiguous anti-critical race theory (CRT) laws all but ban discussions
about the lived experience of Black and brown students in classrooms. They do so either directly
or by being unclear and leveraging disproportionately costly consequences against teachers and
schools. As a result, little will be read by Black or brown authors or about Black or brown people. They protect themselves at the cost of their students’ dignity and mental health.

The same choice teachers are making to protect themselves while harming students can be most clearly seen in the bills preventing discussion or inclusion of LGBTQ people in classroom settings. They require erasure. Florida’s infamous House Bill 1557 will prevent any and all inclusion of LGBTQ people in grades K-3 and, by virtue of the ambiguity of the “age-appropriate” label for older students, will equally erase us in the rest of students’ school experiences. Emboldened by the passing of this bill, other states are following suit, with Louisiana’s resurrection of House Bill 837 making lessons on LGBTQ identity in K-8 illegal and forbidding teachers from discussing their identity in any grade.

Rendering LGBTQ students and teachers invisible

Identity is rarely discussed by direct means. No teachers come out as straight. They are married to opposite sex spouses whose pictures sit on their desks or whose names come up in stories about vacations or weekend trips to the grocery store.

LGBTQ teachers and students will not be afforded this freedom. They will be required to deny their existence and edit the most basic aspects of their stories, unlike their classmates and colleagues.
Few LGBTQ teachers will survive this current storm. Politicizing our existence has already darkened our schools.

I’m made invisible. When we lost our textbooks during lockdown, I co-wrote two free textbooks
with a university professor, made them free to anyone who wanted them, and found sponsors to print them. I wasn’t allowed to share them at my school. Other schools in Kentucky celebrate similar work by teachers, but my name is a liability.

I’m from the small town of Mt. Sterling, KY and I was invited to meet the President of the United States. It was not advertised to my students and colleagues. My school didn’t even mention it in an email or morning announcement.

This invisibility extends to all newly politicized identities. Our administrators’ new directive about books and lessons is “nothing racial.”

We all know how to interpret this.

Works by white people living lives as white people are never called racial.

Works by Black and brown people living lives as Black and brown people are always called racial.

The politicization of identity erases their identities.

Parents now demand alternative assignments when authors of texts or materials are Black or LGBTQ; we teachers are told to accommodate them, but I cannot ethically erase Black or queer voices.

We ban materials by marginalized authors, ignoring official processes. One parent complaint removes all students’ books overnight.

Endangered educators

My Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), a campus group dedicated to discussing and helping make schools safe for LGBTQ students, couldn’t share an optional campus climate survey with classmates. I was told it might make straight students uncomfortable.

Students now use anti-LGBTQ or racist slurs without consequence. Hatred is politically protected now.

When my GSA’s posters were torn from walls, my principal’s response was that people think LGBTQ advocacy is “being shoved down their throats.”

Inclusive teachers are thrown under the bus by the people driving it.

During a national teacher shortage crisis, I know gay educators with perfect records dismissed this year.

A Kentucky teacher’s whiteboard message of “You are free to be yourself with me. You matter” with pride flags resulted in wild accusations and violent threats. During this madness, his superintendent wrote to a parent, “This incident … is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.” The situation became unimaginably unsafe. He resigned.

Last month, a parent’s dangerous, false allegations that my GSA was “grooming” students were shared 65 times on Facebook. I felt my students and I were unsafe. Multiple parents and I asked the school to defend us. One father wrote simply, “Please do something!” The school refused to support us.

There are 10,000 people in my town; one fringe parent doesn’t represent most parents, who trust us.

Student suicides

School is traumatic; LGBTQ students are trying to survive it. They often don’t. Year after year, I receive suicidal goodbye texts from students at night. We’ve always saved them, but now I panic when my phone goes off after 10:00.

Meryl, a gentle trans girl from Owen County High, took her life in 2020. She always wanted a GSA. Her friends tried to establish one, but the teachers who wanted to help were afraid to sponsor it. Meryl’s mother Rachelle runs an unofficial GSA, PRISM, from the local library.

45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide this year. We chip away at their dignity and spaces to exist. The systems meant to protect them won’t even acknowledge them.

I recently attended Becky Oglesby’s TED Talk. She described surviving a tornado with first graders, how they huddled, her arms around them, as their school walls lifted into the darkness.

I sobbed uncontrollably. I realized that for fifteen years, I have huddled around students, protecting them from the winds, and now the tornado’s here. As the walls rip away, I feel I’m abandoning them.

But I’m tired. I’ve been fighting since my first day in a classroom. Fighting for kids to feel human. Fighting for kids to be safe. Fighting to stop the fear by changing hearts and minds.

I’m tired. I don’t know how much longer I can do it.

I need you. We need you. To be brave enough to face the storm with us.

Congress needs to act

We need you to remember that strong public schools are an issue of national security and moral urgency, and political attacks are exacerbating the teacher shortage, harming our democracy, and, above all, hurting our children.

We need you to pass the Equality Act, to make discrimination against LGBTQ people illegal.

We need you to pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act, to protect all students from harassment.

We’re not asking for special treatment. We’re asking for fundamental human decency, dignity,
freedom from fear, and the same opportunity to thrive non-marginalized students and teachers
enjoy.

When we cannot regard others first and foremost as valuable human beings worthy of dignity and respect, we are much more likely to jump on the marginalization bandwagon and attempt to dehumanize and systematically erase those whom we consider *them* and not *us.*

This is a dangerous path, one that those who profess support for individual freedom and democracy should not take.

God bless you, Willie Carver. I thank you for your advocacy before Congress, and I’m sorry that you have to ask for federal protections from a hostile school environment. I hope Congress hears you and affords you those protections so that you might return to the K12 classroom in Kentucky should you choose to do so.

Willie Carver

_____________________________________________

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Gwinnett GA Teacher of the Year Resignation Speech

On May 23, 2022, Lee Allen, Gwinnett County (GA) teacher of the year, announced his resignation from Gwinnett Public Schools at a board meeting.

Man gets teacher of the year, then he says he has to leave. These things ought not to be, especially given that the district’s HR superintendent called this time “the Great Resignation.”

When the teacher of the year chooses to exit, perhaps it’s time for admin to both listen and act.

Allen had roughly three minutes to speak about his reasons for leaving Gwinnett County (not the profession entirely). I transcribed his words, which are captured on the Youtube video at the end of this post.

Lee Allen

According to his LinkedIn bio, Allen has been teaching high school math in Geogia for eight years: five in Whitfield County, and three, in Gwinnett County. He also holds certifications in English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and gifted education (Georgia teacher certification search engine here; Allens’ certification number is 1359637.)

Allen’s reasons (and proposed solutions) will surely resonate with K12 teachers nationwide.

Good evening. My name is Lee Allen. I’m the 2022 Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year. I’m here tonight to speak about teacher retention.

At the end of this school year, I will be leaving Gwinnett County Schools, leaving behind the opportunity to submit for state teacher of the year and roughtly $10K in salary and, most importantly, the students and colleagues that I have built strong relationships with.

I’m leaving in hopes that I can regain the ability to do the job that I love. I’m speaking tonight to use my small platform to raise awareness on issues facing teachers today so that the district can consider a plan– a plan to proactively combat these issues before more learning is lost and more teachers leave.

I do not claim to speak for all teachers; however, I have spoken with several teachers across the district and state, and I have solicited and received feedback online from others.

The first issue at hand is student apathy and disrespect for school rules and norms. Returning from concurrent learning, we have an alarming number of students that simply do not care about learning and refuse to even try. We are also experiencing incredible disrespect and refusal to follow basic school rules. There is little to no accountability for grades or behavior placed on students or parents.

Rather than being asked what the student can do to improve their understanding, teachers are expected to somehow do more with less student effort.

Next: cell phone use. Teachers cannot possibly compete with the billions of dollars tech companies pour into addicting people to their devices. Phones allow constant communication, often being the spark that fuels fights, drug use, and other inappropriate meet-ups throughout the day.

We need a comprehensive district plan with support behind it to combat this epidemic and protect the learning environment.

Lastly, there’s a huge disconnect between administrators and teachers. The classroom in 2022 is drastically different from just three years ago. Most administrators have not been in the classroom full time in years or even decades. Many teachers currently do not feel understood, valued, or trusted as professionals from the administrators and the decisions that they make. Many decisions seem to be short-term bandaids placed on gaping wounds.

While these issues are not new, and there was a negative trend in these in education before 2020, the pandemic has acted as a catalyst and turned a slow, negative trend into an exponential crisis.

I won’t list complaints without offering ideas for improvement. First, all administrators from the school level and throughout the ISC (instructional support center) should be required to spend one week immersed in a high-needs classroom– without a suit, without people knowing your title– and in the same room all day for an entire week. If administrators truly care about improving the issues, then they need to understand what is happening.

You cannot understand the issues in planned visits or 15-minute observations.

Next, smaller class sizes need to be a priority; 36+ students in an academic class makes it near impossible to manage post-COVID behavior while effectively meeting the much-higher, post-COVID needs of every student.

Twenty-five students in a sheltered, ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) is not what’s best for Gwinnett’s diverse student body.

Every single decision we make should be for the students. Picture this: A circular model of teachers, parents, and administrators working together with students at the center. Currently, the circle is broken. We must offer support without threats or frivolous lawsuits. We all want the same thing. We cannot accomplish this without supporting one another. Students need clear and consistent expectations.

Lastly, there needs to be transparency. [Note: Allen was out of time and rushing to finish.] In January of this year, GPS (Gwinnett Public Schools) reported that behavioral roles (rates?) are at the same level, yet many teachers and people are raising red flags about what is happening. Is it the same, and, as any good leader will tell you, you cannot fix a problem that you won’t admit exists. Thank you.

___________________________________________________

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