Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Isn't it amazing the response that one can get from one very large paragraph (175 words).
What I am referring to is a personal column I wrote on Nov. 3 regarding the election.
There is a section in the column where I write about how I am glad Initiative 884 failed, which would have established an education trust fund to pay for such items as salary increases for teachers. I heard quite a bit of response from that column. There were many people upset about what I wrote, mainly teachers. But there were many people in the community who agreed with me. The funny thing about my column is that I was just mainly upset President Bush won re-election.
First of all, I would like to apologize to the educators whom I offended. I misspoke when I wrote about teachers working a six-hour day. There are many (and I mean many) of them who more than work a six-hour day.
But the point of my comments, which by my own admission I didn't do a good job of relating, is that teachers (statewide) need to do more in the education of our children. Teachers are the front line with our children.
I would be remiss if I didn't touch on the research that I have done on teaching hours, after being accused of presenting a lack of facts. I am using the Sunnyside School District as an example because it is closest to home.
Teachers are paid for seven-and-a half hours per day in Sunnyside. Over the course of the day, all teachers receive a 30-minute lunch. Teachers are also given a planning period, which they utilize to prepare their lessons. Teachers at the high school receive a 55-minute planning period, which is based on the length of one class. Middle school teachers receive a 45-minute planning period and elementary teachers are entitled to 150 minutes of planning time over the week. Elementary teachers' planning periods are utilized when students are away for such activities as library and music, which is also the case with their lunch period.
Teachers are not required to do playground duty at the elementary level, as the district has hired playground aides to take over this duty.
Teachers are required to further their education to maintain their teaching certificates. While teachers do pay out of their own pocket it is not without benefit to them. The Sunnyside School District has a program where it reimburses teachers $400 per year for taking college courses. I know that doesn't cover what teachers pay to maintain their certification, but it is still more than they had.
Also, teaching is one of the few careers where employees are rewarded for furthering their education. The school district utilizes a state pay formula for teachers. Teachers get what equates to roughly a $400 raise for every year of experience. The amount does vary on the pay chart. That figure on average rises to about $800 for additional credits teachers have that apply towards their degree. The increase for educational credits can be more, depending on where a teacher is on the pay scale. So the money teachers invest in their own education does have the potential to pay off down the road. The Sunnyside pay scale ranges from $30,023 per year for a teacher with no experience and Bachelor's degree to $56,588 for a teacher with a Ph.D and 15 or more years of experience.
But my point in the Nov. 3 column was not about the money teachers make or the number of days they work, even though there are plenty of people who may not want to work in education, but would love to have those hours.
My point was that we (society) are entitled to ask more of our teachers. Teachers do have a difficult job and there are many good teachers, especially in this district. Other districts would be strapped to find teachers such as Ryan Maxwell, Troy Whittle, Bruce Lindell, Tana Chambers, Cricket Van Pelt and Shawn Thurman. Sara Cromwell at Pioneer Elementary School is one of the most outstanding music teachers I have seen in my many years involved with the education system. In fact, my oldest son, Tyler, has a great teacher, Julie Hunsaker, who challenges him to think every day. But the sad fact is that for every three good teachers there seems to be one teacher whom you try to figure out why they are even there, which tarnishes the system.
I simply want more from the education system. I want us to churn out the most intelligent children we can into society, and I don't feel the state of Washington is meeting those needs now.
Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Superintendent Terry Bergeson talked last week about how the federal No Child Left Behind Act is doing a disservice to children. But what she doesn't realize is that the WASL is just as worse. The business-driven WASL will never work because all children do not learn the same and can't explain their answers the way the test wants.
I had a teacher tell me the other day about the growth the district has had with WASL. She pointed the number of students passing the reading portion of the WASL at Washington Elementary School has increased dramatically. That is great, but these results aren't a year in and year out occurrence.
Teachers, though, need to realize there will always be critics of the system. But it should be known that people have a right to demand more of the education system. I as a parent and taxpayer have the right to question and voice my opinion when I don't think the system is performing to the level it should.
People should also remember that everyone has an opinion, whether right or wrong. We should embrace people's opinions. Opinions create discussion and shouldn't be viewed as a negative. Opinions are the backbone to our society and if more people weren't afraid to express their thoughts we might have a different outlook on things.