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Baltimore County teachers not to blame for grading policy problems

TABCO: Baltimore County teachers not to blame for grading policy problems.

Too often, when new school policies or programs falter, teachers are reflexively blamed. I'm sure that thought crossed many teachers' minds when they read parts of The Sun's article on changes to the new BCPS grading policy ("Baltimore County School System Modifies New Grading Policy," Nov. 3)

In an email to teachers the day after The Sun article was published, Baltimore County Public Schools Chief Academic Officer Verletta White made it clear that she does not believe that teachers misinterpreted the policy. She also made it clear that the system must do a better job of clarifying the procedures and offering more opportunities to the teachers. We have worked with Superintendent Dallas Dance, Ms. White and many others on the BCPS staff to implement the new procedures manual. This is a "pilot" year and there are many issues that arise in such a huge undertaking. As with any new initiative, we will have to address the unintended consequences as they arise.

And while it's easy to blame teachers for any problems that arise in public schools, there is much more to the story. Teachers have been asking for a draft of the grading and reporting handbook since last year. Teachers have been asking for sufficient training and time to make sure the new policy is implemented with fidelity, with efficiency and with the kinks and unintended consequences worked out in advance. We know that when new policies and programs are launched without that advance work, snafus almost always follow — we've seen it before.

Teachers are now trying to navigate the confusion and increased workload caused by this rollout and keep our focus where we want it to be: on our students and their success.

Our teachers are the true education experts. We have many ideas about how to improve this policy. I've heard dozens upon dozens of them when I visit schools and talk with teachers every day, and I hope we have the opportunity to make the ideas of our teachers — who know what their students need and know the challenges that the rollout of this policy have led to — a reality. We look forward to working with Mr. Dance, Ms. White and BCPS staff to improve the implementation of this policy and make sure that it is manageable, sensible, reasonable and effective for our students.

Abby Beytin, Towson

The writer is president or the Teachers Association of Baltimore County (TABCO).

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