Monday, September 30, 2013

Calling Out the Bullies

I am the victim of bullying at my school. I am obligated to speak out.

The bullies are taunting me and while I know that names should never hurt me, I’m insulted and offended. I don’t deserve it. The bullies are powerful and threaten my safety and well-being. They infringe on my right to happiness.

I’m a little afraid to name them—bullies punish those who speak up—but the price of not speaking is too much to pay.

The bullies are New York State Commissioner of Education John King, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, their bosses Governor Andrew Cuomo and President Barack Obama, and my school’s administrators. They taunt me as an ineffective teacher and have put me on a teacher improvement plan based on test scores of four students.

I’m calling out the bullies.

I am an eighteen-year public school teacher working with at-risk students and I’m good at it. Students often return to visit or write to say how much our class mattered to them. Parents are grateful that I help their children find better paths through writing and reading. Administrators have applauded my craftsmanship and expertise in observation after observation.

However, in June, one of my students took the English Regents Exam and two of three others took a local exam. The Regents student failed due to struggles unrelated to class and because New York State skewed the grading. Of the three other students, one refused testing, one’s score went down, and the other’s score went up only slightly.

Because of the performance of this tiny sample of students, the bullies labeled me ineffective and put me on a teacher improvement plan. If I am rated ineffective this year, I risk losing tenure and my job. The bullies threaten my security and that of my family.

This ineffective taunting comes even though I was rated over 51 points out of 60 during my classroom observations. By any sensible measure, I am a very good teacher, yet I am bullied nonetheless and labeled ineffective having scored only 56.81 points out of 100.

I’m just one teacher with little power. My local, state, and national unions caved to this bullying system and I have no legal right to appeal the rating. Washington tied state funding to this bullying, Albany passed laws enforcing it, and my administrators bully out of an obligation to follow orders.

Teachers, it is time to stand up and speak out. Bullies fear the light. They scurry for cover when exposed.

I am a very good teacher. I am anything but ineffective. I’m calling out the bullies in Washington, Albany, and my school system. The bullying has to stop. It won’t until teachers, parents, and administrators stand up, speak out, and write on.