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Teacher: Worst year in the classroom in decades

The tragedy of the matter is that Gary Groth is saying what hundreds of thousands, nay, millions, of teachers are afraid to say.

by Valerie Strauss

This is just one of the many desperate emails and letters from teachers that education historian Diane Ravitch receives each day as she travels the country talking about the folly of the Obama administration's $4 billion Race to the Top and overall education vision. It was written by Gary A. Groth, a National Board Certified Teacher and Middle Childhood Generalist at Mariposa Elementary School in Port St. Lucie, Florida, who gave me permission to publish it:

From Gary Groth:

"As a classroom teacher with 30+ years experience, I just completed the absolute worst year in the classroom I have ever endured (and it was NOT the fault of my students--they were great).

"This year I was told what to teach, when to teach, how to teach, how long to teach, who to teach, who not to teach, and how often to test. My students were assessed with easily more than 120 tests of one shape or another within the first 6 months of the school year.

"My ability to make decisions about what is best for my students was taken away by an overzealous attempt to impose 'consistency' within my grade group. My school hired an outside consultant who threatened us with our jobs, demanded that everyone comply, and required us to submit data on test results on a weekly basis. If your class didn't do well, you were certainly going to be in trouble.

"In addition, my class was visited at least twice a month by the consultant, two superintendents, principal, assistant principal, reading coach, math coach, and sometimes even more people. If I was not teaching exactly what they wanted to see, I was in trouble.

"My ability to have any academic freedom was completely taken away and my students were denied the best education I could provide for them. Please understand, my credentials are impeccable. I am board certified, have a masters degree in educational leadership, have been documented with the highest scores on my team, and absolutely love what I do. I want to be a teacher, but just can not continue within this toxic educational environment.

"This year I have tried to speak out against these many disgusting practices of testing, teaching to the test, or as you called it 'institutionalized cheating.' I have felt like a voice in the wilderness. The response has been, 'Get used to it. It is what is coming down the pike.'

"We are in desperate need of voices like yours to bring sanity back to education. Please, please, please continue to speak out about this debacle and help us restore the focus of education back to the child and NOT the test score. I will enthusiastically share your article with fellow educators in an effort to save the future of public school education. I just wish I could do more.

"If you have any other positive suggestions as to what I can do to help, please let me know. Thank you for speaking out. Let's hope it is not too late."

Respectfully submitted,
Gary A. Groth
National Board Certified Teacher, Middle Childhood Generalist
Mariposa Elementary School
Port St. Lucie, FL

— Gary Groth
Washington Post: The Answer Sheet





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