Symptoms

Before you embark on my post, please read this article from the Tampa Bay Times titled Brooksville’s Moton Elementary Moves Out Entire Teaching Staff.

These paragraphs yield the most useful information:

For the past two years, Moton has received a D rating from the Florida Department of Education and twice fallen on the state’s list of worst performing schools. Over time, student behavior issues have grown worse, as has staff turnover. 

Had the district not made the change, the state would have taken over, Jordan said. By summer, one of three things would have happened to Moton: permanent closure, temporary closure to reopen as a charter; or removal from the district and being turned over to an outside agency.

Most of the schools I have taught in have been failing schools according to our testing overlords. High percentages of free or reduced lunch recipients, high rates of discipline referrals, located in terrible inner-city or rural locations. I have taught at Moton Elementaries for almost my entire career, so I feel comfortable saying the following.

IT. IS. NOT. THE. FAULT. OF. TEACHERS.

Do people honestly think that schools fail because teachers don’t work hard enough? That they don’t care enough? That they aren’t professional or trained enough? You don’t think every single teacher at that school knows exactly what community they work for, the challenges they face?

How many teachers that work there keep snacks in their desks for kids who don’t have enough to eat? Buy supplies for kids who don’t have pens or pencils or paper? Watch paperback books walk away when they are loved enough to be stolen because they can’t buy their own? Offer a safe place for them for 7 hours so they can escape their home or have a roof over their head?

When you clean house like this you raze a cultivated forest to the ground. Bringing in an entirely new set of teachers will harm this school, not help it. These teachers will need to learn all the things that the teachers who managed to stay at Moton long enough to learn earned over years. The languages their children speak, who eats and who doesn’t, who smells bad for what reason, who needs shoes. Whose parents are there and whose parents are not. Which are homeless and which are from migrant families. You’ve wiped the memory on a computer that keeps these children alive.

Sometimes people get distracted by the behavior problems. They see the number of referrals but don’t ask about the conditions within the community that might be causing these behavior issues. These are children. They aren’t being terrible because they want to be. They are being terrible because they don’t have control anywhere else. How terrible do you get when you are hungry? How terrible would you be if you haven’t eaten since your school lunch the day before? How terrible would you be if you lived in your car? Some of these kids are probably angry all the fucking time. AND I DON’T BLAME THEM FOR IT. THEY ARE CHILDREN. LITTLE ANGRY ANGELS WHO DON’T HAVE A CHOICE.

And don’t even get me started about the option for turning it into a charter school. The only thing worse than getting rid of all these teachers would be to find a way to make money off these children in this community. What a fucking disgrace. You’re going to come in here, claim the school is “failing” because the teachers are somehow not good enough, replace them with all new teachers and then install a charter that literally rapes our state’s public school funding for corporate profit? HOW DARE YOU.

I am so angry about this I could spit. And some of these teachers don’t even get moved to another school in the district, they are essentially fired. And what’s great is that it’s difficult to tell the difference between a teacher who was fired because they were bad at their job, and a teacher who was fired because their only choice was to take a job in a community that was *finger quotes*failing*finger quotes.* We shouldn’t be kicking these teachers out. We should be giving them fucking medals for ever applying to work there in the first place because this is what happens. 

Punishing communities filled with people without a choice was always going to be a result of this testing era that began with the Educate America Act put into play by Clinton and passed by Bush 2 in 2001. There’s no child left behind if the school they went to is now closed and technically they aren’t students anymore. When we gauge the success of a school by a test score and not based on how it serves its community we are asking for these results. These are PUBLIC institutions that exist for the PUBLIC good. And until we get rid of high-stakes testing and recognize that every community requires something different from its school and that school should be able to adjust accordingly, our education system will continue to die.

It’s disenfranchisement wrapped up in equality. We just want all children to have access to a quality education! they say as they close schools and fire teachers because the children don’t meet standards that their circumstances that they did not choose would ensure they never going to meet in the first place. We care about the future of the children! they say as they fire teachers and refuse to address the needs presented by poverty, homelessness, and migrant families.

As long as we continue to make teachers the scapegoat for deeper societal issues that they are powerless to combat, we are allowing those in charge to be willfully ignorant. And to those who know better and yet continue to prey on these communities I say this: I see you. And someday, I’m going to be able to come for you. I’m going to have a voice loud enough and strong enough to protect these children and force you out. And I won’t be alone.

Read. Be brave. Stay angry.

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