Presque Isle-Area Teachers Air Frustrations, Ask Board to Reign in Bureaucracy

By Brino, Anthony | Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), April 21, 2016 | Go to article overview

Presque Isle-Area Teachers Air Frustrations, Ask Board to Reign in Bureaucracy


Brino, Anthony, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)


PRESQUE ISLE, Maine -- Teachers in School Administrative District 1 say some aspects of new proficiency initiatives have left them without enough time for students.

At a packed meeting moved at the last minute to the Presque Isle High School cafeteria, the SAD 1 board of directors received the results of a workload survey of K-12 teachers, and ended up voting to look into their concerns.

"I am not new to teaching, but I can tell you that I have never been so unhappy," one high school teacher said in the survey.

"People are terrified about sweeping changes that are being proposed or carried out with no feedback from the people things affect directly," another teacher from the high school said.

Among the changes are new student competency initiatives and related software programs that teachers are using under the guise of proficiency-based education policies aimed at producing students who can show they understand their studies and skills rather than pass with minimum grades. Maine enacted proficiency-based education, or PBE, law in 2012, incorporating a version of the Common Core national curriculum standards, while still delegating a number of choices to districts.

SAD 1 teachers largely agree with the overall proficiency-based education philosophy, said George Knox, a high school social studies teacher and co-president of the SAD 1 educators association.

"We are against the tools that have been chosen without teacher input," he said.

In the survey, almost half of teachers who have been in the district for at least five years said the workload has increased and 15 percent reported spending more than 20 hours a week working outside of the school day.

Carson Dobrin, a high school biology and chemistry teacher, said the curriculum she and other science teachers have access to is good, but that they spend too much time doing what amounts to manual data input.

"The time needed to bringing students quality lessons and activities is not there, because of the paper work and all of these other things on the back-end," said Dobrin, who also has a doctorate in neuroscience and two young sons. "You've got to balance the time at home and the time at school."

The SAD 1 educators association asked the board of directors to intervene and end the district's use of the proficiency tracking software Empower, which Mapleton Elementary teacher Judy Atcheson described as "unbelievably time-consuming." The teachers say their current grading system, Power School, allows them to track student proficiency progress.

After the presentation, the board voted to create a special committee to meet with teachers and administrators, consider the complaints, and figure out which proficiency programs are actually required by the state and federal governments.

The teachers' complaints about too much bureaucracy are not unique to SAD 1, and

SAD 1 superintendent Brian Carpenter said he thinks "some of them are founded and some are not. …

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