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‘Day of Action’ to protest new teaching regulations

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One of the nation’s largest teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers, is starting a campaign against the new education reform being implemented throughout the country by naming Dec. 9 as “The National Day of Action.”

According to AFT’s new campaign website: “Teachers, parents, students and communities have been facing unprecedented attacks on their public schools, jobs and civil rights.”

The day of action is taking place in 60 different cities across the country in efforts to halt the reform.

One of the reasons for the protest, specifically in Ohio, is the new teacher evaluations, which are designed to determine whether or not every teacher in every school in the state is qualified to continue teaching. This new evaluation system could be costing some teachers their jobs.

“We feel if we can provide feedback to the teachers and help them become better educators then they will do a better job of educating the students and the students will do a better job at performing and being successful in the future,” said John Charlton, a spokesperson from the Ohio Department of Education.

Under the current law, starting this year, teachers must be evaluated on their performance through a rating system of “accomplished,” “skilled,” “developing” or “ineffective.”  The complete process involves two 30-minute observations, classroom walkthroughs, conferences with the observed teacher before and after observations, and an annual written report.

In the Athens City School District, the new reform is becoming overwhelming, said Carl Martin, Athens City School District’s superintendent.

“I think the evaluations are important, and I don’t have any problem with the teaching standards, but the process and the amount of work involved in trying to evaluate every teacher every year is just not logistically workable, and it takes the principles away from every other duty they have in the school,” Martin said.

Martin, a superintendent in the district for 19 years, explains that the district is working to adjust to the new evaluations, but there are many requirements to fulfill, specifically with the addition of the third grade reading guarantee.

According to the Department of Education website, starting in kindergarten until third grade, all students will be evaluated to determine if they are reading as well as they should be.

“There is a chance that if a child is not reading at the third grade level, [he/she] could be retained. It’s a real complicated piece of legislation that calls for a lot of time and testing. So we are just now into it, just trying to implement it and understand it,” Martin said.

The guarantee states that each school must work on the child’s “reading health” by maintaining a reading plan and keeping up with the child’s improvements.

“Like most goals, if you have very significant levels of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, then it takes a little longer. It takes a lot more time to help rid of those levels,” Martin said.

The new learning standards, implemented in 2010 and a significant aspect of the new education reform, offer a more open core curriculum and Charlton believes this will help students.

“There are fewer standards, but it allows educators to go more in depth so they actually would have time in the classroom to actually go more in depth in that subject area…as opposed to having the students learn the material and then just regurgitate it back,” Charlton said. “I think that there are some educators that are feeling a little bit overwhelmed. However, when you talk about the new learning standards, there seems to be a lot of positive feedback; educators like the idea that they can go a little bit deeper.”

According to Martin, however, some of the education laws are starting to interfere and could leave a bad taste in the mouths of his teachers, much like the ones protesting across the country next Monday.

“Between the teacher evaluation system and the third grade guarantee along with all other requirements we have, it really has taken away from a lot of instructional time,” Martin said.

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