A teacher from Illinois has resigned from his job, but not before detailing all the ways his school district is destroying education by lowering standards.
Tom Stukel, an English teacher from Lyons Township High School in the western Chicago suburb of La Grange, Illinois, resigned his job at the end of the month. But on his way out, he delivered a detailed reason for his hasty exit in which he revealed how the school district is dumbing down all its students.
“Based on my 24 years of experience as a high school teacher, it is my opinion that it is immoral to teach the way Lyons Township teachers are being asked to work,” Stukel wrote.
After his list of reasons, Stukel also noted that he tried to alert the school about his concerns, but he was punished, instead. “I was denounced and negatively scolded, told that it’s my fault for not fixing anything that was a problem in my class,” he wrote.
He was also told that if he didn’t do what the administration told him to, he would be fired.
“Parents! I write this to you, not the administration. I care about your students,” he said. “I care that they get the quality education that they deserve and you expect. Parents! Be aware and be proactive to what is happening at your school and your student’s’ classrooms. Quality change will not come from the administration, the board, or even the teachers. The teachers here at LT are wonderful, caring people, but they don’t have a strong enough communal voice to fight against lame policy.
“Parents! It is up to you to make the change you want for your student. Parents! Demand that the policies that are harming your children’s education change,” Stukel concluded.
The list of reasons Stukel gave is stark and disturbing:
1). Homework not scored: Homework (formatives) are no longer scored as any part of the students’ grade. Because of this, an average of 50 percent of my sophomores this year consistently did not do their homework, and 80 percent of my seniors consistently did not do their homework. These students know they will not be marked down, so they don’t think it is important enough to do, even though doing this work in class and at home is an essential part of the learning process. It has had an awful impact on them; we are essentially encouraging the students not to work. The administration believes that formatives should not be counted because the students are learning and have not mastered the skills yet. I agree, in theory, but not in practice. The administration is ignorant of the day-to-day happenings in the classrooms. Most students will not do the work unless they get credit for it. It’s a flawed system based on theory instead of facts/data, and it is hurting the students, creating apathy and idle minds.
2). No due date: The administration forces teachers to not have a set due date on summative assignments (major assignments/essays). For example, if I assign a summative essay to be turned in on February 1st. The students know that they can turn it in on Feb.1st or anytime two weeks after that and I can’t consider it late when it comes to grading. In my opinion, this is teaching them laziness, apathy, and disrespect. Many, about 70% of my seniors turn in their summative assignments late. There are a number of students that wait until that last evening, Feb. 15th (two weeks late), to turn in their work. This practice reinforces a lack of discipline and focus (putting off assignments until the last minute) and mediocrity (many of these assignments turned in late are not well written). Also, since it is an extension of two weeks, we have moved on to new material and skills. Students are not only constantly behind, but they are trying to remember what they need to do on an assignment that was taught to them two weeks ago.
3). Revisions: And then once I grade their summative assignment and turn it back to them, they have two more weeks to decide to revise it for a better grade, even though, in my class, I go over the writing process with every major summative assignment and give feedback on all their drafts multiple times before they turn it in for a grade. This last semester the administration changed the policy to where the students had to turn in the “majority” of their formative assignments in order to get the chance to revise. The problem with that is many students still did not do their homework and did not learn the skills to do well on the summative assignment. Even with this new change, students who revise could be working on a revision that is two months old. This creates more anxiety, which runs counter to the reason the policy was changed. Also, this is not making students “college ready.” Most college students will not get this similar opportunity. I taught the Indiana University literature dual-credit course here at LT last year and we had to follow IU policies; IU has a no revision policy.
4). Failures: Sadly enough, these are becoming less and less, I believe, for the wrong reasons. Instead of teaching discipline and encouraging consequences for actions to teach students that they need to take their education seriously, the policies at LT are reinforcing D standards. Dejectedly, 30 percent of my seniors this year received a D. In the last three or four years the administration has made it their duty to limit failures. However, they are not taking on the main, complex issues of why many students fail or just falter to the easy way out. One initiative is getting rid of standards-based grading for equal-interval grading. In theory, equal-interval says that all letter grades should be equal. Sounds great but in practice that means giving a student credit for not doing anything. If a student does not turn in an essay, he/she receives a 50 percent credit. How does the administration see this as morally just? Giving students credit for doing nothing? Another way is when students fail a course putting them in online classes, where they can make-up semester credit. They take this online course at their own pace in a class called “Academy.” There were over 100 students in the class this year. I talked to one counselor that knew one of her students that finished the program in just a few weeks! An 18 week course reduced to three weeks. And she/he gets the same grade and credit as any student sitting in a class for 18 weeks. What do you think that student learned in that limited time? Another way this “Academy” class was used was with a senior in my class this semester. He was failing because he didn’t do any of the work so he wanted out of my class, in a different one to start over. The administration wouldn’t do that but they put him in this online class so he could get enough credits to graduate, more than half way through the semester. What will happen to more students when they know this exists? It is so immoral.
America, don’t think this is only happening in one suburb of Chicago.
It is happening in every school.
Everywhere.Commentary Education Illinois