Is it "a slap in the face" to Wake County teachers to say that some of them set low expectations for students?
That's a contention Cash Michaels makes in the second part of his series in The Carolinian looking at Walnut Creek Elementary School. In this week's article, Michaels contends that teacher morale has gotten worse since the GOP school board majority took steps such as ending the diversity policy and questioning the expectation levels set by teachers.
“I sincerely appreciate the hard work of all of our teachers and principals,” said Democratic school board member Kevin Hill in the article. “I take serious offense every time I hear a member of the board talk about a culture of low expectations (in the system) for our children. I think it’s a slap in the face to our teachers and our principals.”
“My experience has been that every teacher has high expectations for our kids,” Hill continued. “Nobody rises to low expectations. But do we have the tools, do we have the time, do we have the ability to make that happen? No. Am I satisfied with where we are in terms of achievement for all of our students? I’m not. But I also take offense to when the data is cherrypicked, and there’s no credit given to where our teachers and students have excelled.”
The article says Hill points to data showing "significant incremental improvement over the past three years with economically disadvantaged students." (Test scores have increased statewide in the past few years since retests were counted.)
The article continues the theme of how talk of low teacher expectations is insulting by bringing up GOP school board member John Tedesco's charges that low expectations kept kids out of advanced math middle school classes.
"With the current Wake School Board ending structured sessions that allowed learning teams of teachers to get together on “Wacky Wednesdays” to strategize on how to help struggling students they shared, plus the politically-motivated accusations by board member John Tedesco that some teachers were holding black students back from Algebra I classes (Tedesco never bothered to mention that in some cases, black students, because of other obligations or their parents, did not want to take on harder classes until necessary), it is no surprise that teacher morale today is at an all-time low," the article says.
(Both Tedesco and Superintendent Tony Tata have cited the SAS EVAAS report to back their contention that thousands of students, many of them minorities, have been kept out of advanced math classes that they should have been attending.)
In contrast, the article says teacher morale was much higher under the tenure of Superintendent Bill McNeal when he was pushing the 95 percent goal and the diversity policy was promoting healthy schools.
"Former teachers of Wake Public Schools say the system became the envy of the nation over the past decade because they went the extra mile to make sure that students, especially struggling students, became excited about learning and achievement," according to the article. "Thanks to the right, experienced leadership, it was a total community effort that paid off in national recognition, and life-changing accomplishments.
Under the current school board, many of the former Wake educators wonder if the school system will ever reach those academic heights again."
The article cites special workshops during McNeal's tenure on how to work with economically disadvantaged children. The workshops taught the teachers that not all children learn the same way because of their diverse backgrounds, and it was the instructors’ responsibility to key in on those differences, and reach as many children possible.
(I'm not sure if that's referring to the Ruby Payne training that was actively promoted by the district then.)
"For high poverty students there was individualized instruction to overcome whatever social issues they brought to the classroom from home," the article says. "Thanks to diversity, if the majority of a class of 24 were able to keep up with the lesson plan, that gave the teacher some time to focus on the handful who were having problems."
Flash forward to now with the end of the diversity policy and the fear it will lead to very high poverty schools.
"Counter that with a teacher who has to teach a large class in a high poverty setting, Turpin and other educators tell The Carolinian," the article says. "The majority of students there will be low achievers with various challenges, making it virtually impossible for the instructor to stay on lesson plan without extra help and resources. Those teachers, many of whom have one to two years of experience under their belts at the most, will get burned out, and soon leave that school, if not the profession."
Click here to read the first article in the series.