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Teacher's Union Goes to Bat as School Year Gets Under Way

United School Employees of Pasco president Lynne Webb brought a few issues to the table during Tuesday's school board meeting.

There were no emotional pleas from former employees at Tuesday’s Pasco County School Board meeting, something that had become common in the months leading up to the primary election.

But there are “issues on the horizon” that need to be addressed quickly, United School Employees of Pasco president Lynne Webb said.

Some teachers who did not attend voluntary summer meetings did not receive teacher’s editions of course textbooks, instead they were given access to the online version.

Teachers' contracts stipulate that “the board shall provide when available from the publisher a teachers edition for every course he/she is teaching, Webb said.

 “Right now this is not happening.”

Webb also shared with the board and media a letter sent home Monday by an unnamed Pasco school that “circumvents district policies.”

The letter outlines an “implementation of common grading practices” for students taking Algebra I, geometry, biology and U.S. history—a school policy she said was designed during voluntary committee meetings held during the summer.

Not all teachers were able to attend those meetings to give their input, she said.

The policy dictates how teachers will administer assessments and weight grades, something that’s typically left up to individual teachers to decide, Webb said. 

The letter also states “all summative assessments can be retaken for full credit earned as many times as necessary.”

“I completely object to this,” Webb said.

Teachers have always had the right to determine policy for late work and how they are going to weight assessments, she said.

Teachers were told that if they did not want to “go along with it,” that they would have to write on the letter to parents indicating that they would not be following the school’s grading policy; an uncomfortable position to put teachers in, she said.

The values assigned to assessment scores also create a problem, she said.

A student who scores between a zero and 49 percent receives a grade of 40 percent.

So if a student writes his or her name on the paper and does nothing else, she or she gets a 40 percent. “This is grade inflation at its worst,” Webb said.

When asked by media, Webb declined to name the school(s) that sent the letters home.

“It seems like it is in conflict with the policies we already have,” board chairwoman Joanne Hurley said.

“To me, this is a contradiction” to the student progression plan, Steve Luikart said.

Telling students they can take something as many times as they want puts a hit on the district’s budget, board member Howard Altman said.

“At what point do they get to participate financially in their lack of attention and effort?” Altman said.

Superintendent Heather Fiorentino said it was her first time seeing the letter, and that her office would look into it.

The board later approved the district's 2012-13 student progression plan which outlines the district's standards for  student progress. The plan is updated annually; updates can be accessed here.

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Chuck R August 22, 2012 at 11:32 AM
I think teachers should be given as much freedom as possible to relay knowledge to children. I'm not even crazy about the idea of adhering to a curriculum, but I know it's necessary. This weighted grading assessment is an unnecessary rule put on teachers. However on the bright side, it looks like they can get out of it pretty easy by sending a letter home. In the letter they could even say that none of the other schools in Pasco County are using this system, because as I understand it, this is the only school using it, correct? Letting a child take a test over and over again also seems like something that could be left up to the individual teacher. It is their time that is taxed, and I'm pretty sure they don't get paid by the hour. My final point is about the teacher's text books. All teachers should have them, but it seems likely that there was a budget shortage, and this was the result. I imagine the schools have to get pretty creative when it comes to saving money.
Kathy "Kat" Lambert September 06, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Lynne showed her concern for teachers lacking textbooks. I am also concerned for the fact that at some schools, students have access only to class sets of textbooks which are to be kept in the classroom, and not for use at home. This is unconscionable. To provide textbooks for students who do not have internet access at home to "look up the text on the net," is obviously a requirement for any school district that touts itself as the best in the bay area. And not every text is in "E book" form. If you put up with this, you will soon find a district redefining what is to be considered "normal." To me, it is normal to provide both teachers and students with texts that can be taken home for study after school hours. Kat
Kathy "Kat" Lambert September 13, 2012 at 05:08 PM
The District's student progression plan says very little about grading, much more about weighting grade points for h.s., valdictorian, salutatorian, etc. but on page 62, I believe it says under point 2 a, that the grading policy of the school will be made known at the beginning of the grading period, as well as the grading policies of any courses. That means it is left open to each school whether or not it has its own grading policy, and open to teachers of particular courses to set standards, hopefully by department committee agreements, for the way in which their courses are to be graded. I can remember receiving a syllabus for every college course ever taken, which explained the professor's grading system. For high school, it was usually hit or miss. If a teacher grades on "projects," then the criteria for a successful completion of the project should accompany the course syllabus. I am sorry, Lynne, we can't have individual teachers just "winging it" as to their preference to grading, subjecting students and administrators to the whims of any fans of determining a student's future by whittling away at their own grasp of how they are to be graded. Even when grading on a curve, the bell curve must be explained and drawn as a bell on the board with the appropriate lines showing the cut off of the lowest grade on the test and the highest grade scored in the class. I am in favor of every teacher writing letters to parents to explain their own grading system.
Kathy Lambert October 04, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Want to know what a strong union looks like, look at Chicago! Kathy Lambert

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