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Leveling: What's your story?

By the Notebook on Oct 14, 2011 03:36 PM

by Avi Wolfman-Arent

Updated 10-18 with response from District.

After a tumultuous summer in which she was laid off, rehired, and given her new course roster on the first day of classes, District English teacher Kyla Jones was finally settling into her new surroundings at Overbook High School.

Jones had established promising relationships with the parents of her 9th grade students and was learning valuable skills from a veteran teacher with which she was co-teaching 11th grade English.

The stability wouldn’t last long.

In three “whirlwind” days last week, Jones got notice she would be force-transferred to a new school, quickly picked that new school, and said goodbye to her Overbook students.

“It definitely made my head spin,” Jones said.

As a part of the District’s annual “leveling” process, Jones was moved to compensate for overstaffing at Overbrook and understaffing at other high schools.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers contract specifies class size limits – 30 in grades K-3 and 33 above that – and the District’s process assigns teachers to each school at the start of the year based on its best enrollment estimates.

But teachers can be moved around in mid-October based on how many students actually show up.

In years when the District might have had some money to play with, it tried to avoid the disruptive musical chairs exercise. It hired new teachers where needed, but didn’t decrease the number in schools considered “overstaffed.”  

But this year, when it needs to save every cent it can, leveling was in full swing, snaring teachers like Kyla Jones.

Because there’s “no fat in the budget,” according to PFT spokesperson Barbara Goodman, the District mandated more forced transfers this year than in years past.

Just how many remains unclear. The PFT says it does not keep exact numbers and a request for data from the District is still pending. Updated: This year 84 teachers were transferred, compared to 50 last year. There are no vacancies as result of the leveling process and 42 additional teachers were called back.

What’s more clear is the impact on students and teachers, particularly young ones like Jones who were more likely to be laid off this summer and more likely to be force-transferred during the October leveling process.

Jones spent a year and a half at an accelerated school before getting a position at Overbrook for September. Now, she is at Bartram High in Southwest Philadelphia.

The unnerving experience has Jones considering graduate school as a backup plan. Her Overbook freshmen, just two months into high school, have to get used to a new teacher, while her new Bartram students must get used to her. And vice versa.

Jones thinks that’s unfair.

“The students in this district, every single one I’ve met, they want order, they want routine, they want a quiet classroom,” Jones said.

She says that frequent teacher movement disrupts student learning.

“It doesn’t seem to be a priority of the District to keep people in their positions. As long as there is a body in the classroom it doesn’t matter whose body it is,” Jones said.

What have been your experiences with leveling? If you have been force-transferred this year or know teachers who have been moved, or are a student caught up in this disruptive process, we would like to know.

Please email Avi Wolfman-Arent, call 215-951-0330 ext. 2142, or leave a comment.

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Comments (33)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 14, 2011 5:36 pm

Beyond leveling, the whole lay-off, rehire fiasco has undone everything new teachers worked for in establishing themselves in their schools and communities. It's shameful that no one is held accountable to predicting staffing needs. I can see a 5-10% variance due to uncertainty but what has occurred this past summer is shameful and has caused much unneeded disruption.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 14, 2011 7:44 pm

Ackermania 101.

Submitted by laid off teacher (not verified) on October 14, 2011 7:38 pm

I was laid off and rehired at the last minute, which gave me no time to prepare for the first day or even set up my classroom. I also wanted to return to my old school so I put in a right to return, to my surprise it was granted on Friday late afternoon. I was told in an email to report back to my old school the following day which gave me no time to pack up my classroom, prepare my current students or get any of my affairs in order at what would soon be my old school. When I reported to my new position the Principal put me in a position that I have never taught nor felt comfortable teaching. I feel the District is setting students up for failure by moving teachers around, not checking up on Principals and their mistreating of teachers and students. Did you know that students with learning support IEP's are put in the general education classrooms with little support and are suffering. Someone needs to get this information out to people, there are students reading on a 3rd grade level in a general education 6th grade class. How can we continue to allow the PDS blame teachers for students failing when in reality it is all the districts fault.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 14, 2011 11:29 pm

Wow!!! Someone else has the same classroom dynamics as me. 18 students, 6 with IEP's reading
on levels from 1st grade to 3rd grade in a 6th grade classroom. Go figure. Even my lowest book
is not low enough. I refuse to bring in 1st grade books because of the teasing that will take place. I'm all for inclusion but the when the students are that far behind they need a special ed teacher in the classroom at all times. Between the low reading levels, lack of self-control and impulsive behaviors I'm feeling more like a babysitter than educator. Everyday I feel more and more like I'm failing my students. Honestly, the school day needs to end at noon and mental health services should be provided the remainder of the day. The students are very angry and explosive. It's too many extreme behaviors in one room. Whatever happened to emotionally disturbed classes? Everyone in special ed is not an learning disabled many are emotionally disturbed. It's just really frustating to teach in this hostile environment. No wonder the students aren't equpped to pass the state test. There are too many stressors in the classrooms. Thanks for listening.

Submitted by Old Hand (not verified) on October 15, 2011 10:19 am

I hate to say, "I told you so," but if you'll read my post of a few weeks back, you'll note that I sounded a warning on this when I observed that 30+ current openings in the District were labeled "ES" - Emotional Support.

I have been a Special Ed teacher for 26 years. I am the last of the dinosaurs. Virtually everyone I started out with bailed from the discipline years ago. The survival rate of Special Ed teachers is about the same as that of kamikaze pilots - and for the same reason. It's a fast track to a cemetery. In my experience, the only ones who last are those who teach "low incidence" (severely impaired) pupils to- perhaps- Life Skills level. Or those who teach well-behaved students who are TRULY Learning Disabled. I use the word "TRULY" in allusion to a very dirty trick that has become commonplace in the past decade or so when it comes to hiring SPED instructors. Since virtually NO ONE has either the desire or the infinite amount of masochistic patience required to teach for any length of time ES pupils (sometimes called SED: Severely Emotionally Disturbed or ED/BD: Emotionally Disturbed/Behaviorally Disordered. The acronyms become sweeter-sounding; the outrageous behavior remains the same), savvy school administrators now classify such thugs as "Learning Disabled" or "Dual Diagnosis." BEWARE OF THESE TERMS!!! It means that you are about to have a classroom from Hell dropped upon your head.

You say that your 6th graders are "very angry" and "explosive" with a "lack of self-control" and "impulsive behavior." You say that you are in a "hostile environment" with "too many stressors". Then you say that your pupils "need a Special Education teacher in the classroom" and you wonder, "Whatever happened to emotionally disturbed classes?" Here's the answer in brief: THERE ARE NO E.D. CLASSES BECAUSE THERE IS NO ONE TO TEACH THEM. THERE IS NO ONE TO TEACH THEM BECAUSE THE SHELF LIFE OF A MODERN SPECIAL ED TEACHER IS ABOUT THAT OF A FRUIT FLY.

We Special Ed teachers are not a separate species, somehow magically gifted with the power to withstand verbal abuse and physical assaults on a day-to-day basis without its taking a huge toll on us. Any dummy with a teaching certificate can teach a class of well-behaved students who are years below level in Reading and Math. It becomes a whole new ballgame when those pupils are screaming, "White b**ch Motherf***er!" at you or threatening to rape you in the parking lot or stabbing you with a toothbrush sharpened into a shiv. And it becomes infinitely worse when your principal asks, "And what did YOU do to provoke it?" NONE of this is worth the extra $1400 or so that the SDP gives Special Education instructors each year. And none of it compensates for the endless rounds of IEP writing/meetings the SPED teacher must suffer, either.

Each school year, I thank God for the newest battalion of chipper, bright-eyed schoolgirls who descend on my department with their newly-minted teaching certificates and their speech peppered with allusions to Erik Erikson's stages of psychosocial development, and their passion to save the underprivileged of Philadelphia, and their heartfelt advice to me on all the things I'm doing wrong. And each Christmas, I see them slink out of the schoolhouse with their tails between their legs, never to return.

I am 48 years old and I look 20 years older. I have colitis, bleeding ulcers, and a perpetual infection I suffer from a stab wound I received 11 years ago in the classroom. I also have high blood pressure and I've had 2 mini-strokes. This puts me on par with other Special Ed teachers, who suffer (by far) the highest rate of death and disability of all the teaching disciplines. It might also serve as a warning to regular classroom teachers who, in the name of "inclusion" (a nice-sounding civil rights motto which actually means, "We can save a lot of money if we dump five or ten of these Special Ed kids into a classroom with 20 regular kids") are beginning to see more and more stress-inducing psychosis in their own rooms. Trust me ...WHAT I AM SO WILL YOU BE!

Each week, myself and a number of my colleagues meet here to discuss our school week, to read THE NOTBOOK, and to sometimes write in - and also to offer moral support to each other. THIS is what I look forward to - this and a strange dream I sometimes have that 26 years ago, I had picked a profession a lot less deadly than teaching Special Education in Philadelphia.

Maybe working as a mine sweeper.

Submitted by Regular old teacher (not verified) on October 15, 2011 2:06 pm

AMEN. As a regular ed subject area teacher, several of my classes contain up to 1/4th IEP kids of all stripes. I've opposed inclusion from the get-go, even though I have a SPED masters from one of the top 3 Special Ed programs in the country. It doesn't work -- it isn't humanly possible to have 33 kids in a class, 5 to 8 of them with variant disabilities, and expect us to reach them all.

We don't have the will in this country to really teach all kids. That would take money for personnel on a vast scale. We're just not interested.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 15, 2011 5:04 pm

You are a coward with no self respect, no dignity and you care nothing about the poor kids in front of you. All you want are your time off, salary and benefits !!!!

Yes, you and I have heard all of that and more--your post is right on point. Kudos in all directions. Inclusion is such a farce isn't it. It saves money end of story plus the trendy know nothings from downtown are always about the business of condemning you when you get hit, stabbed and in other ways abused. The brand new teachers with their 4.0 in college have their asses handed to them in about 3 days. Please let me take you to dinner----if you are able to walk and talk at the same time about 26 years of torture.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 16, 2011 1:34 am

It saddens me to hear your story, but I'm not surprised, since I'm living it myself. I hope you have at least a few supportive colleagues and administrators, and that you can find time to do something FOR YOURSELF every day to alleviate some of the stress.

It's a shame that the district is still staffing its classrooms with as many new teachers as possible, rewarding their fresh-faced innocence with all this praise, while condemning the rest of us as dinosaurs. Truth of the matter is, there's no incentive to keep good, experienced teachers in the system, because first-year teachers cost so much less and are so easily replaced. (Not to say that there aren't good first-year teachers -- but it takes time to master any skill, and we should all be improving every year.)

Of course, our students are suffering, but the government doesn't seem to care. They've got that covered by diverting money from schools into prisons. I wish some of the parents who constantly complain about us for trying to drum some sense into their children would take some of their anger and direct it toward the politicians who have already written their children off as future prisoners.

It's about time we organize -- and I don't just mean PFT. Teachers, caring parents and students need to work together to support each other and public education. We need to come up with a way to help the kids with emotional problems, hopefully without so much pointless paperwork. Personally, I'm going with a spiritual approach. Some days, it seems like one step forward and two steps back, but it's still more effective than daily reports, behavior charts or parent calls.

I was talking to a retired teacher the other day, and she left me with one word of encouragement: PSERS. I hope and pray that we all live long enough, and enjoy good enough health, to enjoy our retirement and maybe even see some fruit from all of this labor. Until then, do what you can to take care of yourself and find some joy in every day.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 16, 2011 12:20 am

Wow. 18 students, and only 6 with IEPs? Try 32, with 12 IEPs (and several more needing fast-track CSAPs). Most days, it feels like an insane asylum (with an emphasis on the "insane" rather than the "asylum"). I'm with you on ending the school day at noon, since half the kids think they're through learning for the day once they go to lunch. Wouldn't it be great if we could just take the serious students back after lunch to work on enrichment activities, and send the others out for small group instruction in whatever academic, social or emotional skills they lack?

Still, there's nothing inherently wrong with inclusion, and a whole lot right about it. Just because a student needs extra support in reading and/or math doesn't mean s/he doesn't have other skills to contribute to a healthy classroom environment. All students can benefit from being exposed to higher level material and different ways of thinking. I've taught children who struggled with decoding, but had interpersonal skills off the charts. I've had more issues with disruption from regular ed students who were perfectly capable of handling grade-level work, but who chose to mouth off and destroy everything in sight because it was more fun than thinking.

Some things are definitely going to suffer in this economic climate. Discipline and safety are the first things to go. No matter how strong a teacher you are, the more outnumbered you are by the students, the harder it is to ensure everyone's safety and education. Forget field trips -- I can't even seem to take my students to the cafeteria without somebody going AWOL. Administrators love to see small group instruction, but it's a little hard to pull off when you're constantly diverting your attention to scan the room for impending fights, acts of vandalism, cell phone use or other off-task behavior.

Unfortunately, it will probably take some major tragedy before the folks who could loosen up the purse strings will take our students' safety and education seriously. Personally, I think we should have kept Ackerman on for the duration of her contract, and stuck her in the rubber room with all of our disruptive students. She would have had no problem earning her pay, since she's had so much success teaching rocks to read.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 26, 2011 10:09 pm

OUCH----Harsh stuff. If the politicians have their way--which is to make money, of course, the Public Schools will be all IEP Students. We better wise up to their strategy. They want to rid themselves of the poor, once and for all--make no mistake about it. Using charters and vouchers is the way to keep the poor, hopelessly poor which pretending to help those same people. Scam City 101.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 17, 2011 8:45 pm

Reading these posts almost brings me to tears. As adults, we have the skills or should have the skills to adjust to such changes, but the children are in way prepared to handle these challenges and many of them will not get over the changes. I see the same thing, placing special education students with their same aged peers but without the skills or the supports in place that they need in order to feel a sense of success in their classes. A large percent of these children are not at grade level in reading or in math and they are not able to keep up the pace with their peers. I wonder who dreamed of this type of learning for children who aren't prepared. It is just a shame and what is going to happen is that our special education students are going to get further and further behind and end of become significant behavior problems or will end of leaving school when they are legally able to do so. And in the end, who will pay for these children who will become adults who are unemployable? What will happen to these children? And by the way, there are emotional support classrooms, but many of these classrooms have children in them that are significantly emotionally disturbed and their behaviors warrant placement in a more restrictive environment and the time that it takes to get the child placed is unbelievable. The documentation that is needed is unbelievable. And these same children will be adults before we know it and they will have no skills to make them employable.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 29, 2011 10:28 pm

Are you kidding??? The whole inclusion model is designed to CUT DOLLARS. Education is not even a consideration. Of course, inclusion is a gigantic fiasco. It makes the class more unmanageable but they don't care because it saves more money for the crooks to steal. By the way, inclusion is NOT done in affluent suburban areas nearly as much. Guess why?? The parents are richer and won't stand for it and THEY VOTE in elections. The whole notion that putting special needs kids in academic classes with non special needs kids is a dream that nobody asked for. Yes, here and there, some special needs kid will benefit but overwhelmingly, it's s a total nightmare and failure for the kids--poor kids almost always, of course but it saves money and that's the prioity.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 15, 2011 9:19 am

I hope Michael Basch doesn't read the comments.

Submitted by Steve Harvey (not verified) on October 15, 2011 9:17 pm

My special ed kids get 45 minutes a day with the special ed teacher. That is, of course, if she is not in some secret conference or something with the principal in which case they get no time with her. I have no extra supplies for them on their levels or help in the class, but that doesn't seem to bother the 440 folk. They seem to think they can hide all the things they are not doing within the CSAP process and make it all right.

Submitted by Audax (not verified) on October 15, 2011 9:05 pm

I got levelled internally at my school. Went from teaching what I consider to be 3 preps to what I'd consider to be 5 (which is a clear contract violation). Of course it has been explained that isn't the case, but I'll let you figure it out. I was teaching a "Freshman Seminar" class, 3 World Histories, and a World History in the BLOCK period we have (which since it's a block means it has to be taught a double time, so technically it shouldn't be comparable to the three Worlds. Now I teach the Seminar, 1 African American History, 1 African American History ESOL (with almost all "Beginning/Entering" students), 1 World History, and then the Block World History. It has been a nightmarish 2 weeks. I've finally gotten into the swing of things but this has been tough.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 16, 2011 10:18 am

Is the ESOL class co-taught? Are you ESL certified? It really worries me in this district to have so many teachers doing what amounts to specialist positions without any added support. I know you differentiate and do everything you can, but I don't understand why the administration is putting ESOL students in isolated classes unless it is with a bilingual teacher.

Especially Beginning/Entering. I was ESOL last year, and I had to work very closely with these students through all their other classes to make sure they were getting anything. It isn't feasible for the classroom teacher to do this with a full class size.

Other people have been given a period like this with Special Ed and ES students-- they can't just put them all in one class and label it the "Special Ed Science" class unless the students are actually getting the services they need.

Submitted by Audax (not verified) on October 16, 2011 6:07 pm

No co-teaching, not ESOL certified, just doing a lot of talking to people who are and getting the kids some vocabulary. Most of the students are very capable in terms of being able to do higher level thinking but don't have the vocabulary. Someone (one of the ESOL teachers) told me to focus the class on reading and vocabulary skills, so that's what I've been doing. We also watch videos and I stop them way more than I have to when I show something similar to the "regular" ed kids.

Oh, and of course 4 days into me having the class, 440 was out observing my school and one of the main ESOL guys happened to sit through my class. We were doing some geography stuff but when I used the World History book instead of the AAH book he flipped his lid, until I calmly explained that the AAH book didn't have a usable map of Africa whereas the one from the WH book did. He didn't know that fact but more importantly, who cares what resource I'm using so long as the kids are getting the material...and they were!

Submitted by Philly Parent and Teacher (not verified) on October 16, 2011 8:00 pm

You've been put in a very difficult situation. Someone from 440 being clueless is more the norm than abnormal. And to think they rate us in a walk through...

That said, there are good resources on social studies/ESOl. Beside vocabulary, which should not only presented verbally but in writing, assessing prior knowledge and using a lot of visuals is helpful. Students have prior knowledge although it may not be about US history/civics or it may be a different interpretation in any history/civics/geogrpahy course. (Yes, geography is not "universal" any more than history or civics). Students should be able to share their interpretations / knowledge to provide to the multiple perspectives provided in a good social studies class. Using visuals may seem obvious. When I have students evaluate / examine primarily sources, I include some visuals for the ELLs. Do you have a Smart Board or at least an overhead projector? 40 year old technology is better than nothing.

Here are three resources:

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 16, 2011 10:02 am

Leveling at my school has meant that the students are really just now starting the school year. We were severely understaffed and many teachers are being pulled from their old schools and sent here. I was recalled a little over a week ago and am, voluntarily, teaching outside my certifications.

On my first day, the content area and even the grade level I would be teaching changed 3 times.

A couple of teachers are on their third school of the year. The students are having problems because they thing everything will once again be different tomorrow. Teachers aren't settling in to their classrooms because they know they might switch rooms or even content areas next week.

I agree with what someone said about 440 not caring who is in a class as long as they can stuff somebody in there. We really are treated like we are interchangeable but the students see us as anything but. My students have mostly spent their whole education in schools where the only constant is change, and the vast majority of them are below level in literacy and numeracy.

If the district wants to even start increasing achievement we need to stabilize schools and classrooms.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 29, 2011 11:47 pm

The priority is to destroy Public Ed. in INNER CITIES. Give silly charter schools to Politicians' friends so they both can make money skimming from the real schools. It's another attack from the Institutional Racism crowd, many of whom are Tea Party Nuts. Obama has done nothing for the people who elected him President---NOTHING !!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 15, 2011 9:10 pm

How can you have order when some turnaround schools have administrators without certification, who dont have the credentials to teach or kids. Im a hard working teacher and its been a chaos at my school, no one is consistent and its affecting the kids..

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 14, 2012 3:06 am

Let's also be aware that there are teachers that have been placed into positions for which they are not certified, and therefore lack experience teaching those subjects, which also creates chaos.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 13, 2012 9:54 pm

If I become the mayor of Philadelphia, the first thing I will do is make it mandatory for all teachers in school district of Philadelphia to have a residence in the city of Philadelphia. Most of the teachers who work in sdp reside in the suburbs and send their kids to the suburb schools. When you think a certain school district is a good place to make money but not fit to educate their kids then the problem arises. Make teachers realize that if you work hard and contribute to the school district in a productive way then your children are also benefitted and the reverse is true.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on January 13, 2012 10:09 pm

There was a residency requirement for about twenty-five years. What it did mostly is cause many really good teachers to leave the district or not choose to stay after their initial employment year. Many of our suburbanite teachers have been some of the most dedicated teachers to Philadelphia's schoolchildren.

What we need most is a way to attract Great teachers to our district any way we can. Teachers count most in education and we need to get Great teachers and keep great teachers any way we can.

To get good teachers and keep them, we must treat them like professionals with the dignity, respect and voice which professionals deserve. Studies have revealed that the teachers in foreign countries with high achieving school systems, teach because of the respect those cultures give their teachers.

In our District's history we have had periods where teachers were empowered to create their own programs within schools. They usually worked best because the teachers owned what they created and did what they did because it worked best for children.

It was known as "teacher empowerment."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 13, 2012 10:11 pm

The situation in the district right now is particularly frightening, Rich. Fear of impending layoffs is not encouraging teachers to stay and teach or apply for that matter, in the district. A lot of talent is not coming this way because the district is not offering much anymore. It is painful to go to school, get a degree in teaching, actually teach for 1-2 years and then get laid off---without there being much hope for being rehired. I am particularly concerned about this myself, and worried about what this upcoming school year will have in store for new teachers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 14, 2012 6:48 am

I was one that was given a lay off notice in June of last year. Thankfully, I was recalled days before school was to re-open in September. I am fearful that the same thing is going to happen again due to the article in last night's paper that more cuts are going to occur over the next several weeks. Teachers won't be cut now because it is mid year, but what about in June? Teachers will probably be cut again.
What I would like to know is what more can be cut? Has anyone thought of how all these cuts will and have impacted on the children of Philadelphia who have no other choice but to attend public schools and are not able to get and stay in the charter schools?
Soon, the School District of Philadelphia is not going to exist and I personally believe it is by design. Some terrible decisions have been made on the parts of individuals who were in power to make decisions regarding the School District and these individuals got away with making these decisions and they ran with the money as well. Someone needs to hold these people accountable.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 14, 2012 8:05 am

Yes they will be laying off teachers again. And this time most likely, they will not be rushing to rehire them the day before school because they will be more strategic in how many they lay off. The budget for this current year is still not fixed. We haven't received Corbett's budget for NEXT year, but he's already indicated that schools will have to do more with less. So every school will probably have 1 or 2 or 5 less teachers.

Add to that x amount of schools closing next year due to facilities management plan, -all of those teachers have to be reassigned. Then x amount of schools will be converted to charters through the renaissance program. All of those teachers have to be reassigned as well. That equals a certain amount of displaced teachers. Now subtract from that however many retirements, and resignations the district gets and that will equal how many displaced teachers with no place to go.

Yes. lay offs are coming... Again.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 14, 2012 7:53 pm

Yeap, but hopefully, I will be able to collect unemployment and be hassled about that through the District and then be called back again. And to make matters worse, I just found out last night that when I was laid off this past June, I paid for COBRA health insurance, that I am entitled to a refund of the money that I paid for my health insurance because if you were laid off as of 7/1/2011 or later and were restored, benefits will be reinstated retroactively to August 1 with no break in coverage. So, I have to call AmeriHealth and try to get my money back that I paid them. I wonder how many people who were laid off knew that and got their money back. There is no money now, and there will be fewer schools and no money again in September and the same mess is going to happen again.
And here I am just coming back from Staples spending $60.97 for supplies for my classroom. It's not my students fault that the District is in such a mess.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on January 14, 2012 8:10 am

I don't know what to tell you but sometimes it takes two or three or four years to find a home in a supportive school community. I do have empathy for you though.

To be honest with you it comes down to the recurring theme of man's inhumanity to man. It also has to do with the psychology of "proximity" in decision-making. Those who stand far away from the effects of their decisions cannot possibly really understand the effects of those decisions on real people.

I once wrote about the "Milgram studies" (1963, 1974) on obedience to the commands of authority (the electrical shock studies) representing the proposition that decisions on the welfare of children and their teachers cannot be ethically made from afar. What I said was, "A highly significant result of those studies show us that ethical decisions are more likely to be made appropriately if we actually see first hand the results of our actions."

That is why bureaucratic governance is such an inherently poor form of governance -- those who make the decisions are far removed from seeing and feeling the effects of those decisions.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 13, 2012 11:40 pm

Our former dunce of a mayor also thought like you. "Make teachers realize that if you work hard" is so typical of the anti-teacher mentality too many Philadelphians have in this city. If you truly think teachers in Philly don't work hard, you are a fool. Why would any teacher want to teacher in a city with people who think the way you do? What about teachers who have no children? You think they should be punished too? I lived in Philly, but moved out to live with the woman I married. Guess I was suppose to stay single. Philly has enough trouble keeping teachers at it is already. People like you are only making it harder to keep them.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 14, 2012 7:19 am

I'm a Philly parent and teacher. We live in a working class neighborhood because it is where I, as a single parent, can afford to live. That said, as a school district parent (of "average" children who are NOT at Masterman, Central, Penn Alexander, Meredith, etc.), I have insights into the SDP that a teacher whose children go to private/suburban schools do not have. Being a parent in the SDP is at least as difficult as being a teacher. I also know what it is like to live with the tension and upheaval in many Philly neighborhoods. I do not go home to a lawn / driveway / etc. I go home to a row house - similar to most of my students. I hear the same sounds, smells, etc. ( Granted, there are many Philadelphia neighborhoods that are very similar to the suburbs - Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy, Greater Northeast, Overbrook Park, ETC. and there are cushy areas like Center City, Queen Village, etc. - so teachers can "escape" if they like and still live in Philadelphia.)

"Good" teachers can live anywhere but knowing the reality of parenting in Philadelphia and dealing with the SDP as a parent provides insights that no one who hasn't dealt with the drama can appreciate.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 14, 2012 10:44 am

It follows, then, that would send your own children to a highly disadvantaged school in the highly disadvantaged neighborhood tat you would willingly live in, right? It would also be your obligation to make sure that your kids have a scripted curriculum, taught by a first or second year teacher that will be replaced very two years, and maybe a principal whose sole mission in life is to establish a punitive environment or both children and teachers. Right?

Submitted by keingkup (not verified) on January 24, 2012 8:34 pm

My special ed kids get forty five minutes a day with the particular ed teacher. That's, in fact, if she is not in some secret conference or one thing with the principal during which case they get no time with her. I've no additional supplies for them on their levels or assist in the class, but that doesn't seem to hassle the 440 folk. They seem to think they will cover all the things they aren't doing inside the CSAP course of and make it all right.

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