OUR TEACHERS, STAFF, PRINCIPALS AND STRUGGLING READERS NEED US!!
Do you remember when we talked about the particularly devastating impact last school year had on our economically disadvantaged students? It's about to get much worse for all struggling readers in the district.
The district delt a blow to our principals, teachers, staff and struggling readers this week. WITHOUT TEACHER, STAFF OR PRINCIPAL INPUT, the district has decided to discontinue the “reading specialist” staff position district-wide.
Reading specialists work one-on-one with struggling readers to provide them with individualized instruction and support that can’t be achieved in a classroom setting. School staff were not asked, consulted or provided any input opportunity. They were simply told this would be happening. The current reading specialists are soon to be out-of-a-job and they themselves were only informed of this "change" the day before it was announced to the rest of the staff. Teachers are grappling with what this means for their struggling readers and what their future classrooms will look like without this intervention. Staff are mourning the soon-to-be dismissal of a beloved coworker. Principals had to deliver this news to their staff with very little information provided to them by the district with which to answer the many questions of upset and angry teachers and staff.
The district has decided, again without input from staff, to hire four coordinators to monitor in-school intervention and 50 “learning coaches” who will go in the classroom and help the teacher with in-classroom intervention. What we are hearing is that, what this really means, is that the coaches will be monitoring teachers and making suggestions on how they can improve so really it doesn't seem like student intervention will occur at all.
This means that struggling readers won’t get that individualized attention and support they so desperately need from a trained specialist.
This also means that, yet another responsibility has just been dumped onto our already-stressed teachers.
What's more..... the district had a program like this years ago and it became a monitoring system and many felt as though “big brother” was waiting for them to mess up. Is that a healthy environment for students or teachers? Why is the district returning to a failed program?
Reading specialists may be eligible to become learning coaches, but they will have to apply for the positions through the system and the district has not know what the job requirements will be yet. Read that again and think about it.... the district still does not have a job description for these new learning coaches. How can the district proceed with a plan, present it to staff and announce reading specialists will be discontinued and replaced with learning coaches, when they can't even define the job requirements of the future reading coaches?
Is it a bad idea to employ “learning coaches”? We don’t know exactly. IF it was not treated like "big brother" is watching and teachers aren't living in fear of messing up and getting in trouble, that type of support staff might make a great addition to a school or a classroom and can provide a valuable service both to teachers and students. But they are NOT REPLACEMENTS for reading specialists and many struggling readers WILL SUFFER if reading specialists are replaced by "learning coaches". But, since this has been tried and failed in the past and since the district has yet to define the requirements for the job position, it is very difficult to say if the position, separate from the loss of the reading specialists, could be a positive addition to the classroom.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP? We don’t really know yet, but here’s where you can start.
E-mail a note of support and encouragement to the following people even if your child does not receive services from the reading specialist. They have had a bomb dropped on them and need a kind word.
Your child’s teacher
Your school’s reading specialist even if your child doesn’t see her. If you don’t know who she is, go to your staff directory and find out.
E-mail a respectful, but very firm e-mail of strong opposition to the district administration, superintendency and trustees (e-mails below). Consider asking:
Why were principals, teachers and staff not heavily involved in this decision?
Why are they doing this considering the learning loss of last year that has continued into this year? Please point them to our blog post that shows TWICE the percent of economically disadvantaged kids in our district fell out of the “at grade level” category compared to the state-average and West Ada last school year.
Why are they sacrificing a program that works (reading specialists) for one they've tried and already know is a failure (learning coaches)?
Why would they want students and teachers to feel like "big brother" is watching and live in constant fear of a "mess up"?
It is SO easy for us to blame our teachers and principals for these things, masks included. But, for most decisions, they literally have no say or input and are just as "stuck" as we are. We need to keep our focus at the district level and show our love and support for our teachers and principals (unless, of course, you're having a specific problem with a specific teacher or principal).
Board and Superintendency:
Boise High: Debbie.Donovan@boiseschools.org
Capital High: Teri.Thaemert@boiseschools.org
Borah High: Becca.Anderson@boiseschools.org
Timberline High: Brian.Walker@boiseschools.org