Diane\'s Blog

Las Vegas Teacher

I’m sure you get a lot of mail, but I felt like I had to reach out to you because you may be the only person (outside of my fellow teachers) who would understand my frustration. I’m an English teacher at an inner-city turnaround high school in Las Vegas, Nevada. Our school district is famous for being the worst in the country – so they say – and my school is one of the worst schools. Last year, 50% of the teachers were fired, but all of the administrators and counselors were retained. I decided to transfer to the school because one of my good friends, who is a great teacher, was taking a position there as well. I have been successful in the past, especially with at-risk students, and I thought I would be a good addition to the school.

It’s one month into the school year, and already I can sense failure looming ahead. Our school contracted with Pearson to be our provider for SIP materials, and yet it took them a month to get our materials to us. We now have exactly four weeks to prepare our students for the state-mandated proficiency tests in reading, math, science and writing. Yes indeed, some genius who is clearly out of touch with the sheer magnitude of what it takes to successfully reform a school has concluded that it would only take us two months to get our students (many of whom are far below grade level, not to mention LEP) performing at or above grade level. Even though our state is measuring student growth instead of test scores, our school will be judged by test scores alone.

I feel like I’ve been conned. How can I be expected to dramatically change the abilities of my students in two months? I’m being asked to do the impossible. Furthermore, my school is a genuine case of the inmates running the asylum. Administration is soft on the students (for example, two male students told a female student they wanted to rape her, and the dean dealt with it by telling the young lady “It sounds like they like you”) while heaping all of the expectations and blame on us.

Due to Las Vegas having a large school district – I think fifth largest in the country – as well as the distance from any other school district, I am stuck. Thanks to our weak education association and their inability to negotiate for teachers, I can’t even transfer to another school for two years.

And it gets better. Our deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction, Pedro Martinez, is a pencil-pushing numbers guy with zero experience in the classroom. He’s a product of Broad Superintendents Academy and was CFO of Chicago Public Schools under his mentor, Arne Duncan.

Is there a solution, or should I just quit and get a job as a Wal-Mart greeter? At this point, that sounds like a far more rewarding career path.

(Name withheld)