An Open Letter to Campbell Brown from a Teacher on Leave

Dear Ms. Brown,

I saw your interview with Stephen Colbert. I wish I could have been one of those protesters outside the studio. You see, I don’t support people who are not educational experts attempting to reform or really even discuss education in such a public forum. That may be because I am a teacher.

I am certified by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to teach Secondary English for 99 years; in other words, I have earned my permanent certification. I have a Master of Education plus sixty additional graduate credits. I have been in the trenches for eleven years. In those eleven years, I taught English and reading and remedial reading to students in grades seven, eight, nine, ten, and eleven. I also tutored students who were performing below grade level and who were not proficient on our standardized state assessments. I was considered a teacher leader in my building, and I was hired to be an Instructional Coach (i.e. a teacher who coaches teachers on strategies in the classroom) for one school year. That position lasted only a year because the grant that funded the positions expired and the Instructional Coaching positions were dissolved. During my eleven years – yes, I earned my tenure during those years – I received satisfactory ratings. My students also scored some of the highest marks on their standardized writing tests of any students across the state, and I was recognized this past school year by the head principal because my students achieved academic growth above the predicted levels. Despite all of my success as an educator, I am taking a leave of absence for this upcoming school year to pursue freelance writing because I disagree with the idea that “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” THIS is transparency in education.

Unlike you, I am not funded by any political backers. Well, to be fair, you wouldn’t reveal who is funding your group, lest they be subjected to harassment. If only teachers had such a luxury! I do not have legal counsel. I do not have anyone doing pro bono work to find the latest statistics and jargon to use in a marketing (well, let’s be honest here – smearing) campaign against teacher unions. And, in the name of TRANSPARENCY, let’s be honest again: you and your group are against public educators and unions, but you are hiding behind the issue of teacher tenure.

You see, if you had done your homework, you would have found that teacher tenure is not a guarantee to never receive a pink slip. I know you alluded to that fact during your face-to-face, but your spin may have confused some people. So, in the name of TRANSPARENCY, let’s make it clear: teacher tenure does not guarantee that teachers can teach until they die. This is not the United States Supreme Court, after all. If you really want to attack tenure, let’s attack the system that can allow you to work until the day you die; you still retain your black robe, even if you decide to put religious and corporate rights above individual rights. Their effectiveness rating is not very high at the moment, and their approval ratings are very low. Maybe you should find a group to go after those Justices, in the name of that “equality” you keep mentioning. I mean, if we’re going after tenure that seems outrageous, let’s go after the most unjust tenure system in this country.

But, I digress. Yes, you pointed out that teachers receive due process and that it still can take hundreds of days to get a teacher fired. You also pointed out that it’s often the policy of last-one-in-first-one-out when school districts need to cut professional staff positions. And, you recognized the fact that it can take three years to determine the effectiveness of a teacher. So, you don’t agree with the least senior teachers being let go, even though they have not had the adequate amount of time to prove their effectiveness? This is starting to smell like a double standard.

Are there teachers who deserve to be fired? Yes, just as there are individuals in any number of professions who deserve to be fired. If teachers are harming students or violating their contracts, they should be fired. I’m not sure that you’ll find many teachers who disagree. But, if you are simply using the statistics you flaunted during the interview to determine teacher effectiveness, you are playing a very dangerous game. You see, I analyze language. That’s part of my job description. You came armed and ready with what you thought was your silver bullet: 31% of NY students are reading on grade level. That’s the point you were sure to emphasize. But, those of us who are in the business of educating realize you stopped a little short of yourself. Typically, when we discuss reading ability, we talk about students who are reading below grade level, on grade level, and above grade level. You merely pointed out the average students. How many are above grade level, Ms. Brown? I have a feeling that statistic of yours may change a bit. You may want to alert your spin machine to this one. Trust the lady with the teaching degree.

Also, I cheered a little when Mr. Colbert questioned you about making the resources students receive – specifically money – equal, since you are doing this in the name of educational equality. I was disappointed, however, when he did not push this issue any further. You see, to be fair and truly TRANSPARENT, we need to know how many of those students were reading on grade level when they entered their particular grades. You see, we don’t get to pick and choose who walks into our classrooms. We have students entering kindergarten who have never seen a book, who have never held a crayon, and who don’t even know that words, much less letters, exist in written form. We have ESL and ELL students who cannot speak English, yet the state testing system (at least ours in PA) requires they take the standardized tests in English. I am not complaining. And, I certainly am not blaming the children as Mr. Colbert so facetiously suggested. Rather, I am living in reality. All public educators are.

And, if you really want to talk educational statistics, we don’t just need to know how many students started the year reading on grade level. We need to know how many of those students are living in poverty. Countless studies have shown the direct correlation between students’ socioeconomic status and educational achievement. If 31% of students who are living in poverty are reading on grade level, we need to stand up and applaud those NY educators your group essentially is attacking. Even more important, according to some experts in education, is the percentage of students who have an IEP. Because if their written IEP goal is to read with a particular percentage at their actual reading level, not their grade level, and their teachers helped them to achieve that goal, that is another statistic we need to know and applaud.

Look at it this way: If a dentist from a rural community offers to work pro bono at the dental clinic and 10 patients walk in, all with nearly every one of their teeth rotting out of their mouths, we are not going to measure that dentist’s effectiveness by how many healthy teeth his patients have when they leave the clinic. We are going to rate his effectiveness by how many teeth he was able to save, and his patients’ oral health over time. It’s the same with teachers. We can’t control how much knowledge and prior learning and life experience our students possess their first day in our classrooms. We have to work with what they arrive with and then “grow” them from there. If none of the dentists’ patients have to have another tooth pulled after the initial visit, he’s effective. And, if all of the teachers’ students leave their rooms having achieved one year’s worth of growth, they’ve been effective teachers.

I am sure that legal team of yours will take issue with some of my points. And, I’m sure some researchers and “educational reformists” will attack every fiber of my literary being. But, in this year off, I feel a little more free to speak for the teachers who are unable to speak for themselves because of the culture that is being perpetuated by groups such as yours. In this age of undermining the profession – yes, teaching still is a profession despite efforts of groups like yours – educators are hesitant to speak up for themselves. Is it any wonder, when they are under attack at every turn from people who don’t hold teaching certificates, who never have taken an education class, and who have no more stake in “educational reform” than a politician?

It’s a shame that teachers cannot defend themselves because of the political backlash and push to weaken teacher unions. It’s a bigger shame that instead of using your public standing and credentials to help teachers to have a voice, you are using it to cut us down. Maybe if people listened to the educators, the true experts who actually deserve to have a stake in the discussion, we could fix this “crisis.”

In the meantime, those teachers who are dedicated to educational equality will continue to prepare to go back to the classroom in a few short weeks. They will face uncertainty and more stress in an already stressful profession because of your group. But, because they are professionals, those NY educators will approach those students, even those whose parents are filing the suit, with the intent to help them learn and achieve and grow. Who knows? They may even be effective teachers this year, despite all of the attacks from those who are not experts in their field.

With as much respect as I can muster,

Bailey Shawley
Teacher on Leave

**Update: TRUTH In Teaching Announcement**

I am so pleased to announce that I am undertaking a huge venture and yet another leave-of-absence leap of faith: TRUTH In Teaching, my new website and blog, created especially for teachers. When I wrote this letter in early August, I never imagined the outpouring of support I would receive. The letter has gone viral, I have received hundreds of emails, and teachers continue to comment and speak out here. In all of the correspondence, one thing has become abundantly clear: teachers need a voice but are afraid to speak up because of backlash from the public and their administrators. So, I am thrilled to announce TRUTH In Teaching.

My TRUTH partner and I share a passion for helping teachers in every way that we can to combat education reform, high-stakes testing, and the war on teachers. We know this will not be an easy journey, and we don’t expect to influence policymakers and big businesses who are trying to take over public education… at least, not right away. But, we do hope to keep the discussion that started with the letter going. And, we hope that teachers feel more confident in joining the discussion to get out the TRUTH about what it’s like to teach in today’s public education system, so that parents and policymakers alike can start shifting the conversation back to education and learning and away from the numbers.

So, for those of you who found me because of this letter, please check out TRUTH In Teaching and follow us there, too. We’d love it if you’d share the link on Facebook, or better yet, Like us to help get out the word! We will be devoting as much time as possible to TRUTH very soon.

TRUTH exists solely for the teachers. We hope the resources on the site will be invaluable tools for you in the upcoming school year and that you visit the site often for information, graphic organizers, lesson plan ideas, or maybe just a laugh at a blog post. Ultimately, we hope to create a culture of education that focuses more on helping students and teachers thrive than it does on a standardized test score or teacher or school grade. Teach on!

PS – Those of you who joined the “What the Hell” journey here on Life Under the Ponytail for my take on life and parenting will be happy to know that this new venture will separate my two “lives.” I will be writing the teaching content on TRUTH In Teaching and the life and parenting content on Life Under the Ponytail, which was the original plan for this blog. And, if you’re looking for even more to read, check out my other latest project, The Brewery Blog. Thanks for sticking with me on this unbelievable ride!

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70 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Campbell Brown from a Teacher on Leave

  1. Excellent letter! Thank you for talking the time time to write it. I teach in FL and I’m sure Campbell Brown will make her way here eventually. Enjoy your leave!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The sad reality is that this is the favorite reform of the 1% because it requires zero sacrifice on their part, while simultaneously making the actual do’ers sacrifice. All the logic, reason, and facts in the world won’t dissuade them.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Bravo, Bailey! I am so tired of people who have no background in education thinking they know how to fix the problems in our field. I have felt for many years that any politician or school board member who has the power to make decisions about schools should have to spend a week in a school setting. Yes, there are ineffective teachers out there, but by far most teachers are hard-working, dedicated folks who will do anything to help kids. The main issue, as you pointed out, is society. Poverty is the single biggest strike against any child, and too many politicians aren’t even a little bit interested in fixing that problem. Campbell Brown has lost my respect. She is keeping her funding sources secret, and she is speaking about issues that she knows nothing about. Step into an inner city school, Campbell! Walk in the teachers’ shoes, see how heard they work and how much they love their students! And then please just be quiet.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It’s telling that ed-reformy types don’t know the difference between being fired (the tenure debate) and being laid off (funding issues). There would fewer newer teachers being laid off (last-in-first-out) if there were adequate money for public schools.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have to disagree with you on there not being adequate money for public schools.. at least in my district in NJ…. the majority of my property tax is a school tax and my district spends over $23,000 per year, per student. Even with that amount of money 7 of the 10 schools in my district received a failing rating. So how what is your idea of “adequate money” per student?

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      • Perhaps if New Jersey didn’t have so many school districts that were created to counteract integration efforts and therefore have high administrative costs, then more of the taxes you pay would go for education and NOT for wasted resources.

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      • I hope your next post is news that Colbert has asked you to be a guest on his show! We need more educators out there talking to the media and fewer spinmasters!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think that there are two points here… There is the money that is allocated for education/per student (put into buildings, administrative costs, teacher pay, supplies and training). Different districts get different amounts of money depending upon their tax base. So the child of poverty goes to a school of poverty and the child of means goes to a school of means. There are many great and passionate teachers who work in districts that are impoverished (I did), but mostly they are dismal and discouraging places which harbor ignorance (sadly, this is a fact) along with poverty.

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      • NJ is spending colossal amounts of money on testing and test prep, all used to determine their “failing school” ratings, which are based on invalid and unsubstantiated methods. Maybe that money should be spent on things that actually help kids, like smaller class sizes, authentic learning, nursing services, social services, before and after school care and activities (beyond sports), the arts…(and NO, I am not saying we should not have ANY standardized tests, just that we have a very good test with a long track record of usefulness and validity called the NAEP (and, of course, all those teacher made tests that tell teachers how their students are actually learning) that tells us just as much useful information as the yearly spring tests.

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  5. I love the dentist comparison and have used it to describe issues in education before as well. If parents don’t read and do work with their kids (encourage them to brush and floss), if the kids don’t do the work and try to learn (just wet their brush and not really take care of teeth), if kids come to school hungry or lacking sleep and security (kids eat sugar and pop and don’t see a dentist regularly), then how can you just blame teachers (or dentists)? We can’t change the things at home or where they have come from but we can give them a safe, encouraging and positive place to grow and learn! Evaluate that!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Excellent, excellent letter! After teaching for 33 years in the U.S., in three different states, I am now teaching overseas where I am treated with much more respect. It is disheartening to see what is happening in education in the US and how teachers are being blamed for all the ills of society. If these “never-been-in-the-classroom” know-it-alls would spend any amount of time at schools, their viewpoints might change. Shame on them.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Amazing letter! Thanks for sharing what every good teacher knows, feels and internalizes every minute of our lives. I have watched that interview over and over, and get more disgusted every time I do. Her stats, as you pointed out, are seriously “spun”. I began teaching 39 years ago, and I am currently in my 26th year at my current site- a Title 1, rural school that is populated by 92% non-native speakers. I get furious when I hear these deformers act is if our schools aren’t working tirelessly to get kids on par with each other. But, until we deal with high poverty and huge populations of immigrant families, we can’t compare apples to oranges. I have an almost 3 year old granddaughter- a product of a Kindergarden teacher withe an Med and an oral surgeon. All of us read, play, teach, sing and talk to her with high vocabulary. She is ahead of almost all K kids entering in my poor district. How can you compare that? We teach the kids who walk through our doors…we don’t pick them, as charters and privates do. I thank you for your letter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This letter used an analogy which fails to point out a glaring disparity.

      There are no dentists unions.

      I fail to understand why a group of so called professionals want to be treated like hourly factory workers.

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      • Hi, Joe. As an English teacher, I have learned that some students learn best with stories and analogies. Apparently, you are not one of those people, and as an effective teacher, I would have changed my style with you to help you learn the difference between figurative and literal language. We “so-called professionals” are charged with leaving no child left behind, so we have to know how to differentiate our instruction to be able to help all learners achieve success. I’m going to guess you were out of the school system prior to this new era of standards-based teaching and learning. To be more literal for you, I will remind you of a great difference between dentists and teachers, other than the completely different pay scales: dentists do not need a union because they are not being attacked by politicians, parents, and corporations. Their evaluation scales don’t change every year, they are not having their resources and funding cut every time a state or federal budget is enacted, and they don’t have to justify their every action to all of America. Thanks for contributing to the discussion!

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      • UAPD is a tough and effective labor organization which has successfully represented doctors for more than 30 years. Affiliated with the 1.3 million member American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), UAPD can draw on additional lobbying, research, and organizing resources to support its efforts on behalf of doctors.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Hmmmm. Actors are members of SAG, that’s a union that certainly doesn’t pay it’s workers like hourly factory workers. Pro athletes are in a union, and they also don’t pay their workers like hourly factory workers. Just say in’.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Really not true. They just don’t call them unions. They call them associations. Like the National Education Association. Every profession has an organization or several that promote, lobby and support its members.

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  8. @Joe B.: Joe B. is unaware that teachers do go to college to become professionals; they engage in student teaching before they become full time teachers and they often earn advanced degrees in education to improve their teaching skills. That’s what makes teachers professionals, the fact that they belong to a union makes them no less professional. Finland has one of the highest rated educational systems in the world and all their teachers are unionized. Finnish teachers are treated as professionals, they are treated with respect. There is no war on unions, no war on teachers in Finland as there is in the US. Finland has about a 75% overall unionization rate while the US unionization rate is 11.3%.

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    • What’s the “rating” based on? Valid testing? No one in Finland is at war with democracy and trying to shut down the govt while propagandizing for education for profit schemes and bashing public educational institutions that always outshine private academy outcomes. There is such greed in this country that even our children’s future is a target for money grubbing. Greed unchained is crushing great civil institutions and American infrastructure. Our formerly model of civilization becomes increasingly bullet-riddled with the likes of Campbell Brown and her Privatization Scheming backers. Finland is strong because they have strong respected civic infrastructure. We give our respect to Hobby Lobby and Walmart. It shows.

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  9. Great letter! I am a retired teacher with 31 years of experience and two advanced degrees. I’ve taught all elementary grades including 10 years in a pull out gifted program. Most of those years were in a school where 50% of the population was ESL. I fought for many students to be admitted to the gifted program because of nonverbal scores through the roof but very low verbal because their English was weak and they didn’t read well. I also served students who left their gifted segment and went to their learning disabled segment because of reading difficulties. Yes, they read below grade level but trust me reading is not the only thing that makes a person gifted. Inquisitiveness, problem solving and perseverance can sometimes trump good reading skills. I, like you, am free to state the truth without repercussions. I hope that some day all teachers feel free to speak up because we are the experts. It’s time for those who can, teach and lead teachers and those who don’t know anything about the profession get out of the way. Proud to stand with you and the teachers you defended.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. After 20 years of teaching special education in California, I finally quit last year. With 5 credentials and a MS in Special Education, I left behind top of the salary pay, benefits, summer vacations and a pension. Like an antibiotic resistant infection that has now spread out of control, so to has the dysfunction of the education system (at least in California). The courts just ruled teacher tenure unconstitutional, and so many of my friends and colleagues (former colleagues that is), couldn’t wait to get my take on this. So here it is:

    Teacher tenure will soon be a non-issue. The time is coming when ALL teachers will be new. The last of the baby-boomers will be retiring in the next 5 to 10, and new, enthusiastic teachers will take their place. These young new teachers will be excited, eager and ready to make a difference, to touch lives, and to get involved…and then it will happen. They will slowly, or not so slowly come to realize that teaching is equivalent to 2 or 3 full time jobs. The work load will kill their personal lives, there will accusatory parents (Johnny says you pick on him!), students will be disrespectful, defiant and out of control, and there will be little support from the administration. They may suggest you take “classroom management classes”. They will see the the principal’s pets (those who kiss @ss) get the hand picked classrooms, and the handpicked students. There will be no way to “prove it’, but everybody will know it. And after 3-4 years of following a curriculum created by politicians, or educators with political agendas, they will become overwhelmed, and frustrated and exhausted…and then finally, bruised and battered, they will quit. Half won’t make it to the 5 year mark, and as things progressively get worse, there will be more and more new teachers who will not make it to five years. They will leave, licking their wounds, and making way for the next batch of young, eager new teachers… till soon, the vast majority of teachers will be new…making teaching tenure a non-issue. The classroom will be full of day to day subs, and the public and the politicians they elect will scratch their heads wondering why no one wants to be a teacher anymore. But they will NEVER, EVER ask the teachers, because they do not really want to know, and they do not really care. (IMO anyway)

    Sorry for the doom and gloom, and maybe in other states it is much better. But I, myself can no longer recommend teaching as a career to anyone who asks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I also steer anyone out of this profession. You have stated my sentiments exactly as they happen in our schools today. Excellent! Listen to this person, they are “spot on!”

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s sad. But I would feel terrible if I encouraged someone to become a teacher and they spent thousands of dollars and a year or two of their lives to get a credential, only to quit when they realize it’s not like the Teach America commercials make it out to be.. I usually tell people to spend at least one year in a long term substitute position before making that jump. Thanks for reading my comment and adding to it! :-)

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Dear Bailey,

    Thank you for providing great voice on the Colbert/Brown interview. In particular, your dentist analogy was great!

    We are proud and fortunate to stand with you, and join you in Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education.

    Viri Pettersen
    Rockville Centre Teachers Association

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is fabulous! I am so glad you wrote this and made it public. I’m a Special Ed teacher at an urban school — statistics are my bread and butter, but also the bane of my existence. It is unbelievable, the outrageous expectations that people not in the classroom can have for students — especially students who have made VAST improvements, but don’t quite get the right scores. Shame on them, thank God for you and other voices!

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  13. Question on this line as I am just coming up to speed on this debate. “Yes, just as there are individuals in any number of professions who deserve to be fired. If teachers are harming students or violating their contracts, they should be fired.” Do you feel that if a teacher is very bad at his/her job or downright ineffective they deserve to be fired or are the only grounds for dismissal harming students or violating contracts?

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    • I wish there were a straightforward answer to your question. First, we need to know how the teachers is being evaluated to determine whether or not the teacher is effective. This is at the crux of this debate, and Campbell Brown’s statistics are not going to determine any teacher’s true effectiveness.

      Second, we need to know what the district’s teacher contract stipulates; sometimes, teachers are put into an improvement program and are given support and have a timetable in which to show improvement. The defined guidelines of teacher evaluations and their right to due process are the issues at stake when groups go after teacher unions. Personally, I think teachers who are ineffective are harming students. And, I made it very clear in my letter that the evaluation and effectiveness should be based on student growth and not on one standardized test score.

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  14. Hello Bailey,

    Excellent post. Would be nice to see posts like this wind up in the hands of those who shape public school policy. I am entering my 20th year as a middle school special education teacher. I grow weary of the reform movement. Their corporate takeover of the public education system is abhorrent. In my home state, Colorado, the reformist zealots are quickly dismantling traditional public education and turning it into a panacea for charters. The only thing that keeps me in this profession are the kids and the fellow teachers that I work with. It is often said that politicians stick their finger in the air to see which way the winds of public opinion are blowing. I hope that more of our populous begins to see behind this corporate/governmental facade and begins to see that the only thing reformists are interested in is to make money off the backs of children. We, the public, have to change the direction of the wind…

    On another note, I see that you like to write. So do I. A special needs student with cerebral palsy crossed paths with me in 2004. I was her teacher. As time passed, we decided to write a book together. While writing The Epitome of Grace: A Journey of Student and Teacher, Kristina often became my teacher. She taught me a much deeper meaning of education. We published our book in September of 2013. If you have the time, check out our website. http://www.wheelspressbooks.com

    I am going to share your post on Facebook. I look forward to reading your future posts. Perhaps continue the conversation about public education. Fortunately, there seems to be a growing movement of people that would like to preserve and strengthen our public schools. Happy writing!! Hope to hear from you…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sure am glad she is off the news. Maybe I should call her about fixing my car since she comes off as an expert on education without any background. Perhaps, she has more unknown skills. Look at Arne Duncan…..He barely taught anything and yet he ends up a secretary of education. Only in America can you become an expert in something you don’t have to have ever learned about.

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  15. Nicely expressed. People outside of our profession don’t really have an appreciation for what it is we do every single day. I suggest we invite all the naysayers to abide with us for a week and see how it really is and why we need these protections. Keep writing. I wrote a book myself after I retired. It’s called It Wasn’t in the Lesson Plan and is available here. http://www.annetenaglia.com

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Excellent point about Brown’s omission regarding who is reading ABOVE grade level. Where did she get her statistics from and how can we find out the percentage reading above grade level? Moreover, how many are almost at grade level?

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  17. Thank you. I simply can not stress that enough. After 24 years in music and theatre education, having given up a career as a performer, two masters and a doctorate, I find it is time to leave the ship. I willingly gave up the performance career as my wife and I began our family because I felt the world of the 80’s had become too cynical, too greedy, and I didn’t want our children to grow up in a world like that. I swore I would teach as long as I felt I was making a difference and have devoted my career to inner city districts where I felt I could make the most impact. In the last 10 years I have had 59 all-state honors choir students (8 alone this past year), my ensembles have been selected to perform at Carnegie Hall, have received superior ratings at statewide and national level competitions, etc. This year, however, due to changes in state law and how teachers are evaluated, I received my first minimally effect evaluation. Why, you ask? The State of Michigan has determined that 40% of a teacher evaluation be based on student achievement. My district has determined that student achievement is defined by how well our students perform on standardized reading and math scores. Because 50% of my inner city students did not meet the state expectations in reading and math (subjects that I have no control over), I took a 20% reduction in my evaluation and went from highly effective for the past 10 years – in the SAME SCHOOL SYSTEM – to minimally effective this year! Adding to this assault is the fact that Michigan law requires a teacher with three consecutive years of minimally effective evaluations be fired, and my district has mandated that after TWO consecutive evaluations termination will occur. How is it that I can escape the inevitable when I do not teach these subjects, and the student population is not going to appreciably change? I will not leave on someone else’s terms but on my own. It is obvious I am no longer able to make a difference. I concur with the others who state that the profession will become one for itinerants only within a few years and that THIS is truly the goal of the majority of legislators – to marginalize teachers, their unions, and rack up tax savings for the public.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Another outstanding educator will be lost due to the ignorance of Republican politicians! I have one major question for these ignorant politicians: Who are they going to blame when all the teachers in their communities are itinerant workers? The data already show that approximately 50% of new teachers leave the profession within their first 3 years of service. It also seems to show that those states that are most antagonistic towards teachers rank in the bottom of our nation in educational achievement. Any correlation?

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Reblogged this on One Tired Working Mommy and commented:
    I would like to applaud Bailey Shawley for writing an amazing response to Campbell Brown. As a teacher I feel the pressures she mentions almost daily. I am tired of hearing on the news from people who have never worked a classroom a single day in their life talk about how ineffective today’s teachers are at their job. Spend a week in my classroom. Then talk to me about effectiveness.

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  19. My husband taught for 6 years in a school with 98 percent free lunch. He was called ineffective because not enough of his students who weren’t on grade level to begin with didn’t leave on grade level yet his students who did make gains made such large gains the district thought my husband was messing with the test. Meanwhile my own child was in a class with an “award winning” teacher who fought our IEP for speech therapy because her instructional time was so valuable. This school has less than 10 percent on free lunch and students must maintain a 3.0 to stay in the program. You tell me, which teacher is really more effective?
    I decided to put my money where my mouth is … And I’m now getting my masters in education.

    Like

  20. Though I teach in North Carolina, I am unafraid of repercussion. I would strike tomorrow if I had the solidarity of my colleagues, but I know of no strike that was effective without the unionization of its participants. It seems unionization is the only secure solidarity. I wish that were not true as unionization has its own problems. I do not wholly agree with the doomsday scenarios suggested above, but I do believe there is a segment of the government and population that would like to see such results. Public Education is a large expense, and as such, it will always be targeted by those whose sole mission is to reduce spending. These “reformers” care only about cost. Why they do not see public education as the investment it is I don’t know. I can only guess their political blinders get in the way. This national movement to devalue teachers and mislead the public as to the true effectiveness of our education system seems to have no other goal but the overall reduction of spending on public education. I shudder to think what our country will be like if these “reformers” get their way.
    I am thoroughly disgusted with the decisions by the General Assembly here in NC over the past few years, but I hold on to the hope that things will change for the better as those who really care begin to understand that these decisions were not made in their best interests. I’ve never anticipated a coming election more than I do right now. Despite the gerrymandering of our voting districts, and other actions meant to maintain their majority, I am cautiously optimistic that at least the message will be sent loud and clear that NC’s citizens will no longer allow this legislature to continue to follow the path it has embarked upon. Understand this, too: I am an independent voter, who used to be Republican. I was frustrated by the actions of the Democratic leadership in the years leading up to the Republican rise to power and was happy to see the departure of Jim Black, Marc Basnight, and the like. Nonetheless, I will be elated beyond compare when the current powers that be fall from their perceived secure perches.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Those “education reformers” that you speak of do recognize the investment potential of education. The investment potential, however, is for themselves. They fully realize, as been mentioned before, that the education of our children is at least a $500 billion program and they want to get their hands on as much as it as possible! One need look no further than the growth of the “charter school movement” — an idea that was first mentioned by Albert Shanker as a means of permitting educational professionals (teachers) to try innovative techniques in an experimental setting without bureaucratic interference. This quickly morphed into private schools siphoning off students and public funds to create a mechanism to line their own pockets. How much money has Michelle Rhea paid herself to build her empire? This after her disasterous performance in Baltimore and Washington DC. In NYC, we need look no further than Eva Moskowitz, another disciple of the “what’s good for me should be good enough for you” philosophy. And just remember how Barbara Bush made a private donation to education provided the money was used to buy the product that her disgraced son was selling.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Follow the money. Charters and private schools want the tax dollars that have paid for public education. Corporations want to make a profit from education. Privatization of roads prisons and education are all about profit. ALEC is behind all of it under the auspices of the KOCH brothers. It is unAmerican and it is wrong. Roads, prisons and education are public responsibilities and must remain in with the public ‘else we get what we’re getting–bubbling on tests instead of real, creative and exciting teaching and learning.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Amazing letter. Nothing hurts more than giving all of yourself into a career you love for the last 18 years to be simply labeled effective. Working in an Urban school where kids constantly come and go makes it hard to be put up against schools where the kids come in reading at advanced levels. The best teachers are needed to teach in the toughest situations and should not be criticized when they do not have the highest scores.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. this is such a beautifully written letter expressing the state of education in america today. if you want to identify what is wrong with american public schools this writer has hit the nail on the head. i have recently retired after 40 successful years in the field working in a similar field to baily and our academic backgrounds are equal. i predict that without a serious turn around from the direction where publication is currently headed there will no longer be career educators. teachers may work as classroom educators before they burnout and leave the position. they will no long refine the art of educating our youth. how sad that time will be. so good for you baily for putting forth the facts to hopefully open the eyes and minds of the many.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Nice letter and I agree, My wife is a teach and took the year off. I am so pleased. The stress by people that have no idea or business in the school system need to go.

    Thank you,

    Bill From Clarksville

    Liked by 1 person

  25. From one teacher to another…THANK YOU for being so outspoken and rest assured that I and my fellow teachers in NY (state and city) will not abide being thrown under the proverbial bus. Campbell Brown and whoever her $$ backers are will have a long, uphill battle on their hands if they think they can sling this kind of statistic twisting nonsense around. The union in NY is very active and about to get an adrenaline boost…

    Like

  26. I, too, liked your letter. I am not a teacher but, I know a lot of them. The ones I know work tirelessly to ensure that every child at least tries to work to their potential.

    Teachers cannot be blamed for a child’s individual lack of enthusiasm, a home culture that does not value and promote education, nor parents who abdicate their responsibility to their children.

    Like

  27. School is the one shared common experience in this country. Everyone has gone to school therefore everyone has an opinion about how school should be taught. Unfortunately, their ideas and perceptions are seen only from their own experiences and not from the educated and trained eyes of a professional educator. Most people have no idea what we really do day in and day out because they have only ever sat on one side of the desk.

    Like

  28. I almost never comment, however I glanced through some
    remarks on An Open Letter to Campbell Brown from a Teacher on Leave | Life Under the Ponytail.

    I actually do have a couple of questions for you if you don’t
    mind. Is it only me or do some of these comments look
    like they are coming from brain dead individuals? :-P And,
    if you are writing at additional online sites, I’d like to follow everything new you have
    to post. Would you make a list of the complete urls of all your social sites like your linkedin profile,
    Facebook page or twitter feed?

    Like

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