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Sun Apr 7, 2013, 03:01 PM

Teacher’s resignation letter: ‘My profession … no longer exists’

Increasingly teachers are speaking out against school reforms that they believe are demeaning their profession, and some are simply quitting because they have had enough.
Here is one resignation letter from a veteran teacher, Gerald J. Conti, a social studies teacher at Westhill High School in Syracuse, N.Y.:

...


As with Lincoln and Springfield, I have grown from a young to an old man here; my brother died while we were both employed here; my daughter was educated here, and I have been touched by and hope that I have touched hundreds of lives in my time here. I know that I have been fortunate to work with a small core of some of the finest students and educators on the planet.

I came to teaching forty years ago this month and have been lucky enough to work at a small liberal arts college, a major university and this superior secondary school. To me, history has been so very much more than a mere job, it has truly been my life, always driving my travel, guiding all of my reading and even dictating my television and movie viewing. Rarely have I engaged in any of these activities without an eye to my classroom and what I might employ in a lesson, a lecture or a presentation. With regard to my profession, I have truly attempted to live John Dewey’s famous quotation (now likely cliché with me, I’ve used it so very often) that “Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.” This type of total immersion is what I have always referred to as teaching “heavy,” working hard, spending time, researching, attending to details and never feeling satisfied that I knew enough on any topic. I now find that this approach to my profession is not only devalued, but denigrated and perhaps, in some quarters despised. STEM rules the day and “data driven” education seeks only conformity, standardization, testing and a zombie-like adherence to the shallow and generic Common Core, along with a lockstep of oversimplified so-called Essential Learnings. Creativity, academic freedom, teacher autonomy, experimentation and innovation are being stifled in a misguided effort to fix what is not broken in our system of public education and particularly not at Westhill.

A long train of failures has brought us to this unfortunate pass. In their pursuit of Federal tax dollars, our legislators have failed us by selling children out to private industries such as Pearson Education. The New York State United Teachers union has let down its membership by failing to mount a much more effective and vigorous campaign against this same costly and dangerous debacle. Finally, it is with sad reluctance that I say our own administration has been both uncommunicative and unresponsive to the concerns and needs of our staff and students by establishing testing and evaluation systems that are Byzantine at best and at worst, draconian. This situation has been exacerbated by other actions of the administration, in either refusing to call open forum meetings to discuss these pressing issues, or by so constraining the time limits of such meetings that little more than a conveying of information could take place. This lack of leadership at every level has only served to produce confusion, a loss of confidence and a dramatic and rapid decaying of morale. The repercussions of these ill-conceived policies will be telling and shall resound to the detriment of education for years to come. The analogy that this process is like building the airplane while we are flying would strike terror in the heart of anyone should it be applied to an actual airplane flight, a medical procedure, or even a home repair. Why should it be acceptable in our careers and in the education of our children?
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http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/04/06/teachers-resignation-letter-my-profession-no-longer-exists/?tid=pm_local_pop

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Reply Teacher’s resignation letter: ‘My profession … no longer exists’ (Original post)
n2doc Apr 2013 OP
Sekhmets Daughter Apr 2013 #1
DeSwiss Apr 2013 #15
Sekhmets Daughter Apr 2013 #16
DeSwiss Apr 2013 #18
Sekhmets Daughter Apr 2013 #19
DeSwiss Apr 2013 #21
AdHocSolver Apr 2013 #24
DeSwiss Apr 2013 #32
Lifelong Protester Apr 2013 #2
roody Apr 2013 #3
AdHocSolver Apr 2013 #23
chervilant Apr 2013 #30
itsrobert Apr 2013 #4
Hissyspit Apr 2013 #6
sulphurdunn Apr 2013 #7
The Velveteen Ocelot Apr 2013 #10
tavalon Apr 2013 #12
AnneD May 2013 #37
tavalon May 2013 #38
AnneD May 2013 #39
Warpy Apr 2013 #28
erronis Apr 2013 #5
tavalon Apr 2013 #13
AdHocSolver Apr 2013 #22
tavalon Apr 2013 #27
mbperrin Apr 2013 #31
Sadiedog Apr 2013 #8
Scootaloo Apr 2013 #9
AdHocSolver Apr 2013 #17
Igel Apr 2013 #20
AdHocSolver Apr 2013 #29
WillyT Apr 2013 #11
charmay Apr 2013 #14
Skittles Apr 2013 #25
Lifelong Protester Apr 2013 #34
michigandem58 Apr 2013 #26
charmay Apr 2013 #33
michigandem58 Apr 2013 #35
duffyduff Apr 2013 #36
Post removed May 2013 #40

Response to n2doc (Original post)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 03:10 PM

1. And yet another American tragedy. n/t

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Response to Sekhmets Daughter (Reply #1)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 05:50 PM

15. It's only a tragedy if we don't learn from it. :-/ n/t

 

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Response to DeSwiss (Reply #15)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 05:52 PM

16. It's been going on for decades.

My father had a better public school education than did I... I had a better PS education than did my children... I shudder to think what lies ahead.

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Response to Sekhmets Daughter (Reply #16)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 06:07 PM

18. Obviously....

 

...not much lies ahead if we continue to depend on the same system. Einstein was right. It is crazy to do the same disastrous things over and over again and expecting a different (beneficial) outcome. But it's also a classic lemons-2-lemonade situation. Every tragedy is a victory turned inside-out. If you can figure out how to do it.

- What is needed is for good teachers to start their own schools. And thanks to GREED and POLITICIANS, they can.

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Response to DeSwiss (Reply #18)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 06:09 PM

19. Now that is a very good option... "good teachers to start their own schools"

I could get behind that for sure!

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Response to Sekhmets Daughter (Reply #19)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 06:20 PM

21. Where there is a will.....

 



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Response to DeSwiss (Reply #18)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 07:33 PM

24. Great idea. Teachers should start cooperative schools just as workers have taken over factories.

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Response to AdHocSolver (Reply #24)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 09:47 PM

32. Precisely.

 

“If you want to hold teachers accountable then teachers have to be able to run the school.” ~Albert Shanker, former president of the American Federation of Teachers

Cooperative-run schools



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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 03:42 PM

2. This is sadly so true

I thank you for posting this; I like the Washington Post "Answer Sheet" blog.
I sometimes feel like I am the only one who feels the way the writer does, I'm am glad (and depressed, really) to find others see it the same way.

I am near the end of a teaching career, and sadly, I am glad I am at the end and not the beginning. Some really bad things have happened and are yet in the pipeling TO happen.

I find this quote both chilling and accurate:

"The repercussions of these ill-conceived policies will be telling and shall resound to the detriment of education for years to come."

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Response to Lifelong Protester (Reply #2)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 04:01 PM

3. I am also nearing the end

(retirement) of teaching. I am fortunate to work on a union shop and have a good union, California Teachers Association. But testing rules anyway.

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Response to Lifelong Protester (Reply #2)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 07:10 PM

23. The ill-conceived education policies are exactly what our power elite want.

The economic policies of Wall Street and the big banks are designed to depress the world's economies so that they can siphon all of the assets of the middle class in order to create a modern feudal system of royalty and serfs.

This requires eliminating family supporting jobs and the social safety nets such as Medicare and Social Security.

They initiated the same policies in the 1920's and 1930's, but President Franklin Roosevelt proposed a "New Deal" (which included Social Security and government sponsored work programs).

Backed by an aroused public (who understood how they were getting screwed), Roosevelt pushed through legislation such as the Glass-Steagall Act.

Workers joined the growing union movement and fought back against Wall Street.

Wall Street and the banks are playing the same scenario today that they did 70 to 80 years ago. However, they have made some preliminary changes to the script.

First, they have gutted the unions before starting the thievery.

Second, they are dismantling public education to dumb down the people. Then, when the mass of the people becomes unemployed because Wall Street has shipped all the jobs to low wage countries, the power elite can blame the people for not being properly educated to handle those jobs.

In other words, public education is being destroyed so that the one percent can blame the victims for their joblessness.

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Response to AdHocSolver (Reply #23)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 08:46 PM

30. This:

Then, when the mass of the people becomes unemployed because Wall Street has shipped all the jobs to low wage countries, the power elite can blame the people for not being properly educated to handle those jobs.


is already happening. 40-45% of our population is functionally illiterate. The US ranks 27th out of 36 industrialized nations with regards to teaching our children math. Our textbooks are being subverted to teach a hyper-patriotic, ultra-conservative propaganda. And, our teachers are being tarred with the "you're bad!" brush.

I'm intent upon teaching math, and I'm in rural Arkansas, where change occurs at least twenty years behind the rest of our nation. I hope I get to help our children learn, and love, math!

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 04:29 PM

4. Looks like the teacher doesn't have it in him anymore

Not unusual to happen in many professions as people get older.

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Response to itsrobert (Reply #4)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 04:48 PM

6. Yeah, it's all his fault.

Always the teacher, never the people running (or gaming) the system.

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Response to itsrobert (Reply #4)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 05:08 PM

7. Have what in him?

 

The nobility to go down swinging in a lost cause? Many of us will stay and fight, but we have no illusions about the odds or likely outcome. Virtually the entire ruling elite, its money and power are arrayed against public education. If we get lucky and do stuff the bastards, it'll be a far bigger upset than Appalachian State beating Michigan.

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Response to itsrobert (Reply #4)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 05:26 PM

10. The teacher doesn't have it in him any more?

What a ridiculous statement. This teacher has seen his profession turned into a data-driven method of turning out marginally-educated drones for corporate America. He's got plenty "in him," it's just that the system no longer wants what he has to offer.

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Response to itsrobert (Reply #4)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 05:33 PM

12. He's burnt out, not because of teaching

but because of the systematic betrayal of the profession and the children by our bloodsucking legislators.

I'm a nurse. I'm just a couple of decades away from the end of my career so I've been at it a long time. I am still passionate about my patients, just the same as I was when I was a home health nurse and an ED nurse and a L/D nurse and now as a neonatal nurse. I am extremely burnt out on the system under which I provide that care. I despise our healthcare "system" and don't even see it as a "system" or really, worth saving. I think it needs to be changed from top to bottom and I doubt it will be.

It's not age that causes burn out, itsrobert, it's the system failures. And those of us who most love what we do are the most susceptible to institutional burnout.

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Response to tavalon (Reply #12)

Wed May 15, 2013, 01:02 PM

37. Tavalon...

You are spot on. I use to say I had the best of both worlds as a School Nurse. Now I really can't claim that. I actually can retire and think I soon will. I won't retire because I cannot do the job but because I cannot stand what it has become.

I am deeply concerned for both the new Nurses and new teachers coming into their professions. It is all managed by bean counters who don't give a rat's arse about anything more that how cheaply one can make a widget (student) or repair a widget (patient).

If I had to educate my daughter in today's enviroment, I would tinker with my work schedual and home shcool my child.

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Response to AnneD (Reply #37)

Wed May 15, 2013, 08:29 PM

38. Wow, you are right, the best of both worlds

I often wonder if the reason it's said that doctors and nurses make the worst patients is because we aren't willing to be treated as a widget? I dunno. I have a broken shoulder and my wonderful friend who has been my caretaker through this says I've been great. But I bet I wouldn't have if I'd needed a shoulder replacement. It's the hospital paternalism and bean counting that make me crazy. One of the reasons I loved home health was the opportunity to provide care in the person's own home. It completely changes the power dynamic in what I consider a really good way.

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Response to tavalon (Reply #38)

Thu May 16, 2013, 09:48 AM

39. I have picked up...

prn in nursing homes. Yes, I have heard how Docs and Nurses make bad patients. Docs make awful patients as a rule, I guess because it is hard to be a retired God. But Nurses, I'll take a wing full of them any day. Funny, sharp, and can tell the best 'back in the day' stories

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Response to itsrobert (Reply #4)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 07:58 PM

28. My grandfather taught all through his 70s

He loved teaching and called it the best and most noble of all professions. He'd done it all, primary school, a professorship, superintendent of schools, and piano and violin lessons in his living room.

I doubt he'd be able to stay in the profession now. It's all rote memorization and very little learning, the whole thing dumbed down beyond recognition. I've seen the books he taught from and very few high school graduates today would be able to cope with high school texts then.

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 04:31 PM

5. And the beat goes on - AI in the classroom anyone?

To add to the STEM insult we now also are on the verge of having computers grade our essays.

I'm a computer programmer and have worked with AI and various similar technologies. I don't think there is a good way to grade "creativity" or "outside the box".

I also don't think "teaching to the test" makes better citizens unless we are talking about parrot heads and drones.

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Response to erronis (Reply #5)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 05:36 PM

13. Essays? What the hell?

Multiple choice, sure, but essays. That's just warped. Essays are so subjective.

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Response to tavalon (Reply #13)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 06:29 PM

22. The computer can be programmed to look for special phrases and "buzz" words.

So-called "human resources" departments often scan on-line resumes looking for the resume that shows a "best fit" to the job description.

This relieves the staff from any responsibility of making a decision about whom to interview and whomever gets hired.

This mentality is typical of the corporate management mentality, including education management, which considers humans as just another group of input or output units.

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Response to AdHocSolver (Reply #22)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 07:56 PM

27. That's just, well, fucked up

I bet take home essays are a bitch to grade though, with the net resources making plagiarism fun and easy.

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Response to tavalon (Reply #13)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 08:50 PM

31. Machines have been "grading" essays in Texas since the late 90s.

I taught English under the old TAAS tests. Here's what the machine looks for and what will get you the desired "5" rating.

Essay must be exactly 52 lines long, no more, no less.
Introduction and conclusion must be 5 lines long each.
3 body paragraphs must be 14 lines long.

The first paragraph must have 3 words, one of which will be repeated in each of the body paragraphs, and all 3 in the conclusion.
Each paragraph must contain within it 3 of the "approved proofs," such as explicitly saying "for example," "in my experience" and a host of others.

That's all there is to it. Just fill in with any other words you like with periods and/or question marks scattered in. Print, so that the OCR can read it, otherwise it goes to a graduate assistant in some university somewhere and will delay your test results.


I switched to Social Studies the next year, but I don't imagine anything's changed. 98% of my students have passed the exit-level tests required by the state over the last 17 years.

Crap, eh?

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 05:13 PM

8. And sadly I am seeing these same problems even at the preschool level.Nt

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 05:21 PM

9. We keep doing this, and keep complaining about the intellectual stagnation of our kids

 

But then we're a society that apparently thinks that money can be made by cutting income, and that hte best way to help the poor is to increase their poverty, do worsening our education to make our kids smarter is par for the course.

At this point the only question is who our version of the Visigoths will be.

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Response to Scootaloo (Reply #9)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 06:01 PM

17. Our "Visigoths" are also known as vulture capitalists and bankers.

The Visigoths have already infiltrated our society.

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Response to AdHocSolver (Reply #17)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 06:14 PM

20. You're ignoring what's behind the curtain.

I've heard dozens of kids in the last week complain about a project they have to do. They're usually hard-working kids and do their work in my class on time, and judging from their grades, the same is true in other classes.

The project requires a number of steps. They have to have a rough draft of the outline. They have to document their research. They must have a minimum number of references. They have to have a polished outline with a minimum number of top-level, secondary, and tertiary entries. Each top-level entry must include a minimum number of examples. They have to have a rough draft of the project that mirrors the outline. They have to have a polished project. They have to revise their project.

Every step is graded for points that contribute to the final result. If you don't document your research by the deadline you can get a B, but not an A. If you don't have the rough draft of the outline done on time, you can be a B but not an A. The system is set up for the kids who have never done a serious project, who need to be not only guided step-by-step but seriously motivated by grades to do each step in a timely manner.

The A students are bored to tears. B students sort of see the reason for all the steps, but find the specificity of the requirements anal retentive. The F students are slacking off. It's a project geared for the D- and C-students to make sure that they can succeed, so they are led by the hands through each step, monitored at each step, and shepherded to the final conclusion. The class isn't for the good students. It's taught to the low-achieving students who can still succeed. It's a safety net that catches the low-achieving student and ties down the high achievers.

And that's level classes in public education. If you want to find the kinds who aren't bored, go to pre-AP, AP, pre-IB and IB classes. (But even then, in many states pre-AP is just the old academic/top-tracked classes because the ranks of the terminally bored descend not just through the ranks of proper pre-AP students but down into A and B level students.)

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Response to Igel (Reply #20)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 08:12 PM

29. Sounds like a useless, mind-numbing, creativity-destroying, drudge work assignment.

Teaching process over substance is bureaucratic claptrap.

I remember those kinds of "research" assignments when I was a student.

Totally boring and taught absolutely nothing useful.

If the student has nothing invested in an assignment except to follow a script to get a grade, then the student will most likely learn nothing about the subject matter.

Actually, I am not sure what point you are trying to make.

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 05:29 PM

11. HUGE K & R !!!

 

I left in 1989...

Two of my three sisters left after several years as well.


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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 05:42 PM

14. I'm retiring two years earlier than I wanted.

When I'm in the classroom, it's still great. I love my students, and I respect my administrators. It's the politics that I can't stand. Wisconsin's Governor Walker has decimated the union and morale so much, that veteran teachers leave as soon as they can. I guess I will be one of them now.

Testing is ridiculous. Putting jobs and financing on the line for one test per year is complete idiocy. I've been working evenings and weekends on Common Core curriculum for my replacement knowing full well that it is just another bandwagon and will be forgotten when some other educrat figures out a way to gain fame and money on the backs of our students.

Yes, I'm burned out, but not because of kids and not because of hard work. I'm burned out because of politicians and educrats who have never been anywhere near a classroom, making monumental decisions for that classroom.

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Response to charmay (Reply #14)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 07:38 PM

25. worthy of its own thread, charmay

yes indeed

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Response to charmay (Reply #14)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 11:35 PM

34. Wish I could rec your post, charmay

I am also in Wisconsin.

And I am also tired of those who know NOTHING of what goes into teaching and learning, making the decisions for our classrooms.

I am a teacher, and administrator. I don't know how much longer we can keep doing what we do as administrators to keep this insanity from taking down the whole system. Or as teachers, for that matter.

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 07:51 PM

26. He didn't resign, he retired

 

Big difference. Wonder if he would have exercised those principles so dramatically without a pension waiting on the other side.

"I assume that I will be eligible for any local or state incentives that may be offered prior to my date of actual retirement and I trust that I may return to the high school at some point as a substitute teacher."

Apparently he can bear being a substitute.

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Response to michigandem58 (Reply #26)

Sun Apr 7, 2013, 10:35 PM

33. When I handed in my letter it was considered a resignation.

Also, substitute teaching does not contend with the day-to-day pressures of high stakes testing. So yes, being a sub. is bearable. As for pension, many teachers like me contribute.

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Response to charmay (Reply #33)

Mon Apr 8, 2013, 08:37 AM

35. I wasn't objecting to the pension

 

I just think it's disingenuous to call a retirement a resignation.

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Response to michigandem58 (Reply #35)

Mon Apr 8, 2013, 12:19 PM

36. Welcome to the world of education

 

A termination is only a termination if teachers go through a "due process" hearing and "lose," which they almost always do because these sham tribunals are more often than not rigged in a district's favor. Few teachers recommended for firing ever go through them, and many teachers who do didn't do anything wrong but chose not to take a settlement for fear it is an admission of guilt. They also want the right to sue a school district in court.

A non-renewal is the firing of a person who doesn't have a continuing contract (misnamed "tenure". A principal can fire this person for any reason at all or no reason, as long as the person isn't in a protected class.

A "settlement" in a resignation isn't a true settlement as in a court settlement. It is, in fact, a separation package negotiated with a school district in lieu of a dismissal. The vast majority of teachers who are recommended for "dismissal" take these agreements with gag orders not to talk about them or to sue them in court. Teachers take these fake "resignations" in some mistaken hope they have a better chance of getting a job than if they go through the sham hearings. There is no evidence at all it helps their chances of getting future employment. The remainder of teachers pushed out of the field take early retirements, if they qualify.

A RIF is a true layoff. So is a temporary contract that isn't renewed when it is grant-funded or is a position that is being temporarily filled while the incumbent is out on leave.

School districts have a whole arsenal of methods to get rid of teachers they don't like. It is a very easy process, indeed, to get rid of them.

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Response to n2doc (Original post)

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