Tuesday, March 31, 2015

D. A. Russell with a Guest Post: "Duties of Teachers Not Related to Curricula"

Welcome D.A. Russell, author of Lifting the Curtain

Duties of Teachers Not Related to Curricula

by D. A. Russell

In 1990, a classroom teacher typically had all but six minutes per class available to teach the lesson plan for the day. We were able to dive into the lesson content, and use best practices reinforcement techniques to engage and challenge students. Children did an hour of homework each night, studied before tests, and enjoyed earning their successes. Children graduated from high school ready for college, and were soon ready for amazing careers. The USA ranked at or near the top of worldwide educational performance.

Just twenty-five years later the picture could not be more different. Almost 20 nations have passed the USA in educational effectiveness. Both SAT and ACT testing services find only 26% of high school graduates are ready for college.  College freshmen are spending their first year repeating high school courses – resulting in more and more downgrades to associate degrees due to lack of college credits. Children average just 1.5 hours per week of homework, and just 14% study the night before a test. Standardized test scores are down and graduation rates continue to decline. 46% of all new teachers quit the profession within the first five years. Charter schools are failing across the nation.

And we have cheated an entire generation of children out of a good education.

One of the most severe causes is the steep reduction in teaching time within a class period because of mandates that prevent teachers from teaching. Today, mandates by career DoE bureaucrats have usurped an average of 35 minutes per class period for non-instruction duties – yet the teacher is expected to cover the same lesson plan in the reduced time.

Here is a summary look at the major mandates that take a teacher away from the board for every class period. For periodic items (like assemblies) the time is prorated across the entire year.

Pre-1990 duties (6 minutes)
Fire drills
Handout/collect homework

Security Mandates (5 minutes)
Evacuation drills
Lock-down drills
Verify student ID use in every class
Track and continually monitor all children out-of-classroom

Social Mandates (1.5 minutes)
Assemblies – Allergies (Peanut, latex, perfume…)
Assemblies – bullying
Assemblies – LGBT
Assemblies – Career days
Assemblies – non-traditional careers
Assemblies – General (Class elections, PEP…)

Teacher mandates (4.5 minutes)
½ days for teacher training (PDPs)
Days missed developing new common core curricula
Yearly restraint training
State bullying training
Sign posting every class (core reference)

Standardized testing mandates (3.5 minutes)
Days missed proctoring standardized testing
Yearly test proctoring instruction
Days used to develop curricula and materials for standardized test preparation classes
Assemblies – standardized test orientation

Inclusion, ESL, and SPED Mandates (0 –- 30 minutes)
Accommodations to individuals and groups in lieu of teaching at the board
Repeating lesson via diversified learning techniques to individuals and groups within the class
Yearly ESL and SPED instruction

A vital caveat: the issue is not whether these additional topics are valuable, important, or necessary.  
Assume, for the sake of argument, that we all agree they are all vital to our children. Then we must also accept that the impact of a decision to replace chunks of the curricula with other topics is a reduction in education, and holding teachers accountable for things completely out of their control.

There are only 60-70 minutes in a typical class period
These non-curricula mandates must come at the expense of the lesson plan – usurping an average of 35 minutes per class from the planned curricula
Teachers are still held accountable for “not teaching” the full curricula when the real issue is that they are prevented from teaching because of these mandates
Teachers proficient in math, English, etc. are held accountable for teaching social issues where they have had no training and have little expertise.

The unintended consequences of these non-education mandates has been devastating. They led to dumbed-down teaching, lower graduation rates, being unready for college, and declining performance.  

We have cheated an entire generation of children out of a good education by inept bureaucratic mandates that prevent teachers from engaging and teaching our children. We must start looking at every mandate from the state and federal DoEs and start asking a very simple question: Is this what we want as the primary focus in our classrooms, and are we ready to accept the consequences if we do? If we continue to hid behind the false mantra that it is “…bad funding, bad unions, bad children, and bad teachers…” then we will never get to the real fixes.

Thank you to Wow! Women on Writing for providing this stop on D. A. Russell's blog tour!
For more information and more tour stops, click here.

About the Book:

The 2nd edition of the acclaimed look at today's failed education system -- with dozens of teacher submissions from across the USA and nine new chapters! Both KIRKUS and CLARION praise this important book "...from the unique perspective of a classroom teacher" that shows the real problems that have destroyed the education of our children. Few parents or legislators have any chance of seeing the real state of education in our urban schools. It is a shameful disaster -- unlike anything that we, as parents, experienced just 15-20 years ago. The real problems stay largely unseen, because career DoE bureaucrats and school administration are extremely good at hiding their failed policies behind the curtain of the school entryway. In Lifting the Curtain, Russell provides a detailed look at urban high school education from inside the classroom, including three years of research, and the first ever major survey of what students and teachers think of the educational system. If we want a real solution for our children, then for once we must focus on the real problems, the ones carefully hidden behind the educational curtain.

About D.A. Russell:

D. A. Russell has spent the last ten years as a math teacher in one of the urban high schools that is the subject of Lifting the Curtain. He is an honors graduate of Dartmouth College, and has his master’s degree from Simon School, where he was valedictorian of his class. Russell is a decorated Vietnam veteran. He has two children that he treasures, and four grandchildren. His son is a police officer who served in the US Army in Afghanistan, earning a Bronze Star for valor. His daughter is a lawyer and his most passionate fan and honorary literary agent. Russell has a passion for children that dominates his life. He has taught and coached children for decades. Few things are more important in Russell’s view than to cherish the children who are our real treasures in this world. He is a contributor for education matters to the Huffington Post, and runs a personal blog at: LiftingTheCurtainOnEducation.wordpress.com  D. A. Ruseell is dedicated to letting teacher voices be heard in the real problems with education.

For more information about blog hostess, Audry Fryer,
please visit www.audryfryer.com 


  1. Thank you for hosting Don today, Audry! It blows my mind how little time is actually left for teachers to teach, much less get any planning done.

  2. I'm happy to host Don. With children of my own in elementary school and a background in education, I appreciate his passion for reform.


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