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In Balto. Co., teachers are frustrated and children are suffering [Letter]

EducatorsElementary SchoolsSchools

I am responding to your article "Baltimore County curriculum contract ended amid feuding" (April 27) by Liz Bowie. I am retiring after teaching elementary school in Baltimore County Public Schools for 28 years — 27 of which were fabulous, this past year a nightmare. In April, 2013 I wrote to Abby Beytin, the president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County to say that the elementary teachers would have a tsunami of the worst order in the fall due to an apparent lack of a language arts curriculum. I asked if she had given that urgent message to the superintendent and everyone in the language arts department — no reply.

In December I wrote to the Baltimore County delegates and senators. Del. Pat McDonough tried to get an audit passed to account for the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been wasted by Superintendent Dallas Dance (House Bill 766). It did not fly. I wonder why?

My daughter has been a change management consultant for years in the public sector. Even with years of training for change, she said there is only a 70 percent success rate. Change is very difficult. Daniel Pink in his book Drive says that true motivation comes from three elements — autonomy, mastery and purpose. The teachers at BCPS had all of these in past years, but not anymore. Most teachers love change and thrive on it. But what we have experienced is the opposite of the correct way to implement it.

BCPS teachers — among the best in the world — have been told that not only what we have been teaching is wrong, but how we have been teaching is wrong. Our heads are spinning because we are being told that we have to use methods that we know do not allow children to access important skills. Where is the research to back this up? Where is the training? A new $10 million reading series was purchased in the fall so we would have materials to use to teach reading. Ironically, it has all these skill pieces that are essential, but we were told we are not allowed to use them. We are doing what we are being told under threat of being rated "less than effective." Those who are doing what they know is best have to hide it. There has been a pervasive atmosphere of fear. Professionals are afraid to speak out because they believe they will lose their jobs.

Next year there will be changes to science and math and the use of computers when we are still trying to figure out the "new" way in language arts. If all of the above is the best way for students to learn, then the MSA scores in July should be through the roof. If they are not, do not blame the teachers.

The most blatant misnomer is the "TEAM BCPS" label that is on every communication. The Sun article says that two contractors "received the highest rating for a county panel of teachers and administrators." No one from Greenwood has ever asked for any input from any stakeholder — parents, administrators, teachers or students — in the years or months before any decision has been made. Any time teachers see something we are to use or do, it is for the first time and we are told it is "not negotiable."

Everyone is telling me how lucky I am to be leaving BCPS. At this point many of us are suffering from PTSD. I am shocked that after all the negative press about BCPS this past year in The Sun, hundreds, if not thousands, of parents have not been storming the gates at Greenwood because their children cannot get these years back.

The main positive we have going for us is that we still have our smiling students to get us through the day. At this point why would anyone want to send their children to BCPS? Why would anyone want to teach there? How many years will our precious students have to suffer before someone figures out that this experiment is the biggest debacle in the history of public education?

Gloria Roe

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