Good afternoon, I’m Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association. I am here today to speak to you regarding concerns about Policy 4373, the student behavior policy that has been on public comment for the last few months.
WVEA has formally submitted our concerns regarding the policy last month so I am not going to go over each of them point by point; instead, I wanted to come here today to address some of the broader concerns that have arisen from the proposed policy.
First, let me say that in terms of classroom management and the delivery of instruction to students; there is nothing that creates more difficulties for teachers than a disruptive student in the classroom. Class sizes are large; they include a number of students with special needs; a number of students with various skill levels; and a teacher trying to deliver required instruction in a finite period of time. Interruptions to the learning process by unruly students are the biggest issue many teachers face.
The biggest concern from many teachers and administrators regarding this policy is that it does nothing to assist counties in funding and developing alternative education programs.
Disruptive students cannot remain in the classroom hindering the learning process of other students, but they do need to be in an environment where learning takes place. The array of discipline options in many counties is limited due to lack of staff or lack of fiscal resources.
While the policy repeatedly references In School Suspension; before or after school detention, weekend detention; and alternative education programs; for most schools (elementary through high school) in our state these options do not exist. The lack of these programs creates a void in the discipline that can be handed out to students making out of school suspension a necessary consequence for even the most minor violations in some cases. One thing is clear regarding student discipline; if inappropriate behavior is not dealt with, the behavior will continue and spread to other students.
Teachers understand the need for all students, even those that are unruly, to be in school receiving instruction. However, they also understand the consequences of unruly students remaining in a classroom disrupting others. Schools – from the elementary to secondary level – desperately need alternatives for disruptive students. I am disappointed that neither this policy nor the Board addresses the need.
The second major concern is the proposal to have teachers enter student behavior data into WVEIS. I have probably heard more from teachers regarding this part of the policy than any other and obviously they are not pleased.
We have talked over and over about teachers having time to teach and collaborate. We thought our concerns regarding time were being taken seriously, but obviously with the language contained in this policy; our concerns have fallen on deaf ears.
As teachers are being asked to do more and more in terms of instruction, planning, collaboration, and parental communication how are they supposed to find time in their jam packed day for anything else?
With most teachers experiencing limited planning time, why would you want teachers to spend their valuable preparation time entering data into WVEIS? Not only that, but the big concern among teachers is that once they begin entering this data the floodgates will open for them to spend all their planning time entering other data into WVEIS.
WVEIS data entry by teachers is not a good idea and should not be referenced in this policy. A teacher has far more valuable and productive uses for their limited time without students than entering WVEIS data.
And finally, there are a number of sections in the proposed policy that seem to be in conflict with current state law as passed by the legislature in the Safe Schools Act. WVEA asks that those sections of the policy be revised to reflect the language of the Safe School Act and current state code.
This policy is a hot button issue for teachers. Few things in our schools create more disruptions to the learning process than disruptive students in the classroom. We need to do all we can to ensure teachers can teach, bus drivers can drive and students can learn in an environment free of interruptions by unruly students.