Summer school in Dallas is lacking one critical component.
On Tuesday, classes began in the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) with about 6,000 students, and a very limited amount of teachers.
“We’ve never had a shortage for summer school, never. And I’ve been in DISD for about 12 years,” Angela Davis, president of the National Education Association, a teachers group, told a Dallas television station.
So, what’s the problem?
Teachers blame Superintendent Mike Miles, a leader who they claim has a very heavy hand when it comes to management. Davis told the television station that teachers were very stressed during the school year.
Michael Messer, regional organizer for Save Texas Schools in Dallas-Fort Worth, agreed.
“Since the board hired Mike Miles to be superintendent, his heavy-handed approach has left the teachers and staff demoralized,” Messer told TakePart. “The school board and Mike Miles decided to fire two principals and approximately 400 teachers in late May. Many experienced teachers have left the profession in response to these harsh measures. At some point, you have to expect people to start standing up for themselves, even if their typical response to administrative adversity is to grin and bear it for the students.”
Messer said that teachers can refuse to teach summer school because their contracts do not obligate them to do so. Teachers are only paid a daily rate for teaching summer classes.
He said teachers have been extremely stressed since spring 2012 when the district school board decided to increase class sizes and extend the workday by 45 minutes. They do not get the support they need to do their jobs, he said.
“These moves made the teachers’ jobs more difficult by adding extra paperwork to their already busy schedule,” he said. “It insulted them by insinuating that they did not already work enough hours to justify their salary. Anyone who is or knows a teacher understands just how much personal time they devote to grading homework, writing lesson plans, and heading after-school programs.”
An anonymous blog dedicated to issues in the Dallas school district paints a dire picture. A teacher in the district wrote that while conditions during the regular school year are tough, summer school poses its own set of problems.
“The entire student body consists of the students who failed despite all interventions. A large percentage of these same students are disruptive and unable to behave appropriately in a classroom,” she wrote. “It’s a tough gig to jump in the trenches with so many below-level kids and get them up to speed so they can promote to the next grade.”
Teachers attempt to do their best in summer school with struggling students, but it’s tough. In addition, this year there is additional stress for educators which has contributed to the teacher shortage. The staff that shows up for school will be closely monitored with “more spot observations.” She adds, “In short, teachers were promised more opportunities to get fired.”
The teachers aren’t the only ones saying enough is enough. This week, the school district’s communications chief quit her job just days after the personnel chief and the operations chief quit.
Because of the teacher shortage, students who must attend summer school in Dallas may be placed in larger classes. And more students in one classroom means less one-on-one attention. Therefore, students who were already having trouble understanding the material (or had failed the controversial STAAR exams) have less time with a teacher to explain, Messer said. “It renders summer school an ineffective waste of taxpayer funds, and the students are more likely to repeat classes.”