This is a letter to legislators from a teacher in St. Tammany Parish (Louisiana State Teacher of the Year) that exemplifies the feelings of virtually every highly qualified, legal certified, experienced teacher in this state. Please send your story to every state representative before the full house vote on HB 9764 and 9767 THIS TUESDAY!!!
I would like to explain why I am furious that the current education bill will be heard next Tuesday, a day when teachers across the state will be TESTING and may not have their voices heard. It’s bad enough that both the House Education and Senate Education Committees blasted through their bills HB 976/HB 974 and SB 603/597 in marathon sessions Wednesday and Thursday. As a close observer of the legislative process in this state (I am a high school social studies teacher) I am amazed at how efficiently our government can work when making decisions about teachers.
I am former Louisiana State Teacher of the Year (2009) with an undergraduate degree in Secondary Education, a Master’s in Student Development. I am currently finishing a doctorate in Teacher Leadership (August 2012). In the 31 years I have taught, I have always had an open classroom, and welcome any quantitative or qualitative assessment of my practice. Nobody wants to get rid of paycheck takers more than I do! However, I feel strongly that teachers, who are also citizens and voters, have the right to speak publically about the design of the new value added assessment methods, in particular the quantitative formulas that will be used to determine student growth.
Because I cannot leave the classroom to participate in events like the hearing on Tuesday, I pay my LFT dues each month. I depend upon others with educational interests to inform and represent classroom teachers like me where I cannot go. During my service year as Louisiana Teacher of the Year, I was sent not only around the state but to various events around the country to represent Louisiana teachers and to participate in the national education reform dialog. I spent a week at the DOE in Washington D.C. sharing my experiences and perspectives about appropriate evolutionary strategies that should be implemented to modernize our obsolete educational system. But now I realize that neither my experience nor my expertise was being used properly. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was merely asking for “feedback” on legislative proposals that had already been either written or adopted. I thought I was there to provide input up front. There is a difference. Instead, politicians, text book companies and university researchers were crafting educational policies behind the scenes. As a front-line implementer of educational policy and practice, I can’t imagine WHY I wasn’t sought out to help create policy.
The Value Added Assessment policies are doing NOTHING to create 21st century learning communities. These measures are counterintuitive, and do not solve the obsolescence I see every day on my school campus. Preparing students to become global citizens has nothing to do with convoluted mathematical formulas that only serve to dehumanize our kids and our teachers even more. Our modern educational system needs FLEXIBILITY not even more rigid structure.
Listen to me…I am the one in the classroom. I am the one having to look students in the eyes when they have to take yet another standardized test not written by the teachers who are charged with delivering the content.
Deborah Hohn Tonguis
“2009 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year”
STAR/Fine Arts Survey Teacher
Mandeville High School, Mandeville LA