Friday, September 18, 2020
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Baltimore Co. receives grievance over teacher workload

The teacher union in Baltimore County, Md., filed a grievance this week, reportedly claiming that teachers are putting in more work than their contracts allow because the school system has forced too many changes on them all at once, the Baltimore Sun reports.

“We are looking for solutions to the huge issues that are facing our folks: the issue of workload, the issue of curriculum not being ready,” the Sun’s Liz Bowie quoted Abby Beytin, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, as saying.

Baltimore County Superintendent of Schools Dallas Dance confirmed the district had received the written grievance late Tuesday but said it would be premature to comment on the contents at this point. He did say he would be looking closely at the remedies outlined in the grievance.

While I try not to insert myself into stories, I find it unbelievable that 12 years after my interview with Dr Doug Brooks, professor of education at Miami University in Ohio, was first published in an Ohio newspaper, we still don’t get the idea that good education results from nurturing all sides of an equilateral triangle so we can engage the points on that triangle in constructive conversations.

How can schools serve their communities or their students if they can’t even communicate within their own ranks? We’re filing written grievances, through the mail, representing 8.700 teachers, instead of meeting to work it out. This would seem to indicate that schools have built a communication wall to block out their own faculty and staff and keep them away from district personnel. From the community’s point of view and from the students’ point of view, this grievance reflects a mission abandonment on the part of the schools. That mission, in an ideal world, is to serve their students and to engage the community in constructive discussions.

Baltimore County Public Schools has admitted that its rollout of a local curriculum designed around the standards in the Common Core was botched. First, they didn’t even write the language arts standards for elementary grades until a few weeks before the deadline of when they had to give it to teachers so they could prepare. Second, the website that teachers had to use to access the new curriculum was only marginally more accessible than the healthcare.gov fiasco. Add to that the fact that the new teacher evaluation system makes teachers take additional time to create a list of goals the school system will measure them against. With all that, the number of hours they spend on school-related duties has become unreasonable, they say, and they are physically and mentally exhausted. Do they have to suffer a nervous breakdown before anybody listens to them?!

Meanwhile, the other two points on the triangle are just looking in at the dysfunction, with glazed looks in their eyes. Get it fixed, Mr Dance. Take charge and lead your point on the triangle in Baltimore County. Kids are starting to hate going to school, as we hear from both students and their parents, much more than they just “hate” school. Some are experiencing physical signs of stress, if Twitter chatter is to be believed, and that is unacceptable.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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