I have promised an explanation.
I was recruited to teach at North County High School by a former colleague who at the time was the principal, although I knew he was leaving before I signed my contract. I was primarily recruited to raise the rigor teaching AP US Government & Politics primarily to students in our STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program. I knew I was also going to teach one section of STEM Policy, a course normally given to a social studies teacher. After I signed my contract, the position was somewhat reshaped to my skill set - as well as 3 sections of AP Gov and my one per semester of Policy, I was given senior capstone project classes of environmental media and of research / data analysis. Policy is juniors, Gov is mainly sophomores, and my advisory is STEM freshman, which meant I was going to see students over multiple years.
The program is being changed, especially in Social Studies. Through this year STEM students have taken AP Human Geography as 9th graders. That meant that during AP Government we had to teach them chunks of the 2nd half of American History, because they had not yet had the Progressive Era, the New Deal, the Great Society, Civil Rights, Vietnam or the Reagan Revolution. As of next year they will take American History in 9th grade and will not take AP Human Geography until they are seniors.
Were that the only change, I would be happy.
But there are two other things
First, they are dropping AP Government from the STEM program. I had mixed feelings on that - I can actually challenge the students more outside of AP, because I do not have to worry about the massive amount of material to cover for the AP exam.
But for both 9th grade history and 10th grade government they are converting the courses into a form of hybrids known as "skinnies." It is therein that my problem lies.
Please keep reading.
we are on an A day / B day schedule. Students have 90 minutes of class every other day, with four periods a day, which already means they are carrying 8 courses.
But the powers that be (outside our building) have decided to add more.
They want to add another credit in Project based learning.
They want to take the 90 minute period and divide it up
students would take 43 minutes of either history or government at an honors level, have 4 minutes to transition, and then take 43 minutes of a project based learning class.
To have sufficient "seat time" for the two courses, as required under state law, they would be expected to do the additional 43 minutes on their own online at home.
Forget the fact that not all of our students have reliable internet connections at home - for some their only online connection is a smart phone.
The idea of hybrid learning is the flipped classrom which is that in lieu of current homework students watch the lectures at home and then do work with the teacher and other students while in class. This is not merely flipping. This also presumes that the student will spend the 43 minutes every two days to make up for the time they are not in class.
Oh, and since I would have them for only 43 minutes, during such periods I would have a double load of students, 43 minutes at a time. That means my total student load would be increasing, and it is quite possible I would go from my current 4 preps to 5 or 6 (which would clearly violate the negotiated agreement with the union). These are bothersome, but my real complaints are focused on the students
1. knowing our student population, I think they would be ill-served by this approach
2. we are adding to their academic load at a time when many are struggling with what they currently have.
I offered a counter proposal. If the intent were to get more project based learning in, I could teach AP Government entirely as a series of projects, ranging in size from small to massive and culminating. There would be no bar to doing so from the College Board,which does not care how you cover the necessary material.
When I presented the idea to the relevant parties in the school - in STEM, Social Studies, counseling, and administration- the idea got enthusiastic support. When it was presented to the office running the STEM program system-wide, it was summarily rejected.
I thought long and hard about this. Were I to stay, I would next year in my environmental media class have a wonderful collection of senior students, including one who as a freshman won theIntel International Science and Engineering Fair and who with a fellow junior just won first prize in the national Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge and will be going on to international competition for that. She has just been elected an officer of the state-wide Future Business Leaders of America. Another student has represented the US in an international Model United Nations and will be interning this summer with a US Congressman from another state. Several other students are gifted writers, have won prizes in Model UN, and so on. It is an honor to work with such wonderful young people, who stretch me as a teacher. Their education would not be affected by the changes.
But I could not in good conscience participate in what I was going to be asked to do for younger students. Once it became clear that we could not roll back these changes, I decided I would not return. I am required to make that formal by May 1st. I actually made the decision somewhat earlier, starting by withdrawing my name for consideration to be the boys varsity soccer coach, and then when I left on Spring Break notifying the department chairs for STEM and Social Studies as well as the administrator responsible for scheduling not to plan on having me and to organize their scheduling without me. Over break I notified the various administrators in the building, including the principal. On Monday I handed in my written notification, ten days earlier than required, thus formally notifying Human Resources, and sent a message to the Assistant Superintendent who oversees both Advanced Placement and STEM and with whom I have had a close working relationship.
I do not yet have another job. While we were still trying to reverse the decision, I began the process of exploring for other jobs, including attending a job fair for the school system in the community in which I live. I have had several phone interviews, and been interviewed by one school that is prepared to hire me, with the permission of their central office, once they have what they believe is soon to be official notification of two vacancies so that they can shift some things around to fit my skill set. If that is offered to me before anything else I will take it, even though there are opportunities closer to home that would pay far more, for which I might have a reasonable hope of obtaining an offer.
I decided ago I would only teach in situations where I could do so with integrity. It is hard enough in the public school setting to do so with the impositions of Common Core. I felt it would be nigh impossible with how my responsibilities were being redefined.
I may receive no offers. Already a couple of what seemed promising opportunities have decided not to consider me further. I am after all because of education and experience a somewhat expensive hire, and since I will be 68 in May some may have doubts for how long they would have my services.
I hope and expect to continue teaching for a number of years, as long as I can do so with integrity.
I am no longer committed to public education: I would be more than willing to teach in a non-public setting where I would not have the burdens of stupid educational policy. My preference would be to be in a public school.
I could have chosen to stay where i was. Within the power available to them the administrators in my building would give me as much flexibility as they could. I have earned that by my performance even though I have been there less than a year. I may not have as much flexibility to start elsewhere, although the position that may pending might well give me that.
I know that.
Yet I have to do what in my professional judgment is the right thing to do.
So I have reluctantly decided not to return to school where I have been welcomed by administration, parents, faculty, and students.
I promised an explanation.
And now people have it