Diane\'s Blog

Anonymous L.A. Teacher

Hi Diane,

I teach math at an inner city high school in LAUSD. This is a second career for me, and I am in my 8th year as a teacher. My original training is in the field of management. I have an MBA in finance from UC Berkeley, and Ph.D. in management, (specializes in organizational behavior) from UCLA’s Anderson school. That background gives me a perspective that is somewhat different than most teacher, as well as does the fact that I was already 47 when I entered the profession.

If you are interested, I can share quite a few interesting anecdotes with you, and I will provide just a few below.

In a recent e-mail update to staff, the superintendent reminded everyone of our mid-year goals for each school. He expects fewer failing grades being given out to students. Of course, fewer fails in high school means a higher graduation rate, which improves our schools/district standing with respect to NCLB.

The other day, during my conference period, I went to talk to a counselor about one of my students. The mother had fought to get an IEP for the boy when he was at a charter school. The school forced him out and refused to even hold an initial meeting (violating the law of course). The mother told me she had letters from a psychologist about the boy’s ADHD, and I knew that even before she came to see me at parent conference night. The counselor said the boy just needed to work harder, that he wasn’t failing very many classes, and that if he straightened out the boy was college material. I tried to clarify, and said perhaps community college. No, the counselor insisted, this boy was university material. I thanked him, and left just as the bell was ringing.

Beautiful new campuses are being built across LAUSD, and they open as either an LAUSD charter school, or a charter school run by an outside entity. My school was built in 1937 by the WPA. Little has been done since then, except to add air-conditioning. Paint peels from the walls and window sills. The original radiators are still there in the rooms, filthy with dust, although the gas was shut off long ago. Just no one bothered to remove them. A lot of the windows won’t open which is a problem when the air-conditioning breaks down.

As you know, the charters shun the special ed. students. My school is not yet a charter, and we keep losing students to the charters and to the small districts nearby that poach via permits just to stay afloat. As a result, somewhere between 20 and 30 percent of our students have IEPs. But of course, we are expected to work miracles and raise those test scores every year. It keeps me awake at night.

It is really an alternate reality out here. If you are interested in more “tales from the field”, please let me know.