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English Teacher Speaks Out

I dearly love my school, my students, and my fellow educators. However, I cannot morally, ethically, or academically follow the curriculum now being forced on us.

I am a high school English teacher in this district, and I am writing to express my deep concern about the new curriculum that has been forced upon us by LISD. My first concern is the problem of the book club books and the books in our classroom libraries. While many of them are frankly pornographic and should be removed (which, by the way, they haven’t been - they are still sitting in my classroom), the larger problem is the literary quality of the books themselves. The book club books are written at a seventh-grade-level at best and have no literary value. They are poorly written and do not lend themselves to teaching critical thinking, style, or universal themes. They are simply trade books for entertainment. The only thing they do is expose the kids to “different voices” which is not in the TEKS. As well, I cannot see most of these books appealing to my students. The in-class libraries were supposed to instill a love of reading into our students. These books were supposed to be fun, engaging literature. This was of course hijacked by [LISD Administrator names removed] who turned this goal into a Progressive indoctrination process with books like How I Protest (a third-grade level picture book sitting in my classroom library!) We had no input in this selection process and did not even know what books would be in our classrooms until the boxes arrived. My second concern is the curriculum itself. It has an aggressive, Progressive agenda. While our units of study used to be divided into titles such as “The Essay Writing Process” and “Writing the Research Paper,” they are now “Identity,” “Community,” and “Activism.” We used to be skills-based, but now we are ideology-based. My biggest concern with the curriculum is its focus on “equity” which means that content is dumbed down enough so that the lowest student at the lowest-level high school in the district can be “successful.” For instance, according to our new curriculum, the 10th grade major grade assignment for the Spring book club unit is for the students to draw four cartoon panes depicting the theme of the graphic novel they read. How is this a skill that will help them prepare for college? How would a teacher even grade this? How is even reading a graphic novel preparing them to read a biology or history college textbook? This is not only going to be a disaster for our college-bound, on-level kids, but will actually keep that low-end student from ever going to college or being successful academically. What was that quote about the soft bigotry of low expectations? I have seen the result of this ideology first-hand because it happened twenty years ago in California. The AP kids will be fine - they are being given exactly what they need to succeed. On-level kids, however, will not be so lucky. They will not be reading classics (which help scaffold them up to a thirteenth grade reading level) because [LISD Administration] has told all of ELA staff that reading from the cannon is contributing to “white male rape culture.” They will be reading low-level books and probably only excerpts at that. If they write at all, it will be a “reflection,” a journal response, or some kind of creative writing. The result of this ideology in California at the community college level was the necessary development of a three-semester deep reading program (because high school students were coming in with a 7th grade reading level) and a three-semester deep writing program (because students were not taught grammar or how to write an essay). At the four-year-college level, students were coming in with an A average but not having the skills to succeed. The colleges finally gave incoming students two semesters to pass basic reading and writing competency or be kicked out of the college. Many of my students had been San Diego State students who were now back at community college to get their skills up so they could reapply. This is what we have to look forward to. My final concern is how this curriculum and the reorganization of the district to top down control is ruining ELA education. Five years ago, teachers in this district were trusted. A teacher’s main objective was to make sure he/she was following the TEKs. Then PLC’s were created, and everyone on the team was supposed to be in lockstep- all assignments were supposed to be the same and be given at the same time. This began hurting a teacher’s ability to be flexible to the needs of her students. If the students didn’t understand a concept, the teacher now had to move on anyway in order to stay with the team schedule. Next came the removal of control of the units of study from the team leads. As a collective group, the team leads across the district decided what our units would cover, how they fit with the TEKS and what order they would be presented in. This process was then moved to the control of a district committee. Now, a curriculum has been created for the entire district which is not just units of study, but actual lesson plans with assignments we are required to follow. Where before we were expected to follow the TEKS but could have creative freedom as long as our students learned the expected skills, now our jobs are defined by adherence to the district curriculum verbatim and not deviating from our teams. Refusing to comply could very well now mean losing our jobs. This is such a disturbing curriculum on so many levels that literally all of the junior and senior English teachers at my high school have refused to teach it. Two of them have not even opened the boxes of books. We have done this quietly, and it has been accepted by the administration this year because of Covid and virtual learning. This will not be the case next year. I dearly love my school, my students, and my fellow educators. However, I cannot morally, ethically, or academically follow the curriculum now being forced on us. Many teachers I’ve talked to are planning to leave in the next one to two years specifically because of this curriculum. We will be losing some of our best teachers over this. As one of them who is planning on leaving after next year said to me, “I can’t watch this happen to our students.” Thank you, A dedicated and passionate teacher

This testimonial by a teacher who was not comfortable revealing her identity was read to the School Board on January 27, 2022 by a friend.

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