DeKalb teacher makes plea to leadership: Treat us as professionals

A south Georgia grand jury indicts a sheriff and two deputies related to alleged abuses during a schoolwide pat-down in Worth County.

I have always said DeKalb has the most passionate teachers and the most likely to voice their views. I am hearing from teachers about district changes they contend make their jobs harder and don’t improve instruction.

When DeKalb unveiled its new curriculum in March, officials said it would establish an intense instructional road map. “We wanted to ensure our new version provided a more detailed road map, with an opportunity for us to be explicit about pacing … with components to help identify where children are (in the lesson) more readily so we’re able to provide intervention if needed,” said Lisa Martin, the district’s chief academic and accountability officer, at the time.

But that new detailed road map is not putting teachers in the driver’s seat, according to some.

 As one teacher said:

Have you seen DeKalb’s new weekly lesson plan? It appears to be county-mandated. So a teacher’s previous evaluations, student test performance, years of experience and qualifications are irrelevant. Please look at it and see how much this could possibly improve teaching and learning. For those teachers who need serious help, I can’t see how this worksheet-like plan is the answer — and the eight-minute video explaining the plan does approach it as filling in a worksheet.

I can’t imagine that anyone sat down to figure out how long it takes to complete one such plan. For those of us with multiple courses, we’re looking at completing two, three, or even four of these a week even though we’ve been given no additional time to do so.

Another concerned teacher wrote an open letter to DeKalb leaders and parents, which I am sharing below. If any teachers feel the changes are improvements and would like to write a piece, please do so and send to me. to share here. I recognize some teachers prefer more direction and may welcome the district exercising more oversight.

However, here is one teacher who does not:

To the DeKalb County School Board, Dr. Green, and concerned DeKalb Parents,

This is my 12th year as an educator. I have put my blood, sweat, and tears into helping my young students reach their potential.  I work very diligently to plan, teach, and challenge myself to always improve. But I am being pushed to consider leaving DeKalb, and one reason is the rollout of the new curriculum.

The curriculum was launched and not fully uploaded before school began. As an educator who takes time to plan a scope and sequence, this makes it difficult to see the big picture of where I am being expected to guide my students during the year.

The new kindergarten curriculum has been evaluated by my school’s team. We agree it is chaotic, disorganized, lacking substance, and fails to follow a logical sequence of concepts and skills.  As a team, we had already planned a curriculum map for this school year based on the Georgia Standards of Excellence that includes a project-based approach to science and social studies.

I am proud to be part of an excellent teaching team focused on helping each unique child achieve. However, we are no longer allowed to follow the excellent plan we created. We are being forced to follow a curriculum that we know is not in the best interest of our students.

My school includes many students on or above grade level. If I follow the new DeKalb curriculum, the majority of my students will not be challenged and will be ill-served by a system that treats all students the same.

Another problem is the new lesson plan template. I understand and advocate that lesson plans should have required elements; our kindergarten team already includes these elements. What I don’t understand or advocate is all educators using the same template. It is not developmentally appropriate that a kindergarten and 10th grade lesson plan are the same. A 5-year-old and 15-year-old are different.

Why are we not recognized as professionals who can create our own template that includes the necessary elements? Why are we continuously told we are not doing enough?  Why are schools that are excelling being treated as if they are failing?

The lesson plan template is not user-friendly in that each subject is broken up and you cannot see a weekly plan as a whole. The template is technologically archaic; there are no easy-to-use dropdown menus.

Therefore, we have to spend hours copying and pasting standards, essential questions, big ideas, engaging scenarios, extra unnecessary work just to make our format the same as all the educators in DeKalb. I will have to write a 20-page lesson plan for each week just to appease the enforced format when I could use my own format that is five pages and includes the elements I need.

This is a massive waste of time and money as you can imagine how much more paper will be wasted in printing out these plans each week. There are 8,500 teachers in DeKalb County. Each teacher is roughly using 15 more pages a week than normal. That is 127,500 more pieces of wasted paper a week. All 8,500 of us will be spending so much more time following this enforced order instead of spending time to plan quality instruction that will engage and support the growth of our students.

My last concern is the convocation at the Gwinnett Infinite Energy Center. A speech made by a school board member assumed everyone in the audience was Christian with multiple references to Jesus Christ. It was a sermon rather than a speech.

In our nation, we have a clear separation of church and state. Not every educator in DeKalb shares the board member’s religious beliefs. It made me uncomfortable for all the unique and diverse educators present. We have a great opportunity for DeKalb to be lifted up and for our diversity to be celebrated. After all, the motto “All Rise” states all people involved will be lifted up.

DeKalb is on the brink of losing dedicated, experienced, passionate educators because our professionalism and expertise are not respected and valued. Who will suffer the most?  All of the precious, unique children that DeKalb seems to desperately want to all be the same.

Respectfully Yours,

One Qualified, Experienced, and Passionate Educator

 

 

Reader Comments 0

57 comments
Calm-nGround
Calm-nGround

There are many opinions expressed on this topic and it goes around in circles. There is plenty of blame to go around. As someone who has taught, been in administration and returned to the classroom, most people are loosing sight of the point that all this effort should be for children. Yes, if teachers want to be viewed as professionals we need to act as a professionals. At the end of the day just as in any other profession there are those who are exceptional and those who are lacking, also individuals in every profession protect their own, and innocent individuals get hurt in the cross fire. Everyone has expressed an opinion or an opinion on someone else's opinion, but I haven't seen anyone step up with a suggestion of how we can make the situation better for children. I don't like writing the lesson plans, but I'm better at my job when I take the time to have my plan as detailed as possible. However, keeping focused on children I accept any constructive criticism and assistance in finding the best resources to help my students. At the end of the day a lesson plan is just that a plan, and a teacher needs to be ready to change their strategy at anytime if their students aren't understanding the material.

Can we stop looking for the differences in our opinions and look for common ground on how to help children? Until we can do this "No Child Left Behind" will ensure that every child will be left behind.

0.788904834659
0.788904834659

Well said!@dekalb teacher makes plea to leadership. I was at the convocation. It was not an inclusive experience. Thank you for writing this letter. Unfortunately as an educator the media is the best place to be heard.

Katie Milway Fullerton
Katie Milway Fullerton

I'm a high school science teacher, and so I turned our new lesson plan format into an assignment for my students. Based on rough averages, it will cost $300k + to print these new lesson plans. But more to the point, at least for my environmental science classes, it will cost at least 3670 trees. While I appreciate the real-world example that my students can use, I think everyone's resources could be better spent.

aep
aep

Totally disrespectful to invoke Jesus - totally!!! 

DCSD is worse at everything than DCSS ever was. Friends and Family are running the zoo. Everyone making more than 100K needs to leave now. Start over. Promote from the rank and file.

DeKalb County used to be a top district in the nation! I could write a 100 page dissertation on where it's gone wrong since the 70's.



An American Patriot
An American Patriot

@aep Well, I'll say this.....ummmmm, naw, I can't say that; however, I will say this....no, not that either but, you know what....."way down yonder in the land of cotton, old times there ain't near as rotten as they are in these damned old DeKalb County Schools".  In the last forty-five years, DCSS has gone from one of the finest in the State of Georgia to near the bottom.  You know what, when that happens all you have to do is "look at the leadership".  Folks, there are "NO" good leaders in the DCSS, or else they would make things better.......they aren't and they haven't and probably never will.

mgiles06
mgiles06

Here's the simple truth most teachers understand: There is no cookie-cutter path to teaching kids. 

After years and years of "Differentiate!" and "Individualize!" we're now heading down the road of "Conform" and "Everyone teach off the same page!"

The two methods are polar opposite, so they can't both be right. 

Let teachers teach!  Let teachers be the professionals they are.  If they are successful, LEAVE THEM ALONE!  If not, then let's figure out why.  That requires administrators to do more than take a cookie-cutter approach to staff development, because there is no cookie-cutter approach to administrating...or teaching.


readcritic
readcritic

@mgiles06 The TKES system is also a useless and time-consuming method of evaluating teachers. It is only as good as the administrator who evaluates and that individual is more interested in raking in the big bucks and adding to the huge retirement check. The teachers who are in the trenches just keep getting pummeled for a pittance.

PelicanBrief
PelicanBrief

I am a retired teacher. Although I have never taught in Dekalb, this type of nonsense is hitting every county. Now, I want to give my own personal view on what is happening on the local level. Most of the administrators have not spent at least 5 years in the classroom. They probably could not teach a lesson. Majority of them never had to write a detailed lesson plan or execute that plan. They are only wanting to rise to the top of the pyramid so that can increase their salaries. But, on the way to the top, they are working teachers harder and harder for no reason except for their superiority complex.

The best teacher we ever had was one who turned in the plans; but, when the door closed. The student got out their textbooks and the teacher taught chapter by chapter (like the teachers did a few years back). His students always scored the highest score on all the State Test. And, they knew more about history than all the other students.


I do not know who has come up with all this idiotic curriculum, but they have lost their way. Give me a school anywhere in Georgia and I can turn that school around by doing what works. Students are not parts on an assembly line. They are all different. 



I am saying that the frustration is getting worse and worse due to administrators. And, some administrators are good; but they do not last long either because of the pressure.

My hats go off to all the teachers in Georiga.


readcritic
readcritic

@PelicanBrief What adds to the problem is that, in the South, elementary teachers can become high school principals. Many Northern states require a teacher to have taught at the high school level for 10 years before he/she can become a high school principal. Using an elementary approach at a high school level is just not 

sensible. Micromanagement and busy paperwork assigned by overpaid and overpopulated Central Office personnel is now beyond ridiculous.

teachermom4
teachermom4

I taught in Dekalb years ago and left when they were introducing the concept of "backwards design". In other words, figure out what you're trying to teach first, then find activities to fit the objective, rather than vice versa. I was like, "duh". I didn't know anyone who tried to fit curriculum to cute activities anyway. We were all working to teach the standards and to suggest we weren't was insulting. We were all trying to find ways to teach what needed to be taught, not showcase a cutesie activity. Fast forward 13 years. I'm in a different county, but we are still constantly being told not only exactly what to teach but how to teach it. The micromanagement never stops. It doesn't matter where you teach. We sometimes joke that people at the county office, who make more than we do, should just make the plans, write a script, and have done with it. It would save a lot of time and effort on our part. Apparently we're all too inept to do things right anyway. It's awesome to be treated as incompetent whether you are or aren't....

redweather
redweather

@teachermom4 So-called "design" gets you kudos on your annual review at the college and university level. There seems to be this automatic assumption that if you are doing this year what you did last year you're standing still.

class80olddog
class80olddog

How also can these teachers ask to be treated like professionals when they give grades that in no way indicate their progress and to vote to promote unqualified students. Even if they are ordered by their principals, that is no excuse. If I did wrong things, I would go to jail just like the APS teachers even if my boss ordered it and threatened my firing.

mgiles06
mgiles06

@class80olddog You are painting with a VERY broad brush.  Very few teachers are of the ilk of those in APS who failed to stand up...but remember, it was the ADMINISTRATORS who pushed those teachers and in this instance, it is ADMINISTRATORS who are pushing these lesson plans. 

Its time time to let teachers be the professionals they are, and when they're not, hold them to account.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@mgiles06 @class80olddog  Yes, I have heard from the teachers on this site and EVERY single one of them say "NOT ME, I NEVER give out a grade not deserved or promote a student who fails".  And yet teachers are constantly complaining that they have students coming into their classrooms that are woefully unprepared.  It must always be "that other teacher"!  I agree that the ADMINISTRATORS are the source of the problem, by requiring teachers to change grades and promote students or else lose their jobs, but the least the teachers could do is write an anonymous article to Get Schooled outing the principal who threatens them.  Where is the Ethics Hotline for these school systems?  There is none, because the Superintendents are the ultimate responsibility and they are LEADING the push to inflate grades! 

curt49
curt49

How can Dekalb teachers expect to be treated as professionals when it's run by rank amateurs who are lucky to figure how to get dressed in the morning. Just look at how property values drop when you cross the line from Atlanta because of the schools.

redweather
redweather

@curt49 DeKalb and Fulton share a very long county line, too long for this kind of sweeping statement.

edugator2
edugator2

Amen (or other appropriate exclamation of support) to the Dekalb teacher who wrote this.  The problem is the lesson plan form is just the tip of the iceberg.  The curriculum came out late, the pretests were deeply flawed (grammatical errors on one Language Arts pretest) and the lessons so convoluted that they are largely unteachable. 


The state curriculum is fine, and the state does provide some resources.  With that said, the is certainly room for the county to provide support, particularly for new teachers.  This rush job of a curriculum is not the needed support, and some of the "non-negotiables" are insulting to experienced teachers, and useless to students. 

aep
aep

@edugator2 As a parent, I was constantly correcting the handouts in red ink and sending them back to the teachers. Sadly, my kids were in the high achievers programs and they were still sending home substandard copied materials. :(


ljhays
ljhays

School board members, Board of Regents members, and other politicians with no education background need to keep their mitts off curriculum development, except in a strictly advisory, nonvoting capacity. Anyone who's never written a lesson plan has literally no idea of how much time and work goes into the process. Anyone who tries to develop a lesson plan where educators have not had primary responsibility for curriculum development are set up for failure.

kaelyn
kaelyn

As a DeKalb parent, my heart goes out to our teachers. A few years ago my daughter was fortunate enough to have a young dynamic teacher fresh out of one of the country's top schools. This fabulous educator was innovative, energetic, and a bit of a rebel (loved it, btw). Her students thrived, parents loved her, but the administration saw her as a threat. Her methods were different than the norm, and different was scary to the Kool-Aid crowd. She lasted a few years and then headed for greener pastures. I saw firsthand how it was more important to control teachers than allow them to be professionals. It's no surprise why we lose so many teachers every year.

Astropig
Astropig

Good grief,get over yourselves.Heaven knows that I'm no fan of Steve Green,or central Educrats,but this essay is just over the freakin' top.


Professionalism? Professionalism is NOT having a public feud dragged out before the taxpayers with anonymous essays,religious shaming (above) and all around whining about being required to do something that same general public has to do without complaint (attend a rah-rah meeting that you don't particularly want to attend while the boss takes the roll).You complainers have been on this hobby horse for a couple of months now and have spent more effort dissing this meeting than attending the damn thing.One particularly silly individual even posted a webcam in the run up to this showing the traffic jam!


Newsflash-Bad traffic in the metro Atlanta area is not a personal vendetta against you.



It sure doesn't look professional out here in the audience when you people snipe at the system you serve all the time,I'll tell you that.If you want to be treated like pros,act like it.Settle your gripes through the proper channels instead of trying to make us part of your pity party.





MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Astropig

A friend is a VP of sales for a computer company and oversees 245 sales people in 11 states. (They handle corporate clients.) 

She must be great at her job as she is sought after – just about every major name in the industry has offered her a post. 

Here are her two rules to live by in management:

When people are doing well, leave them alone.

And make sure 98 percent of their time is spent on selling, not paperwork or meetings or training for something they already know how to do. 

The teacher who wrote this essay is a successful teacher in a successful school. 

I would leave her and her school alone -- one of the central tenets to every Georgia reform effort that I have covered has been to let high performers keep doing what they are doing. Yet, we never do. We make everyone jump through the same hoops. I have never seen any evidence or research that more paperwork for teachers improves outcomes for students.

Astropig
Astropig

@redweather @Astropig


I'm sort of conflicted on this. Educrats ordering things to happen from "on high" is arrogant,stupid and wasteful.I totally get that part.But I'm just telling you how it looks on this side of the screen.


Anybody that has ever worked for a large organization (the military,a giant business or local government,the Red Cross,whatever) knows that there is a lot of stuff like this convocation that happens and,like the weather in July,we just have to suck it up and live with it.Life's annoyances.


But to keep beating this dead horse over and over and use it as a sump for all of their pet peeves is stepping way over the line. Moaning and complaining about following directives may be a lot of things,but it sure doesn't make you look "professional".

teachermom4
teachermom4

@Astropig @MaureenDowney But in education, proof usually involves copious amounts of paperwork-something that the boss can quantify; the two go hand in hand. Some are failing, so all must do it this way. If you don't, your evaluation will be low, just because you didn't do what you were told, not because you got poor results. Good teachers have time intensive procedures pushed on them for the sake of proving they are doing their job. New policies on planning, like the one discussed here, have to be implemented by everyone, not just the poor teachers. Teachers who have been successful using other methods are forced to do whatever someone else decides is better, with no consideration of their prior performance. That's the big issue. This isn't just being given as a support for teachers who need help; everyone has to do it.

Astropig
Astropig

@MaureenDowney @Astropig


You're making a strawman argument again.I never said or implied that I want more paperwork.I said that this looks like anonymous whining.The boss isn't always right,but they're always the boss.You're providing a self serving rebuttal to an argument that I didn't even make.


Please stop assigning sinister motives to everyone that makes a counter point.Is that too much to ask?

redweather
redweather

@Astropig Most people in education are afraid to speak out for fear it might have adverse career consequences, and those fears are to some extent justified. Deans and school superintendents and principals and even rank and file administrators can (and often do) marginalize individuals who they don't consider "team players." They want all discussion to be conducted in a controlled setting so they can manage the message.

Having said that, I am not a fan of anonymous "truth to power" statements like this open letter. However, while still an educator I experienced my fair share of marginalization for publishing views that didn't toe the line, so I understand why this teacher took this route.

aep
aep

@Astropig You do not invoke Jesus at a public forum. There are Jewish teachers, Muslim teachers, Buddhist teachers, agnostic teachers, and even atheists. You just do not preach at a school function for teachers, anymore than you preach at a school assembly. 


Vickie Knowles McElroy
Vickie Knowles McElroy

4 years ago under new leadership at a Fulton County Middle School I was put in the same situation. I went from a project based learning model to worksheets and biweekly quizzes mandated by my department for all students. Some of my colleagues were pulling out worksheets from the Soviet Era for a lesson on European Geography. After awhile I couldn't be a part of this non-education and retired. Still miss the kiddos,but not the mandates from the unenlightened.

Swedish House Mafia
Swedish House Mafia

Maureen is all the time writing articles on how the teachers don't have control of their kids and classrooms, allowing them to play on their phones, cheat on their tests and even change grades to make the parents happy.  After reading what Maureen writes, I'm convinced the teachers need some direction from the administration. 

Francine Peterson
Francine Peterson

Sadly, many feel exactly the same as the writer of this letter. Well said, and thank you for taking the time to send it in.

redweather
redweather

A young friend of mine just started his teaching career in DeKalb County. I think I'll put off asking him how things are going. He's probably stuck in line at the copier machine.

altAJC2
altAJC2

When results aren't satisfactory then change must come. Why is that so hard for the letter writer to understand?

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@altAJC2 But some schools and teachers are getting positive results so why should they be penalized? Why have personal evaluations?

ljhays
ljhays

@altAJC2 First question would be what results do we want to see. I suspect many "results" in education are based on what some noneducator thinks is the right way to go because it "worked" in another large organization.

altAJC2
altAJC2

@ljhays

Then let's give parents tuition vouchers and let them decide which results are valid. 

Joad
Joad

Good and great teachers for the most part never become administrators; the majority are failures in the classroom.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

Is Green now trying to outdo Carstarphen?

Ty Jones
Ty Jones

You have to realize that most administrators only have been trained to do is cafeteria duty, bus duty and discipline.......period and the people that put them in these positions think that's all needed to be an AP or Principal and think that putting pressure on teachers will get results!

Tricia Vasquez
Tricia Vasquez

This echoes what many experienced and successful educators are feeling. We are constantly being asked for more yet are undervalued as professionals. Many of us question if we will continue in education. It can seem so useless.

SavTeacher
SavTeacher

The problem with central office staff is that many have forgotten what is is like to be in the classroom, or where never in the classroom long enough to be effective.  If one has not been in the classroom in the past three year, one is woefully out of touch.  We hear about teacher leaders, but no one asks or listens to classroom teachers. It is a pity, for there is no longer an endless supply of teachers coming out of college and university.   There will be a need for classroom teachers, but many good teachers will have left.  People  ask for diversity, but no not respect it when they get it and then wonder why people leave... sad actually.