BY EMMA BUZBEE, NEWS EDITOR
*This article appeared in the February edition of our print issue
Anticipation quickly turns to disappointment and frustration when a student gets their new school schedule in late summer and sees the name they’ve been dreading: that terrible teacher cursed by so many of their friends. The only glimmer of hope for the student is to switch out of the class as soon as possible to avoid a guaranteed year of misery. This is a common quandary at Wilson, where teachers can’t be fired because of student dissatisfaction.
There are some teachers whose classes students drop in droves every year. Assistant Principal Tennille Bowser acknowledged that there are times when large numbers of students leave a class. The administration will then “address it with the teacher and we try to work with the instructional coaches to find out what is happening in that classroom that so many students don’t feel successful in that space.”
Occasionally the administration has to restrict how many students can leave. Bowser explained that this is: “because it isn’t fair to other teachers to increase their caseload because students aren’t successful in another teacher’s class.”
Junior Ingrid Fekete, who switched out of her math class at the start of the year, explains, “I had the same bad math teacher since freshman year and I got [them] again this year.” Fekete says her counselor, Pamela Bright, was not surprised that she did not like her teacher because Bright said she often speaks with students who want to switch out of the class. However, Fekete said that this year “I was the only one who got to [switch out].” Fekete’s teacher had also been unpopular during Fekete’s freshman year; students had switched out of the class then as well.
A Wilson student who wishes to remain anonymous attempted to switch out of one teacher’s class at the start of the year. “I heard a lot of stories from other kids who said her class would be the most difficult thing I would ever do, impossible to succeed.” The student’s counselor ultimately told the student they could switch out, but it would be a long process. The student believes, “They didn’t want me to switch out because so many kids wanted to in the class before me. There were 30 students, now only about 20 show up.”
Though these teachers are unpopular among students, many have been at Wilson for multiple years. Teacher termination is based on a complex evaluation system that gives teachers an overall score of one to four. “Teachers are evaluated based on nine standards of their IMPACT and those standards are [generally] based on rigorous instruction and engagement with students. That’s I believe 75 percent,” Bowser said “Then there is something called TASK, Teacher Assessed Student Performance, and that’s 10 percent.” Teachers pick an assignment to submit as their TASK, such as their students’ midterms, and then the scores of the students will demonstrate whether the teacher was effective over the that semester.
The final, most personalized category, is Commitment to School Community (CSC). Interim Principal Gregory Bargeman said an example of CSC could be “the number of students passing the teacher’s class. If less than 80 percent are passing, then the teacher could be downgraded on the evaluation scale.”
If a teacher has a 2.0 evaluation score or below for two years in a row, they are eligible to be terminated. However, the principal of the school has the power to argue on behalf of the teacher. According to Bargeman, “If they fall below 2.0, then the principal could make the argument to keep the teacher.” Bowser said a principal may vouch for a teacher if they believe he or she still has potential: “Just like [students] have rough years, sometimes teachers have difficult case loads. The principal may write that in a statement to Central Office, but in the end of the day the Central Office can decide, ‘We accept that or not.’”
In more extreme cases, other methods are used for teacher termination. If a teacher has engaged in some level of inappropriateness with a student, such as an inappropriate comment, Bowser explained that, “we can follow up with progressive discipline for the teacher by writing them up. That could be a pathway that could lead to their termination, outside of the IMPACT evaluation.”
Although administrators are aware that some teachers have large numbers of students who attempt to switch out of their class, student satisfaction with teachers does not factor into teacher termination. “There’s been some talk about using [student satisfaction] as a factor in evaluations,” Bowser said, “but right now that does not play a role in evaluations.”
CARTOON BY XiXI SIMMONS, CONTRIBUTOR