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Teacher's Resignation Highlights Burdensome Education Mandates

Former Fairborn Primary School teacher, Scott Ervin, used his disciplinary skilles to work with the school's toughest kids.
Jerry Kenney
Former Fairborn Primary School teacher, Scott Ervin, used his disciplinary skills to work with the school's toughest kids.

Scott Ervin has served as an educator for 15 years. But his love for teaching has been overshadowed by recent changes and mandates from the Ohio Department of Education. So much so that he recently resigned his teaching position at Fairborn Primary School. Ervin penned his frustrations in a recent editorial for the Washington Post. In this conversation with WYSO's Jerry Kenney, he details why he resigned:

Scott Ervin: It really was a cumulative affect of a lot of different things, one was budget cuts that really took our programs away; lessening the amount of music time we had, removal of art as part of the curriculum, taking away man to computer labs were there were actually people in computer labs who would take our kids for the time, less and less planning time. I mean, when I started teaching in Fairborn, I had four 44-minute planning times I believe ,every week, and there was a time last year where we only had one 40-minute planning period.

And then you have the ridiculous amount of testing that we all agree, kids, parents teachers, administrators—I can say that now because I'm not employed by anybody—we pretty much all agree that these tests are not helping anyone. They’re not driving instruction. They're not helping kids to better understand anything. They're not helping the teachers. They're not really helpful. And you see that, I mean, the PARCC test is gone now. Well, we knew that was it was going to be gone. It's really hard to be trained on how to give something and trained on how to do something when you know that it's going to be gone within a year or two and that can wear on you as a teacher.

Math coaches are gone, our literacy collaborative coaches who were wonderful and were a great piece of our school and they created assessments for us. Our custodial staff has been just absolutely stripped down to the bone. They did an amazing job and that that was a really difficult job for them to come to. And still we had to have priority cleaning sometimes where our classrooms weren’t swept every night. And so someone I think made the point on Facebook the other day that you know when when kids in a family know that their parents are fighting and know that there's money problems it affects them, it affects them everyday.

So when they're at our school, they're stressed out because the teachers stressed out and the custodial staff is stressed out and the administrators are stressed out. That's a really hard thing to be around every single day whether you’re a teacher, whether you’re an administrator or custodian or a kid. That's just a difficult place to be.

Jerry Kenney: In your Washington Post editorial you pinned a lot of the problems on the way that the state changed the school grading system. Can you tell me what affect that change had?

SE: The ratings for schools went from words, so excellent down to, gosh I don't even remember all of them now. But the highest was excellent, and now the highest was an A. So, it went from words to an ABCDF grade. My school, Fairborn Primary School, went from excellent, so the equivalent of an A, to an F in one year having almost the same test scores. And the way that it is been explained to me is that some subgroups that did not perform as well as they were supposed to and that gave us, as a school at least, an F. Obviously, that's ludicrous. So, I don't know what the rationale for that is. And I think it's tremendously unfair and it gives parents a very bad view of our school and it's not fair.

JK: And that changing the grading system brought down some new mandates on the data collection, time spent in meetings with administrators, is that correct?

SE: That is correct. So because of our scores, this is my understanding—and by the way nobody understands the grading system, including people that are at Ohio Department of Education. I mean, I know the people in our board office have tried to get answers and people at that ODE level don't understand how that works. But yes, because of our scores there was a mandate that we need to be in weekly TBT meetings, which is teacher-based team meetings, going over data, testing our kids yet again, giving short cycle assessments yet again, for kids that we have to create ourselves and giving those two are students and then taking that data, seeing how we can improve in that one area or skill and then testing them again.

Now, I don't have a problem, in theory, with doing some type of short cycle assessment to improve student growth. But we’re already doing that over and over and over in reading and writing and math. And by the way, for reading and writing we have to make those assessments up. We have to create those, so when and where we're supposed to do this I have no idea.

When there's a teacher-based teacher meeting—we have it every Thursday—I know that that’s time that I am not going to have to get my classroom ready, to clean my classroom, to do the things I need to do to create a positive learning environment for my students so that I can have perfect lesson plan, so that I can feel good about my job. When you look at all of the stuff cumulatively, I hope that it's giving people an understanding of what it is like to be a teacher in a public school in 2015.

JK: Scott Ervin has been a teacher, principal, and discipline specialist for the last 15 years. He recently resigned his position at Fairborn Primary School. Scott thanks for speaking with us.

SE: Alright. Thanks Jerry.

Jerry Kenney was introduced to WYSO by a friend and within a year of first tuning in became an avid listener and supporter. He began volunteering at the station in 1991 and began hosting Alpha Rhythms in February of 1992. Jerry joined the WYSO staff in 2007 as a host of All Things Considered and soon transitioned into hosting Morning Edition. In addition to now hosting All Things Considered, Jerry is the host and producer of WYSO Weekend, WYSO's weekly news and arts magazine. He has also produced several radio dramas for WYSO in collaboration with local theater companies. Jerry has won several Ohio AP awards as well as an award from PRINDI for his work with the WYSO news department. Jerry says that the best part of his job is being able to talk to people in the community and share their experiences with WYSO listeners.