Get Schooled

Your source to discuss and learn about education in Georgia and the nation and share opinions and news with Maureen Downey

DeKalb teacher makes plea to leadership: Treat us as professionals

I have always said DeKalb has the most passionate teachers and the most likely to voice their views. I am hearing from teachers about district changes they contend make their jobs harder and don't improve instruction.

When DeKalb unveiled its new curriculum in March, officials said it would establish an intense instructional road map. "We wanted to ensure our new version provided a more detailed road map, with an opportunity for us to be explicit about pacing ... with components to help identify where children are (in the lesson) more readily so we're able to provide intervention if needed," said Lisa Martin, the district's chief academic and accountability officer, at the time.

But that new detailed road map is not putting teachers in the driver's seat, according to some.

Have you seen DeKalb's new weekly lesson plan? It appears to be county-mandated. So a teacher's previous evaluations, student test performance, years of experience and qualifications are irrelevant. Please look at it and see how much this could possibly improve teaching and learning. For those teachers who need serious help, I can't see how this worksheet-like plan is the answer -- and the eight-minute video explaining the plan does approach it as filling in a worksheet.

I can't imagine that anyone sat down to figure out how long it takes to complete one such plan. For those of us with multiple courses, we're looking at completing two, three, or even four of these a week even though we've been given no additional time to do so.

Another concerned teacher wrote an open letter to DeKalb leaders and parents, which I am sharing below. If any teachers feel the changes are improvements and would like to write a piece, please do so and send to me. to share here. I recognize some teachers prefer more direction and may welcome the district exercising more oversight.

However, here is one teacher who does not:

To the DeKalb County School Board, Dr. Green, and concerned DeKalb Parents,

This is my 12th year as an educator. I have put my blood, sweat, and tears into helping my young students reach their potential.  I work very diligently to plan, teach, and challenge myself to always improve. But I am being pushed to consider leaving DeKalb, and one reason is the rollout of the new curriculum.

The curriculum was launched and not fully uploaded before school began. As an educator who takes time to plan a scope and sequence, this makes it difficult to see the big picture of where I am being expected to guide my students during the year.

The new kindergarten curriculum has been evaluated by my school's team. We agree it is chaotic, disorganized, lacking substance, and fails to follow a logical sequence of concepts and skills.  As a team, we had already planned a curriculum map for this school year based on the Georgia Standards of Excellence that includes a project-based approach to science and social studies.

I am proud to be part of an excellent teaching team focused on helping each unique child achieve. However, we are no longer allowed to follow the excellent plan we created. We are being forced to follow a curriculum that we know is not in the best interest of our students.

My school includes many students on or above grade level. If I follow the new DeKalb curriculum, the majority of my students will not be challenged and will be ill-served by a system that treats all students the same.

Another problem is the new lesson plan template. I understand and advocate that lesson plans should have required elements; our kindergarten team already includes these elements. What I don’t understand or advocate is all educators using the same template. It is not developmentally appropriate that a kindergarten and 10th grade lesson plan are the same. A 5-year-old and 15-year-old are different.

Why are we not recognized as professionals who can create our own template that includes the necessary elements? Why are we continuously told we are not doing enough?  Why are schools that are excelling being treated as if they are failing?

The lesson plan template is not user-friendly in that each subject is broken up and you cannot see a weekly plan as a whole. The template is technologically archaic; there are no easy-to-use dropdown menus.

Therefore, we have to spend hours copying and pasting standards, essential questions, big ideas, engaging scenarios, extra unnecessary work just to make our format the same as all the educators in DeKalb. I will have to write a 20-page lesson plan for each week just to appease the enforced format when I could use my own format that is five pages and includes the elements I need.

This is a massive waste of time and money as you can imagine how much more paper will be wasted in printing out these plans each week. There are 8,500 teachers in DeKalb County. Each teacher is roughly using 15 more pages a week than normal. That is 127,500 more pieces of wasted paper a week. All 8,500 of us will be spending so much more time following this enforced order instead of spending time to plan quality instruction that will engage and support the growth of our students.

My last concern is the convocation at the Gwinnett Infinite Energy Center. A speech made by a school board member assumed everyone in the audience was Christian with multiple references to Jesus Christ. It was a sermon rather than a speech.

In our nation, we have a clear separation of church and state. Not every educator in DeKalb shares the board member’s religious beliefs. It made me uncomfortable for all the unique and diverse educators present. We have a great opportunity for DeKalb to be lifted up and for our diversity to be celebrated. After all, the motto “All Rise” states all people involved will be lifted up.

DeKalb is on the brink of losing dedicated, experienced, passionate educators because our professionalism and expertise are not respected and valued. Who will suffer the most?  All of the precious, unique children that DeKalb seems to desperately want to all be the same.

Respectfully Yours,

One Qualified, Experienced, and Passionate Educator



Reader Comments ...

About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.