In 2014, a Manchester elementary school teacher was in so much anguish, she felt compelled to speak out. The source of her angst was the excessive amount of assessments teachers are mandating to administer. Kelley Tambouris was “angry, frustrated, but most of all sad! Sad that the system is so broken and that we are doing more harm than good!”
Her open letter is heartbreaking because it is a tale of a talented, caring, and devoted teacher who was worn down by the bureaucratic machine our education system has become. Educators and bureaucrats will always have another year to get it right but your child only gets one chance at second grade.
Kelley’s open letter, her radio interview on Girard at Large, and television appearance on the Ed n Joe Show are included:
Does Anybody Hear Me, Will Anybody Listen?
A Second Grade Teacher’s Story from a Manchester Elementary School
By: Kelley Tambouris
As a teacher of 22 beautifully special and unique children, it is my responsibility to do what is best for them each and every day. I can stay quiet no longer. Here is our story: Twenty-two years ago I began my teaching career. I have been a Special Educator, a Second Grade Teacher, a Third Grade Teacher, a Writing Teacher, a Literacy Coach, and now I am back in the classroom, again, as a Second Grade Teacher. Why did I become a teacher? I have a deep love of children and just knew my calling was to make a difference in their lives.
Today was the 28th day of school and I have already had to give them 8 math assessments and three half-hour to one and a half hour computerized assessments. I have been also told that I will have to continue giving them 3-4 additional math assessments each month. These are not the traditional tests teachers give; our district mandates them.
I have also been recently instructed to give each student a 150-word site word test and individual reading assessments, both have to be done 1 on 1, and both have to be done by the end of November (please keep in mind there is only 1 of me and 22 of them). With each test I have to give to 1 student at a time, that leaves the other 21 on his or her own.
In January, the computerized tests will come back, along with our 3-4 monthly math assessments, and reading tests will have to be administered again to students below grade level. It doesn’t end there either. Again the computerized tests, reading tests, and site word tests will come back around in May, keeping in mind the 3-4 monthly math tests.
Now, not only do the mandated assessments have to be given, they need to be scored, analyzed, and put into the computer. What I really need you to understand is many of these tests are above what the students know because these skills are expected to be mastered by the end of the year. Countless minutes and hours are spent with tummy aches and tears (no, not mine, the children).
I have been given a new set of standards to teach my children, they are called the Manchester Academic Standards. There is, however, a catch. In math, I have been told what standards to teach, but there was no money to buy any teachers in my school a program to use to teach. So, I have to search the Internet and work with my team to come up with papers to do with my children. Although it is a challenge, I have accepted that challenge and have been creating my own work to help the children reach these standards. A wrench has recently been thrown into my plan though. Approximately a week ago, we were sent an email stating we need to minimize run-offs because our paper supply is nearly gone and there is no money in the budget to buy any anytime soon. Our pencil supply is also minimal. Again, it is the 28th day of school.
Let me also mention part of our reading standards is to teach our second graders Fables, Folktales, and Fairytales. Again, when my team asked for books to use to teach Fables, Folktales, and Fairytales we were told these books should be supplied by the district, BUT THEY WEREN’T. How can I teach if I don’t have the materials? I know, they expect me to pay with my money.
In my classroom, most of the bookshelves, some tables, all the decorations, many of my classroom library books, many student supplies etc. were already paid for by me. I spend anywhere between $500 to $1500 a year on my classroom. When does it end?
Now, you may be thinking why don’t you just quit? Well, I go back to the beginning of my story. My calling is to make a difference in my students’ lives.
I have kept quiet and endured the public disrespect with the Union Leader and the many people that think teaching is a piece of cake. We have mandated assessments, daily planning for science, social studies, writing, Fundations, math, and reading, duties, progress reports, report cards, parent communication, sitting on various committees, hours of meetings that pull us out of the classroom, papers to correct, behaviors to deal with, minimal materials supplied to us, and professional development to maintain connected to tons of paperwork. Our workday begins at 8:05 and that is the same moment our students come in. We are given 45-minute prep periods 4 days a week and a 20-minute lunch. Students leave at 2:35 but for late kiddos we stay with them until 2:40 and walk them to the office. Our day is supposed to end at 2:50. Reality is that I am at school by 7:40ish and do not leave until approximately 4:15ish, usually with a bag of work over my shoulder to do at home, with no overtime pay.
I am angry, frustrated, but most of all sad! Sad that the system is so broken and that we are doing more harm than good!