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How I came to resign from my position at Miami Dade County Public Schools
by Carlos Sotuyo.

email: csotuyo@imathesis.com & csotuyo@hotmail.com

The unexamined life is not worth living.

Socrates


Posts, year 2014:
| July 1|| Aug 7|| Aug 8||Aug 10| |Aug 11||Aug 13||Aug 16||Aug 19|Aug 22| |Aug 25||Aug 26|Sept 07|Q&A|


Notice
: posts should be read in chronological order.

This is a summary of my posts, including some phrases taken out of context. The reader is advised to read the entire post to have a better understanding of my opinion:

July 1: (approach two) can be summarized in ten words: students pretend to be students; teachers pretend to be teachers. Everything is a simulation where the real learning process is diminished to a minimum. (...)

Aug 7: Resignation. (...) the only thing I want is not being part of the robbery. Today’s step was in that direction. (...)

Aug 8: They deserve to learn. “Only what is difficult is encouraging

Aug 10: In my letter to Mr. Alberto Carvalho on June 18th I wrote:

It is hard for teachers to confess the frustration with the system, because we are part of the system; or with the students, because they are what we make of them.  We look bad; I feel bad by saying what I say in this letter but accommodating myself to the environment and surviving a few more years while making my money and keeping my benefits, may look good, but it is completely immoral and I refuse to do it.

Aug 11: they are what we make of them:

Aug 13: It is really sad and shocking that hundreds, if not thousands, of students attend College to learn 9th grade Algebra!!!

Aug 16: Let’s recalculate the numbers…

Aug 19: The human dimension of numbers...

Aug 22: Lies are pleasant until they are tested…

Aug 25: "An A School"?

Aug 26: (...) Leadership has been reduced to a physical posture.


Q&A

Q&A: Since my first post appeared on the web, I have received a few questions. These are my answers:

1. Have you found a job?


No one in the school system needs a teacher who has resigned to his position as a full time teacher based on something called principles, o "strong" opinions. School administrators when interviewing teachers for potential employment show (that's has been my experience, and solely my experience) a special interest in the candidate's abilities as child care specialist; and, no surprise, as correction officer. The candidate's qualities as educator/instructor, knowledge of the subject matter constitute a secondary concern.

I has been working P/T as a mathematics and statistics tutor at both Miami Dade College, InterAmerican Campus and at Broward Community College, South campus. No benefits, 50% of the hourly salary compared to the school system; however, it is a meaningful job. I am not applying for teaching positions next school year.

 

(Updated May 15th, 2016).

 

2.  So, you are looking for better schools, better students, less work… Every school, every student deserves and needs a dedicated teacher.  Are you willing to work with them?

 

The question is the result of misreading my statements; in particular, the posts dated July 1st and August 8th.  As I explained in my previous answer, the teaching of Advanced Courses doesn’t take less work; rather it takes a deep commitment from the teacher.  Yes, I am looking for better schools: not just schools with a very strict uniform policy, and control of students in the hallways.  I want my students not only to appreciate that I make my subject as interesting as I can to the best of my abilities; but they should be aware that there is a strict grading policy, that there is no alternative to study and learn the material. 

Better students? There is something called “prerequisite for a course”: yes, I believe students cannot take a course unless they have the necessary prerequisites for such a course.  As I have said, you cannot learn Chemistry, or Physics, or Algebra II, if you have passed Algebra I with at least a C. 


In summary: once the students know that there is no easy alternative, but hard work; and they have the prerequisites for the course met, the rest is my job. I am willing to work with everyone, as I have always done. I am patient and dedicated as a student and as a teacher (a teacher is primarily a student).  I am looking for a meaningful job, not just to show up at school every day and pick up a check every other week.

3. Why do you have a preference for AP Courses?

 

Teaching AP courses or AICE (Cambridge) courses is not an easy task:  these are college level courses that require a lot of preparation and planning on the teacher’s side. Most students are unprepared for those courses as well. That said, it is also true that students who take advanced courses are more motivated toward the subject; furthermore, the Syllabi are well designed, a strong contrast with regular courses ill designed pacing guides. Again, as I wrote in my first post "There also exists the possibility of finding a school where even students in regular courses attend school with the intention of learning. They may lack skills in science and math, but if they have the willingness to learn, I am willing to work with them, to teach and re-teach, tirelessly.  There won’t be easy grades; nevertheless I believe achieving high standards is always possible."


4.  Why do you love testing so much?

 

In absence of a strong inner motivation toward the subject of study, examinations compel the student to review the material, to pay attention to details, to summarize, compare, analyze, synthesize.  A well-designed exam rewards students who learn the material and those teachers who take their job seriously.

The final exam is the bar. If there is no bar, there is no jumping. 

 

 

5.  What can you tell to the public, parents in particular, about the public school system?


The public knows the school system is mired in mediocrity. Parents, however, believe the school their kids attend is one of the best, it is an A school that makes the U.S News & World Report list of Best Schools in the U.S.  This information is deceiving.  The truth is that most schools are mediocre schools.


6.  You thing the Common Core standards are “an opportunity”.  Why?


The new standards seem to me well designed and interrelated.  The implementation of the CCS brings an opportunity to rethink and redesign the entire educational system.


September 7, 2014

Think About This:

 

(The exact same points I have been making in my previous posts !).

Transcription --min 2.37 to 4.00:


The longer
U.S. students are in school, the less they know: percentage of students reaching proficiency in Math: 4th grade: 39%; 8th grade, 34%; 12th, 26%. Percentage of students reaching proficiency in Science: 4th grade: 34%; 8th grade, 30%; 12th, 21%.

82% of graduating high schoolers think they have the skills to succeed in College… but only 30% of their teachers think so and only 23% of ACT takers show preparedness for college. Almost half of the students at the nation’s largest State University need English remediation and almost 40% need Math remediation.  And THESE students took  college prep courses and had a 3.0 or higher. 58% of American adults cannot calculate a 10% tip on a bill. K-12 education spending increased 700% over the last 50 years. The percentage of students with an A average increased 52% in the last fifteen years with NO increase in student in student achievement.

 


August 26, 2014

 

The old stones and the pyramid...

In my previous post I made reference to the EOC results in Algebra I (9th grade), Geomery (10th Grade) and Biology (10th grade).   What about the performance of 11th grade students in Algebra II, English and Chemistry?   There is no information available.

Here is a glimpse into it: back in August 2012, I administered a pretest to determine a baseline assessment for my Pure Mathematics class (AICE Math syllabus). Pure Math 1 & 2 is an advanced math course; therefore, only those students who have received grades of A & B in Algebra II are actually enrolled in the course. Results: Out of 35 students about 30% (10) scored between 50 and 68 points; 70% of the participants, among the best students in Algebra II, scored 49 points or less. (The test –downloadable here—consisted of 34 questions: 33 of them worth 3 points; one question, number 28, worth 1 point).

How things are going so wrong in our educational system?

It is neither the students’ fault nor the teachers’ fault. It is not a lack of funding. It is, to say it flatly, a systemic failure.

The implementation of the Common Core Standards brings an opportunity to redesign the system in its entirety.  Everything: from top to bottom. Beginning on the top of the pyramid: district and school’s administrators are responsible for creating the unrealistic picture of our schools, for promoting mediocrity as success. Leadership has been reduced to a physical posture. This crumbling building ought to be reconstructed using the same old stones.
 

 


August 25, 2014

"An A School"?



In Miami, the public perception is that most schools are A schools. Just recently the Episcopal priest Padre Alberto wrote a column in El Nuevo Herald just wondering how so many schools are evaluated as A, while the quality of education in the U.S seems to point in the opposite direction.

The 2013-2014 School Performance Grades memorandum signed by Mr. Alberto Carvalho tells us that 43% of our schools were evaluated as A and 15% as B. So the statistics supports the public perception: about 70% of our schools are A or B Schools. 

Let's take a look at the EOC results during this period:


2013 and 2014 End-Of-Course Assessments Percent Scoring 3-5

Not included in this table: only 57% of the students passed the World History EOC this year.

To summarize, in State tests, our school system performs below 70%:  D territory.

College readiness:  The District results for the 2014 ACT assessments shows average scores of 16.7 in English, 18.0 in Mathematics, 19.1 in Reading and 17.3 in Science.  These results are all below the ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks (the minimum ACT test scores required for students to have a high probability of success in credit college courses). The benchmarks are (ACT score): English, 18; Reading, 21; Mathematics, 22; Science 24.

I understand the “formula” to assess the schools takes into account other factors beyond examinations results.  Standardized tests are always a subject of discussion.  My personal experience as a teacher, substitute teacher and as a tutor at Miami Dade College tells me that about one fourth of the students graduate with a High School diploma that is worth what is printed on it.


My conclusion: Schools grades are overrated. Another case of grade inflation. Another pleasant lie.  

Notes: 

1. For the school year 2014-2015 the State of Florida is implementing a new formula for grading schools . NPR report here.

2.  A reporting project of NPR: 13th Grade: Why More Florida Students Than Ever Struggle With Math

 

 

 

 


August 22, 2014

 

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." - Albert Einstein


Lies are pleasant until they are tested…

There are formidable arguments against grading students’ work, testing in general and standardized tests in particular. First, no examination can measure, —or assess with a high degree of certainty— what the student has learned. Second, the pursuit for those magic marks turns out to be the sole purpose of most of the students.  Third, the instructor teaches for the exam. The mean becomes an end.

Experience has shown, however, that as imperfect as they are, as undesirable as they are, there is no substitution for them.

In the last two decades has been documented a new phenomenon called grade inflation.  Grades, like money, sometimes are worth less than their face value. If high inflation rates lead to economic crisis, the current state of grade inflation is a good indicator of our educational crisis.

As a teacher I clearly identify at least two undesirable consequences of this phenomenon. Some students come to believe that they have achieved a level of excellence that is simply not true. Confronted with reality, an increasing number of students suddenly realize they are indeed unprepared for higher studies. Frustration is hard to overcome.

For those teachers who do not participate in this sort of cosmological inflation, life becomes increasingly difficult.  Many students never accept the idea of rigor and consistency. Learning takes a commitment, but not in the days in which a D or C can be inflated to an A or B.  

In the summer of 2012,  I taught an Algebra I class. Twenty five students: they had all passed the class, but they had failed the State test  —the end of course examination (EOC). After five weeks working with them, three hours a day, from bell to bell, problem by problem, only five students were able to get an average of C in my class; five others got D. Fifteen failed my quizzes and tests. Those who received passing grades in my class —specifically the C's— were able to pass the EOC retake. I was just wondering how all of them had received a passing score during the school year. The first day very few were able to solve simple linear equations in one variable, or to locate a point in the rectangular coordinate system. There was one kid who consistently omitted the equal sign when solving two steps equations.

Two years later, several students who had failed again and again every Algebra I EOC retake, were present in my Chemistry class. Chemistry, a quantitative science. Chemistry I, a book full of equations and formulas.  Why shouldn’t we have in High School a genuine notion of what a prerequisite for a course is?



Note: I recall a school administrator saying that a child who had 45 absences by the third grading period (nine weeks each) had all his classes with A’s and B’s. No comments necessary.

For more information about the topic of grade inflation:

1. An ACT study  concluded that “ high school grades have inflated 12.5 percent between 1991 and 2003.” Are High School Grades Inflated?

2. Grade Inflation: Killing with Kindness? (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development)  

 


August 19, 2014

 

The human dimension of numbers...

 

 

The poor performance of our schools has, of course, a human face. So many students fall short in their dreams of a college degree. They were getting good grades in their reports cards.  Everything seemed at hand. My neighbor’s son registered at MDC to study Physical Therapy.  My wife co-worker’s son wanted to become a nurse.  My friend’s daughter was determined to become a Pharmacist.  None of them, however, finished the first semester in College.

I agree that College is not everyone. But my question is, for whom? In Miami, hospitals employ hundreds of nurses from India and the Philippines; they get a visa to work in the U.S. Why should my friend’s daughter work as a waitress at a local restaurant while Hialeah Hospital needs to import a nurse from another country?  

Yes, we have fake schools that produce and reproduce fake diplomas that, for so many, end up in a drawer meaning nothing.

 

I quoted Dr. Michio Kaku in my first post. This is the original clip:

 

 

 

 

 

Correction: The video clip in which Dr. Kaku says "Even though our high school system graduates generations of near-illiterate students, by the time they hit college, then that's when they begin to accelerate. That's when they begin to get up to speed" is a bigthink.com interview, minute 28.50Big Think Interview With Michio Kaku here.

 

 


August 16, 2014

 

 

Let’s recalculate the numbers…

 


In my previous post I wrote "hundreds, if not thousands of students, attend college to study 9th grade algebra". I did a brief search and these are the actual numbers for Broward College, a few miles North of Miami:

“At Broward College, 55% of incoming students test into developmental mathematics courses. Only 43% of those students that enroll in developmental mathematics complete developmental mathematics within two years. Out of about 8,000 new students in fall term of 2012, two-thirds began in math prep with almost 30% in the lowest level.”
(Redesigning Algebra Courses by Laura J. Iossi, Broward College)

In Miami Dade, the situation is similar or even worse. The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting published in 2012 an article titled 13th Grade: In State Community College, A Crisis of Unprepared Freshmen. According to the article, in Miami Dade College “ 63 percent of high school graduates take at least one remedial course upon enrollment”.

For a more in depth study, read Remediation: Higher Education’s Bridge to Nowhere.  

Excerpts from the study:

  • More than 50 percent of students entering two-year colleges and nearly 20 percent of those entering four-year universities are placed in remedial classes.

  • Nearly 4 in 10 remedial students in community colleges never complete their remedial courses.

  • Having survived the remediation gauntlet, not even a quarter of remedial community  college students ultimately complete college-level English and math courses— and little more than a third of remedial students at four-year schools do the same.

These numbers are the evidence of the dramatic poor performance of our school systems.  





August 13, 2014

 

 

Rigor?

 

Because of my personal experience, I know remedial classes are becoming popular in colleges these days. In Miami Dade College, MAT0028 is equivalent to Algebra I (9th grade**); MAT 1033 —is basically Algebra II (11th Grade); Introduction to Chemistry (CHM1025) is essentially the same Chemistry I was teaching to High School Juniors. However, as soon as college students are aware of the professor’s grading policy (as a rule a few tests, a midterm and a final) they transform themselves into real learners: the attitude of pretending to be student no longer works.

Some pundits claim we need more technology in the classroom. What we desperately need is a high level of academic rigor and accountability.


**It is really sad and shocking that hundreds, if not thousands, of students attend College to learn 9th grade Algebra!!!


August 11, 2014

…they are what we make of them:


It is true that a number of students respond to the teacher’s effort. One day someone becomes interested in the subject, asks questions, look up for a deeper understanding of the material. Even more, there were students from other classes who made everything possible to be transferred to one of my classes. I remember by the name three students who failed my chemistry class and the last day of the school year came to me to praise my work, my approach to teaching, in such a way that I cannot repeat their words here without sounding arrogant.  In January 2012 a student asked to be transferred to my AICE (Cambridge) Pure Math class. I explained her it was too late, we had covered Pure Math 1, and yet we had to cover Pure Math 2. She insisted, and I was supposed to sign a letter for the school counselor. I told the student it would be very difficult for her to pass the final exam from Cambridge. Then she said something that, even if I deserve it or not, I cannot forget: my friends in this class have said to me that if I want to learn mathematics I need to be here.
  
Because of those students and many others, including the ones who work very hard since the first day, I tried my best for three years. But because of what I call “the ailing machinery of the system” that stimulates the negative attitude while making the best one rare, I submitted my resignation a few days ago.

 

 


August 10, 2014

 

Students who refuse to learn:


Professor Ostaszewski encourages students to be hungry for knowledge. This attitude is exceptional among students, everywhere. As teachers we have the privileged mission of motivating students towards mathematics, science or any other subject. At the same time there should be in place an assessment policy to compel students to work and learn the material.  In Miami Dade County Public Schools that policy is the Students progression requirements and procedures. It reads, page 45:  Students in grades 9-12, in order to pass an annual course must earn a minimum of 10 grade points, five of which must be earned in the second semester. The reader should take into account that A is worth 4 points; B, 3 points; C, 2 points; D one point and F is equal to zero. The school year is divided into four grading periods. The final calculation is done as follow: the grade for annual courses is determined by multiplying each nine-week grade by 2.5, adding the grades for the four nine-weeks and dividing by 10. In plain language this means that a student may fail two grading periods (half of the school year), and still receives a passing grade for the course. So this policy doesn’t compel the student to make an effort: it is a recipe for low standards in the first place. But what this policy (again the Students progression requirements and procedures cited above) doesn’t specify is the types of assessments are to be administrated, periodicity of the assessments, and how much should they be worth. My colleagues may say at this point that teachers need autonomy to design their own syllabus, their own grading policy. As a result of such “autonomy” a teacher may or may not administer written examinations (quizzes, tests) during the school year; another teacher may decide to administer multiple choices tests, same version for everyone in the classroom. In some cases students are allowed to check their notes during the exam. It also a common practice that those assessments are worth a low percentage of the final grade. Then, to make sure students do well in the class, class-works are worth 60 to 80% of the final grade. A few students do their work, the rest copy down from them. In other cases everything is in the text book —sort of copy and paste assignment. Internet (smart phones are here), gives the student access to websites like slader.com, mathway.com where anyone may find the answers for the exact same worksheet he or she is working on. Let’s do the math: whenever class-work is worth 60-80% of the final grade, the student does not need to pass any quiz or test: those worksheets guarantee a passing score for the class.

Still there is another trick that makes everything even easier: the extra credits. It is common practice to receive extra-credit, which brings a bad grade to a very good grade or at least to a passing grade, for assignments the student may complete assisted by someone else. Yet, the most alarming part of the story has to be told: students receive extra credit points for bringing material to the teacher (paper, markers, etc); for attending meetings, attending tutoring sessions… yes, almost anything is a good reason to award extra credit points to a student. As a result, the student gets a big jump in the four point scale.  

How do I know of this fraudulent practices? Because for the last three years numerous students came to me asking for extra credit points based on the criteria I have mentioned above. Of course, I am one of those teachers who do not award extra credit points unless the student demonstrates the knowledge of the material taught. There were always at least four different versions of a quiz, and phones couldn’t be used.  Students soon realize that they either learn the basics of the subject or fail the class. At that point several of them decide to put the pencil down and look for alternatives: can I be transferred to an “easy teacher”? I have told to them: my class is easy: I give you exercises in which the examination is based on (reviews) and those problems are discussed and answered in class. Tutoring is offered twice a week after school, and there is an open door policy: you can always pass by and ask. Again, those students say no, that is too much. They mainly look for the adult school (Students may attend adult education school while attending a regular high school program). Or summer school. Anything is acceptable except studying, working properly and learning. These students are the ones I say refuse to learn.  They know the system reserves an easy path to a passing grade and they are determined to seize those opportunities.

I understand that some of those students cannot do their work and pass the examinations. They are indeed at elementary school level in science, math and reading. As a teacher you can teach and re-teach, but what you cannot do is covering years of neglected teaching and broken policies in weeks.   

In my letter to Mr. Alberto Carvalho on June 18th I wrote:

It is hard for teachers to confess the frustration with the system, because we are part of the system; or with the students, because they are what we make of them.  We look bad; I feel bad by saying what I say in this letter but accommodating myself to the environment and surviving a few more years while making my money and keeping my benefits, may look good, but it is completely immoral and I refuse to do it.

 

August 8, 2014

 

They deserve to learn...

 

Last night, a friend, a teacher himself, in reference to regular students wrote to me: “Although it may not be easy, and at times it feels impossible, they deserve as much a chance to learn as the honors and AP students.”

Indeed, I don’t say otherwise. Every student deserves to learn. For an important number of them there are three major obstacles on the road: One, they refuse to learn. Two, they lack of the basic arithmetic, algebra skills; they haven’t been exposed to abstract thinking, not even at a minimum level. Three, the system offers, as I said in the first post, several alternatives: transfer to another class, adult school, summer school, some of them mention Virtual School; so why should they make an effort in your class?

Let me explain myself a little further. Students who lack of basics arithmetic and algebra skills, not only lack of those particular skills, they lack of the ability to grasp abstract concepts in symbols, to understand that a formula models the physical world. In other words, they have an elementary school level in science and mathematics, so they cannot understand a course of Chemistry, a quantitative science. Period. I tried hard, very hard. I teach almost every minute of the lesson; I constantly go to the students’ desks. There is a group of students who want to learn, but they can’t. It would take a huge effort for them, and… they have never done it. Why now?

My friend, every teacher knows that if our students take a State examination in Chemistry, in regular courses over 70% of them will fail, maybe 80%. Two years ago, after a meeting in which we were told that by 2016 students would have to pass an end of course exam (EOC) in Chemistry, Physics and Algebra II, three teachers and a Dept head said, in front of me: I will retire before 2016, I cannot see the results. Everyone was laughing.  

Yesterday I mentioned that an Obama administration official said: “Too many school systems lied to children, families and communities (...)”. The official was Education Secretary Arne Duncan. He was confronted with reality in NY: less than a third of the students passed common core standards tests in NY. (You may read the full report here: New York fails Common Core tests.)

Finally, it is not easy to teach AP courses, or Honor courses. First, not all students are prepared for the AP course; some of them only look for AP courses to improve their GPA (Grade Point Average), or simply because it is cool to take such courses. The Honor class is what we should call a regular class. The teaching profession is demanding, I know that and I don’t expect otherwise. Those who know me can tell I never look for the easy solution. One of my favorite motto is “Only what is difficult is encouraging”. That’s the first line of an essay of the Cuban poet Jose Lezama Lima.

I am not running away from what is difficult: I am running away from a system that doesn’t work, it is unfair, it is a joke.  And… taking this step is very difficult: I won’t receive a pay check next month.

 


August 7, 2014

Resignation

 

Today I submitted my resignation from the position of Science/Chemistry teacher at Hialeah Gardens Senior High School.

 

Is this the end of my teaching career? I cannot answer this question yet. I still believe there is a school somewhere that fits my expectations. Meanwhile I'll be tutoring mathematics and statistics, and eventually I will find a teaching position, a real one.

 

A few more words for today: I recently came across a mathematics professor's web page: Krzys' Ostaszewski, Illinois State University.
He writes, in bold, large characters: You Was Robbed. He is addressing high school graduates. Read by yourself the entire excerpt of the page. By the way, the only thing I want is not being part of the robbery. Today’s step was in that direction. This is Professor Ostaszewski:

You Was Robbed

Despite massive spending on education in the United States, educational standards have been lowered over time. If you went to high school in the United States, chances are you did not study any physics or calculus while being there. Even at the university level, where the United States remains the world leader, low standards in mathematics and science are creeping in. You may have to face the reality that while massive amounts of your own, your parents', and taxpayers' money were spent on your education, you did not learn enough mathematics and science. If you want to be a respected actuarial professional, you must have the maturity to face your own weaknesses and overcome them. Learn to love studying mathematics and its business applications. Be hungry for knowledge. This hunger will serve you well not just on the exams, but on the job, as well.

Tomorrow I will comment this assertion of an Obama administration official: “Too many school systems lied to children, families and communities (...)”

 
 July 1st, 2014

A teacher's dilemma:  

I’m looking for a job.  


Indeed I hold a position as a science teacher at Hialeah Gardens High School—a few blocks away from my house. I’ve been there for three years mostly teaching Chemistry I.

However, teaching regular courses is beyond frustrating. Most students in regular courses, approximately three fourths of a class, are just there to complete very mundane tasks. Any attempt in encouraging them to learn, think, or analyze, is futile. They refuse to work in order to become learners. In fact, that is what they have been doing for years, receiving good grades and enjoying their free time.

Teaching this kind of student requires one of two approaches from the instructor:

1.    Transforming the Environment: Teaching the material; having his or her students complete exercises that require an intellectual effort (no copy and paste, no easy notes from the book); providing the students with reviews, offering them extra hours of tutoring (perhaps, twice a week); spending the whole session explaining, going to the students’ desks, asking and answering questions; working on the board; one day administering a quiz—in which cheating is impossible (four versions of the exam, no multiple choices, no fill in the blank); thinking that their own enthusiasm for knowledge draws the students’ attention and stimulates their intellectual curiosity; grading each paper very carefully; dedicating over ten hours on weekends grading papers and preparing lessons. 

2.    Adapting to the Environment: Teaching the material; making assignments that are very easy to complete (completing simple questions from the text book, filling in the blank, vocabulary –copying down long vocabularies that keeps the students busy and quiet); having them turn in their assignments, worth most of the grade—60 to 80 percent—at the end of the period; having their classmates grade their work. The teacher becomes, what they call an ‘easy teacher’.

Number one fails because students know the teacher’s strategy. Even those who reject to work properly, have access to many alternatives: asking to transfer to an easy teacher’s class or to an easier subject (in the case of Chemistry, Physical Sciences are a good alternative sometimes), taking the evening class (which is brief, and almost everyone passes), even taking the class in the summer or next school year are options the student considers.

Number two can be summarized in ten words: students pretend to be students; teachers pretend to be teachers. Everything is a simulation where the real learning process is diminished to a minimum. It is still appealing because in this area no institution pays better than the public school system (my salary for 2013-14 was 52k), and the pension plan for retirement is a plus.  Furthermore, isolated teachers cannot change anything, except by putting themselves at a risk of losing the job for which they have been working for many years. One may also feel incapable of transforming a distorted world, a loser. That is why at some points I have considered quitting without saying a word.

But keeping the silence or becoming an obedient part of this ailing machinery is, at the very least, immoral.

At the same time, there is a small percentage of students, still a very important number, who strive for learning and work very hard to accomplish their dreams. I am prepared to teach advanced courses in Mathematics and Chemistry (AP Calculus AB and BC; AP Statistics; AP Chemistry; and AICE–Cambridge courses).

There also exists the possibility of finding a school where even students in regular courses attend school with the intention of learning. They may lack skills in science and math, but if they have the willingness to learn, I am willing to work with them, to teach and re-teach, tirelessly.  There won’t be easy grades; nevertheless I believe achieving high standards is always possible.

Recently the renowned American scientist Michio Kaku said:  “our high school system graduates generations of near-illiterate students (…)”. It may sound harsh, almost brutal, but it is true: near- illiterate students not just for the standards of the 21st Century, but also for the standards of the 20th Century in a Third World Country.

Note
: On June 18th, I wrote a letter to Mr. Alberto Carvalho, expressing my concerns, my perspective, and my decision to look for a position at another school. If by August I haven’t found an opening that fits my expectations in Miami Dade County Public Schools, I will submit my resignation to the current position I hold at MDCPS.  I am still open to consider an offer elsewhere.

 

Carlos Sotuyo.

Hialeah, July 1st 2014.

csotuyo@imathesis.com