I am blessed to work in a charter school where common sense is still the norm but, not all teachers have that luxury. Sometimes I am reminded of how wonderful my school is when I peek over the metaphorical fence into the land of pulic education. Specifically a friend of mine recently emailed me that she was working on her PEPs and I had no idea what that referred to. Personal Education Plans, she told me - "like an IEP but for all the students who are failing your class and don't qualify for special services."
My jaw dropped.
You have got to be kidding me! But no, apparently it is the new thing that North Carolina legislators (who have never walked a mile in a teacher's shoes) have decided will improve our public education system. Here is a link I found online from, of all places, a law office that is more than happy to advocate for parents who cannot get a PEP in place for their child.
And, let's get something straight up front. I am all in favor of students who need some extra help receiving it from their teachers. This is a good thing that good teachers automatically do for their students. However, when we start writing laws that force teachers into creating legal documentation, specialized instruction, and scheduling extra parent meetings for every single student who is having academic difficulty, it is over the line. Then you get the lawyers involved and it is beyond the pale.
Teachers belong in the classroom, working with students, creating interesting lessons, assessing student work, and providing the best instruction they can for all their students. They do not need to be in extended meetings, drawing up formalized plans and interventions for legal purposes. This sort of thing kills the joy of teaching and drives good teachers, especially the once who care enough to work with troubled and/or remedial students, away from the profession.
You might be wondering what the big deal is. I mean, how many students are we talking about? A teacher has thirty kids and maybe three of them need some extra help, right? No, not at all. First we have legalized and formalized plans in place for all our students who require special services. These meetings and the associated paperwork take up a lot of time as it is. Then we have special plans in place for students who are suffering from diagnosed emotional and behavioral problems. Those also require a lot of vigilance (which is only natural and compassionate) and documentation (which is not). Now we are going to add another level to this process and include students who are failing but do not have any diagnosed emotional, behavioral, or intellectual failings, but are not passing for other reasons. This will require specialized paperwork, meeting with the team, goal-setting, follow-ups, and re-writing the plan again. (Lather, rinse, repeat . . . and repeat, and repeat, and repeat . . . ) And remember that some teachers choose to work with students who are in remedial classes. Those teachers will have three to four times the paperwork of a teacher who teaches an honors class. And too, middle and high school teachers do not have thirty kids in their class - they have 120 students over the course of the day. Are you starting to see the problem?
Let's put teachers back in the classroom with their students and stop this legislative madness, please. All the laws in the world are not making education any better, North Carolina! Those of you in the state legislature should be ashamed of yourselves for passing this looks-good-on-the-surface law without bothering to think past the surface into what it was really going to mean for North Carolina's teachers - and ultimately the students too. If we cannot hire the best teachers AND hold on to them, we will never have the best education system. And, we cannot hold onto them if we micromanage them to death.