Teachers protest grading proposal

Owens' plan unfair to low-income kids, educators argue

About 200 sign-carrying teachers and their supporters gave Gov. Bill Owens’ education package an “F” Saturday, two days before lawmakers vote on sweeping reform.

Educators rallied outside the Capitol in their campaign to try to convince legislators and the public that the proposal to hand out report cards to public schools will mean flunking grades for schools with children of low- income and limited English-speaking families.

Debate has swirled over whether children who come from troubled backgrounds or working-poor families can meet the same education levels of students who live in stable environments.

The protesters argued that while their students are capable of doing well in school, many socioeconomic factors contribute to their inability to excel. Other students have hard-working parents who simply are not home to supervise their children, they said.

“A D’ and an F’ will mean public ridicule and shame,” complained teacher Amanda De Bell, a Kepner Middle School teacher. “Where’s the logic in that, and that’s one of our rallying points.”

Added Juan R. Quezada, a kindergarten bilingual teacher at Valdez Elementary School: “The governor doesn’t seem to imagine the challenges our parents in these communities face. Some parents do not have the acquaintance with educational issues that, say, wealthy parents have, nor the same expectations.”

Owens and his supporters, however, have said the state needs to take immediate action to improve poor student achievement at public schools.

Backers of the reforms in Senate Bill 186 have complained that students’ grades have shown little improvement over the years, and that the onus needs to be placed on school administrators. Either that or expect charter schools to take a shot at doing better, they say.

The Senate delayed voting on the proposed reforms Friday so members could review the final version of SB 186 over the weekend before casting their votes Monday. The House voted in favor of the latest version that was hammered out by a joint legislative committee.

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