I left work today distinctly dissatisfied and generally depressed. It was after 6PM, and I'd been at work for a good 11 hours, with only a few minutes looking at my email and Facebook via my phone. For the third time in the past two weeks, I'd been harassed about how many students are currently failing my biology class. And, for the third time in the past two weeks, I'd pointed out that a significant number of those failures were students who were significant attendance issues -- that is, they were absent more often than they were present.
Each time I mentioned the attendance issue, it was essentially ignored, both by my resource teacher and again by the assistant principal who oversees the science department at my school.
"What are you doing to support these students?" I was asked.
My mind raced. Are you serious? is what I wanted to vocalized, but instead I pointed out the attendance issue. I was then confronted with that very question -- what am I doing to support these students?
Are you fucking serious?
I'm not even sure how to approach this. Keep in mind that Montgomery County (Maryland) doesn't "believe" in students earning a score less than a 50%; no, if a student earns a score lower than a 50%, we are expected to enter "50" into our gradebooks. On the same note, we are "not allowed to give extra credit," where the truth is that a student who can't earn at least a 50% gets extra credit to boost them up to that 50% minimum.
In Montgomery County, we also have this "reassessment" policy that essentially says that a "formative" assessment may be retaken if a) the teacher announces ahead of time that it is retake-able, and b) students come in for reteaching before the retake. Again, we are giving the students every opportunity to pass a class, and still, I have students who refuse to come for reteaching, much less for the retake.
Even with these ridiculously low standards, I evidently have too many students failing my "10th" grade biology classes. As typical of my school's administration, they don't look at the whole picture, and they ignore the fact that of just one class, half of them have been absent at least 10% of the days so far this quarter, and almost a third of them have been absent 20% or more of the class days.
In fact, of my four non-"honors" biology classes, almost 50% of the students in each class have a greater than 20% absence rate, and those students are all failing miserably. That means that of 34 class meetings so far, almost 50% of my "regular" students have missed at least the equivalent of 7 class periods.
This is somehow "my fault," despite repeated attempts to contact the parents and to get the students in for makeups. There are two students that I have not seen since October, and multiple students who show up once every two weeks (or whenever they fancy). Yet, it's still my fault that these students are failing.
This doesn't even mention that the two students from other schools who've joined my classes in the past week have both transferred failing grades to me, while we have less than two weeks until the end of the quarter. Oh, it's totally my fault those two are failing.
I've been teaching at this school for 18 years now. I have seen some misplacements of students into honors classes, and the occasional misplacement of a student into an honor biology class. But over the last few years, I have seen such a misplacement of students and so many students ill-prepared for the courses they are signed up for, that it should be criminal. I am serious. These students have absolutely no preparation for lab report writing, personal accountability to do homework or prepare for an upcoming class.
But in the end, I know what's driving the push by my RT and my adminstrator to "figure out some way for these students to pass." It's the new national/state evaluation system, which MoCo suddenly has to adhere to. So, if a significant number of students aren't passing biology (which is needed to graduate), it makes our principal look bad.
Guess what? I don't fucking care any more. Maybe if he gets a poor evaluation score, he'll actually care about what the rest of us have to deal with day-to-day. I've actually come to dread walking in the halls during 5th or 6th periods because I know I'll see many of my students just wandering around, and I'll feel compelled to report them to their teachers. Worse yet, I know there will be absolutely no consequences for their behaviors, which makes my enforcement of plagiarism and other alleged rules seem whimsical and trivial.
When I left work today, I felt like a rat trapped in a corner by the circumstances I've been put into. There is a reason I got my chemistry certification last summer. I will be out of this disaster of a school this summer, or I will just quit. I can not put up with this any more. I've been through three antidepressant medications and a forced hospital stay because of my depression, and it's more clear than ever that the depression is linked to the feelings of helplessness generated by the administration at my school.
I've started bringing in toys and such that are science related, and guess who plays with them and asks questions about them? Not the students who don't give a damn, but those who are doing well already and those on the cusp. Those who've been on the cusp have improved since I've started bringing the toys in, but those who are the serious attendance problems continue to decline.
Yet.... What am I going to do to help those who refuse to help themselves? I can only hope to shed light on a situation perpuated by Montgomery County's misguided "grading policy" and pray I don't have to get into the fact that my school refuses to hold all "professional" employees to the same standard.