EES opinions in the News

A 4th grade teacher on Maui recently shared his views about his experiences with EES this year:

Alan Isbell EES Op Ed

EES system pushing Hawaii teachers to the breaking point

Posted: Monday, April 7, 2014 12:30 am

Dear Hawaii DOE, Superintendent Matayoshi, and concerned citizens of Hawaii,

I write his letter today because I can no longer lay down to sleep at night without thinking about the terrible things that are going on with our education system today.
While I am far from a veteran teacher, I have been in the public school system long enough to see a major shift in the way things are being managed. This year has been an immensely trying one for every teacher I know. My colleagues and I have been asked to perform an insurmountable amount of extra work in order to prove ourselves as teachers.

The new EES system paired with the Race to the Top guidelines have put a stress on the entire teaching profession, and I can personally say that it has pushed me to my breaking point.

As teachers, we strive to follow the same standards as we set for our students.

We believe that hard work pays off, that you should strive for excellence, and that you should always put forth your best effort. Well, in times like these it is getting harder and harder to live by those standards.

Now, our best just isn’t good enough. We have been told over and over that these changes are for the good of our students; that we are working to equip our students with the tools they need to be competitive in today’s world. I am here to tell you that I just don’t see the true value in many of the new policies and requirements that we are being held accountable for.

As I teacher, I also always tell my students to question things. Always ask “why?” so that you truly understand why you are being asked to do something. Over the past nine months, many of us teachers have been asking why we are being asked to do some of these difficult new tasks, and quite frankly I am never satisfied with the answer. I question the entire system and I am left to wonder, who is making these decisions? Have they ever taught a day in their lives? Do they understand that teachers have students in their care for the entire school day? Do they know how much free overtime every teacher puts in?

Time spent grading, planning and pursuing professional growth was time I once felt was well spent. Now, however, teachers are being bombarded with other tasks. Collecting data, test-prep, uploading documents, collecting evidence, filling out paperwork, writing SLOs, rewriting SLOs, meeting after meeting and attending trainings that just don’t cut it.
Week in and week out these new tasks have been slowly eating away at the heart of every teacher I know. Slowly but surely I have felt my passion for teaching steadily drain from heart and mind. Having to put so much time and energy into proving to the people at the top that I am an adequate teacher has sucked the life out of me.

I walk into my classroom each day with a smile, still looking forward to seeing my many wonderful students, but it has gotten harder and harder to keep that smile on my face as I open emails and listen to my administrator explain the next mountain I will have to climb — oh, and I’ll have to do it by the end of the week, no exceptions, and no training will be provided (but you can check the weebly site and figure it out yourself!).

Morale amongst the teachers I know is at an all-time low. Each of us is just hanging on to the hope that maybe our voices will soon be heard. That we, the ones on the front lines, day after day, helping to raise well-rounded, caring citizens of the world, not just cookie-cutter kids who can pass tests, that we, may have a clue about how to best instruct our kids.
What’s especially sad to me is the time and energy these new systems have robbed from my family and I. All the extra, unpaid time I have put into these mandatory new DOE policies have taken precious time from me and many others.

For one, not many teachers even leave at the end of the school day. Most of us spend at least an hour or more cleaning up our classrooms, talking to parents, attending IEP, leadership, or committee meetings, grading, and prepping for the next day. Whatever doesn’t get done then usually comes home with us. And why do we put in all this extra time? Because we want to be the best for our students and for ourselves. Teachers are a special breed of people and it takes someone with a lot of heart to work as tirelessly as we do. And heck, we don’t even get paid that much! We are satisfied by the growth we see in our kids. We are elated when we see a student finally grasp a concept or get excited about learning.

That’s the stuff that has kept me going when doubt starts to creep in. But alas, this year has brought too much change, too fast, and I am left exhausted and wondering, “Why am I doing this?” “Why am I going along with a system I don’t believe in?” “How is this really going to help my students?”

It breaks my heart to think of moving on to something new. I absolutely love what I do and I am proud to be a teacher. I just hope that we can look at what we are doing to teachers across the state and find a better way to get our kids to the top. I know we all have the students’ best interest in mind, but when is someone going to look at the teachers’ best interest? How can we show our kids how to achieve when we feel unappreciated, overworked and underpaid.

I agree with the DOE and all the powers that be — we need a change in our education system, no doubt about it. But let’s look at some successful models and see how we can make it work for us. And let’s have all key members at the table when decisions are made about policy in the classroom. After all, if the teachers of this state don’t know what’s best for their students, then we have a much bigger problem on our hands.

Have faith in us and treat us as the hardworking professionals we are.
Jessica Kerber is technology coordinator at Hanalei Elementary.

Kauai teacher Michael Kline wrote the following letter that was printed in the Garden Island newspaper:

Tests not a benefit to children

Warning! The Hawaii Department of Education will be using our children as guinea pigs for a number of weeks. The Hawaii Department of Education has mandated that the school students, grades 3-8, take the Smarter Balanced Assessment field tests for language arts and math. Our students are being used for free labor so the test company, which makes billions of dollars, can decide which questions can be used for future tests. They will not benefit our students. They will actually harm our students by taking away valuable learning time from them and by adding to the stress and fear that our children already are experiencing these months. It’s a form of exploitation and it has to stop. To make matters worse, parents, if you aren’t aware, March and April are full of tests. And our students know it and hate it! The day after spring break, they started the Hawaii State Assessment in math and reading. Now teachers have to begin the Smarter Balanced Assessments even before our students have finished the Hawaii State Assessment.

Now you know why teachers are protesting against the DOE and fighting to save our students from all this testing madness, as The Garden Island newspaper has wonderfully exposed this week. Please join teachers in protecting our children from this testing madness and call your legislators, Board of Education members, the superintendent and the DOE immediately to protect your children from the harm being caused to them.

Michael Kline

National board certified teacher

Kilauea Elementary School