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My 6 Year Old Students Need A Union!

Ohanian Comment: I'd say that the teachers in this nation also need a union that will stand up for professionalism. Right now, DIBELS rules in inner city schools. It determines the evaluation of both teachers and students.

We need to take back our schools. If we don't, we will lose them entirely.

by Joan LoCurto

I teach in an inner city school where inequity is apparent. The neighborhood has a high poverty level. Violence and poor housing conditions tuck my students in at night!
Underemployment, unemployment, lack of health insurance is the norm. It has only been of late that a "real" grocery store was available for residents to purchase fresh foods.

We are locked into teaching reading practices that are driven by federal government’s bad research. I witness a lack of all that made school a joy for my students. Literally the things that helped to build community and self-respect and self-esteem for children have disappeared. In their place is rigid schedules and long periods of disjointed phonics, and disjointed language practices.

As a teacher, it is impossible to voice an opinion, even though I have a Master’s Degree in Teaching Reading and a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. Teachers are leaving the profession because they cannot continue to "teach" children in this manner.

On the last day of school this year 18 teachers were given copies of our yearly evaluation and received "U"s, an unsatisfactory rating because of our DIBELS scores. I’m talking about dedicated, professionals who stay late, arrive early and do their best for the love of children.

My Unsatisfactory "grade" was followed by the comment:
"This teacher’s students made minimal growth in her classroom this year."

Most of my children are reading on or above grade level. The amount of "progress/growth" made this year by most of my children was no where near minimal.

I asked my principal if she believed that statement that appeared on my evaluation.
She said "Yes, I do, based on your DIBELS scores!"

Her statement hurt me because I know the amount of work I did this year with my precious students. The amount of growth the children had in all areas was in no way "minimal." I mentioned that the reading levels of some of my first-graders were equal to the end of second grade. She said the district didn’t recognize non-standardized test scores.

I and the other teachers began calling our Teacher Union, because of the unfair practice of this principal. The comment after the "U" didn’t even match the other comments referring to my strong knowledge of content matter; my solid understanding of the content, my instructional practices reflect current pedagogical knowledge, etc.

The comment about minimal growth only had to do with the DIBELS scores.

As I left the building, after an extremely difficult year, and after having to say goodbye to my class I had looped up with from Kindergarten to First Grade, I felt the sadness I usually feel when saying goodbye to students I have come to love.

I also found myself wishing that my students had a union to plea their case.

They not only are being judged by their DIBELS scores, they are attending summer school and/or repeating Kindergarten or First Grade because of DIBELS scores.

— Joan LoCurto




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