Professional Educators

How Do We Support Educators in Priority Schools?

By Christy Levings, NEA Executive Committee

In North Carolina last week, I visited two alternative high schools that have received SIG dollars with fellow Executive Committee member Paula Monroe. We met hard working teachers and educational support professionals who educate students in danger of dropping out or who are failing in the system to move towards graduation.  After visiting their schools and observing their work, I am convinced we need to answer tough questions like this one: How do you support those who work with students who are the toughest to teach?

The resources from the SIG grant should fill in some of the financial holes in these programs but there are bigger issues to address.  In both sites, the folks on the ground who make magic happen in those classrooms each day were not the folks who put the applications together.  The educators had little input about the grants or the programs the grants would fund.  At one site, a major concept of the grant was to replace most teacher instruction and face-to-face interactions with students with more time on computer.  This proved to be a disaster for students already at risk in less than one semester and they are changing the students’ school day.

I left with more questions than answers.  How will we support programs for the students we are most at risk to lose?

Both of these programs are about fishing out the most at-risk students from the waterfall that is washing them towards becoming dropout statistics and saving each one they can.  These educators are doing the hardest work in our profession but they do not feel respected or valued.  They are doing this tough work to save each student they can but they also want to save more.  How do we do help them do that?

While I was amazed at how hard they are working, I am not sure the current administration is doing the right things from the federal policy side to help them.  The concept of AYP is insane at sites like these.  Nobody understands meeting individual needs better than these folks but I am not sure federal programs and their own school districts are helping them as much as they can both from the policy side and the resource side.  These folks have a never-give-up attitude about their students and we need a never-give-up attitude in D.C. that recognizes the need for resources to be combined with educator support and the freedom to act like professionals and do their jobs as they know best to serve kids.

These are a few of the tough questions that we need to answer as we work with these schools and each of us owes them thanks for what they do each day.

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