On the county’s SOL scores

Published 11:18 am Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Once again, Lunenburg County Schools have fallen short of expectations.

As a former Lunenburg County teacher, I wish to comment on several factors that might be contributing to the problem.

The commonwealth assigns various “experts” to make recommendations on how to improve instruction within the classroom.

From my experiences, these experts are more concerned with how a teacher composes a lesson plan than how the teacher instructs in the classroom.

After every “assist visit,” teachers are required to add specific verbiage or a new category to lesson plans. How that improves classroom instruction, I do not know.

Typically, the new additions to lesson plans are things the classroom teacher was doing anyway; it just wasn’t listed on the lesson plan.

Teachers are required to be public relations experts.

A number of parents expect the teacher to be in almost constant contact with them, to the point of calling teachers, at home, late in the evening to discuss why their child received a “B+” instead of an “A” and pleading that their child be allowed to retake/redo the assignment.

Most students carry some sort of correspondence home from the classroom every day in the form of student agendas, notes or notations on graded papers.

From my experience, quite often that correspondence is disregarded or misconstrued as some kind of slight against their child.

Unfortunately, it is quite often those same parents who cannot find the time to attend a regularly scheduled parent/teacher conference.

When some parents have a concern, they go right to the principal or superintendent and never consult the teacher.

The teacher is blindsided by the complaint and is automatically assumed to be in error.

Teachers develop a curriculum around the grade level they teach.

As mentioned previously, composing intricate lesson plans, lesson materials, websites, etc., only to be assigned a different grade level or entirely different school the next school year.

All the plans, materials and experiences the teacher developed are wasted.

There are teachers whose entire goal is that their class pass the SOLs to the point that they teach nothing but the test.

Instead of providing challenging instruction that uses the SOLs as a minimum level of achievement, passing the SOL is considered  the highest possible achievement.

Finally, there is testing.

Here are some of the myriad of tests that take up learning time: SOLs (as mentioned) and quarterly practice SOLs, benchmark testing (quarterly), PALS testing (four days to complete, three times a year), weekly reading and vocabulary tests, STAR testing (both reading and math, every 20 school days), as well as classroom specific assessments in subject areas.

Any sane person must ask themselves, “With that much testing, when does teaching happen?”

Let the teachers teach!   

Consider how the teaching climate has changed over the years, and compare that to the steady downward progression of student achievement.

I’m sure you’ll notice a direct correlation.

OK teachers, I said publicly what many of you have been thinking for quite awhile.

You can disavow any association with me; I’ll back you up.

Patrick L. Williams is a Lunenburg resident. He can be reached at mk82gp@yahoo.com.