Teachers say school reform effort takes its toll
Pasco County's Ridgewood High School faces three years of transformation after landing on Florida's list of lowest performing schools. Much of the change is falling on teachers' backs.
In interviews with state and district officials, one group of teachers said the several initiatives coming down the pike might need more focus.
They agreed that inconsistency has ruled the school for the past four years, as the administration would switch from one "fix" to another in hopes of improving the school's D grade from the state. Often, they wouldn't even know whether the initiatives worked before they'd be on to the next thing. And when a new strategy would emerge, they said, the teachers would learn about it too late to be ready to do it on the first day of classes.
"I'm good at going with the flow. But sometimes I'm confused" by all the change, Spanish teacher Jonathan Tharin said.
He said he ends up planning on the fly because he doesn't get enough time between mandatory meetings and staff development and so forth. English teacher Sharlene Byrd suggested that she needed more time to implement changes to her classroom, such as more closely tying lessons to specific benchmarks, before being inundated with a variety of new training modules.
"There's no time to relax and think things through," Tharin added.
The teachers also stressed that there's plenty of good going on at Ridgewood that doesn't receive enough credit for. The students who are dedicated to learning have helped Ridgewood to one of the county's highest AP pass rates, for instance, and many upperclassmen have volunteered to help freshmen get used to life in high school.
They also praised most teachers for working hard and caring for the students, noting that too often they're held accountable for kids who don't attend and then don't do well. And in the end, they said, the school gets an increasingly bad reputation.
"I went to this school. I believe in Ridgewood and I'm always defending it in the community," math teacher Thomas Moschner said. "There are a lot of misconceptions and misperceptions in the community" about Ridgewood.