Teachers Are Frustrated
Practically every week I read an article in the newspaper about holding teachers accountable for student progress. I can't help but wonder when administrators, parents and the students themselves are going to be held accountable.
Last year I was a sixth-grade teacher in a Northern Virginia public school system. At the end of the school year, there were two students in my language arts and math class who had failed both subjects. Neither one of these students deserved to be passed on to the seventh grade, but guess where they are this school year.
At the end of the school year, I wrote a commentary to the promotion/retention committee about why I felt these students should be retained without an option of passing by attending summer school.
During the course of the year, both of these students had been brought up before a child study committee composed of guidance counselors, administrators, teachers and parents. As a result of this, the teachers then took on the added responsibility of checking to see if the students had written their assignments in their agendas and of notifying parents when assignments were not completed. The parents were well aware of the fact that these children were choosing not to complete their class or homework. In fact, one of these students had not turned in a single assignment during the last grading period.
Retention is certainly not the ultimate solution in every case, but in the case where students simply refuse to do the work, they should not have the privilege of being promoted without the basic skills they will need to be successful at the next grade level. What lesson have we taught these children by promoting them, and why are we setting them up for failure in the future? What is going to happen to them when they fail the eighth grade SOL tests? Which teachers' jobs will then be in jeopardy? What lesson have the other children learned who knew that these two students did not deserve to pass?
Accountability for student performance is a shared responsibility. Without a conscientious student, an involved parent and a supportive administration, the classroom teacher should not be held responsible for student achievement. With the continued demand for more and more responsibility and accountability on the part of the teacher, it should come as no surprise that teachers are leaving the profession. After sixteen years in the classroom, I decided that I had finally had enough of undisciplined and unresponsive students, indifferent parents, poor administrators, long nights and weekends of paper grading and lesson planning, and a paltry salary. Is it any wonder that teachers are in short supply?
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