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On Tuesday, Oct 18, two teachers chose to address the Seminole County School Board  the subject of Third Grade Retention.

Alexis Rapp is a former teacher from Orange County and a parent in Seminole County.

Dr. Griffin,

Please excuse my absence. I am taking care of my children. And, not only am I physically ‘not here’, I am also not here to discuss my grievances with you and your board for the actions that you have taken which have affected my reading-above-grade-level, nothing-less-than-above-average-on-his-report-card, minimally-participating-in-last-year’s-FSA, then-third-grade-son, whom you retained.

You have assured us, both in public forums and in private meetings with me and my colleagues, that you would “love to explore alternatives to testing that are within the context of the law.” And I truly believed that you would. I gave you the benefit of the doubt, despite my colleagues’ warnings. I trusted you, but I digress.

It has been ruled that students who minimally participated in the FSA, are “in accordance with the law” and can be promoted based on their report card.

Upon learning this news, I was honestly so excited for you!! And so hopeful. You’d finally have the chance to do what you have always said you’d like to do: what is best for children AND remain in accordance with the law.

And you didn’t.

And you won’t.

And I can’t tell you my disappointment in you and the board.

I am a Marzano rated “highly qualified” teacher (which seems to be very important to you…Marzano), I hold my Master’s in Education and graduated with honors. I am certified in the state of Florida until 2019 to instruct students in grades 1-5, ESOL, Art, and hold my Reading Endorsement. I have worked at the district level, using Lesson Study as a vehicle to encourage myself, students, and teachers to grow. I have been an Educational Consultant and have worked around the country.

One might say that I am able to perform the requirements of teaching and learning.

After conducting an independent portfolio review of Sarina Nickerson’s complete body of third grade work, in accordance with STATE guidelines, you should understand that it would be a completely inappropriate use of Sarina’s time and an abhorrent waste of taxpayer’s money to force her to repeat the third grade.

She’s already done it.

And she’s more than passed.

I am here to appeal to your common sense; to remind you of the promises that you have made to all of us. Please put your “money where your mouth is” and “do the right thing”. Follow the law. Promote Sarina and students like her. End this ridiculous power struggle. Be the leader you claim that you would like to be.

Thank you.

Parent Jodi Parham read the statement written by a former Seminole Teacher, who wishes to remain anonymous.

“Imagine you’re in 3rd grade. You’ve been working hard all year and have A’s and B’s on your report card. Now imagine it’s “testing week,” and the months of hard work leading up to this week could be for naught if you do not “pass” the FSA. A few days of testing will determine whether or not you will be retained or go on to 4th grade. Imagine the stress on a young child.

What message are we sending to these students? Work hard all year, but bear in mind all your hard work could be a complete waste of time if you don’t perform what has been deemed “adequately” by the state DOE. This is only the beginning for these students. They will undergo this stressful experience throughout grade school, middle school, and high school.

Now, imagine you’re a child with a learning disability. School is already more challenging for you, but the powers that be have determined we need to engage you in high stakes tests that may determine whether or not you advance to 4th grade.

Studies have shown that children who are retained are less likely to complete high school, and students who are retained twice have a greater than 50% chance of failing to graduate. Isn’t there a better way to determine if a child is learning and acquiring the necessary skills at each grade level?

The amount of instructional time taken by “practice testing” and actual testing is costly to the development of all students. It robs them of valuable time in the classroom and devalues the hard work they do each day. It is time to reevaluate these tests and go back to valuing the time students have each day to learn and grow at their own pace. It is time for a change.

Last year was my tenth and final year teaching. I still substitute but the environment in which I worked was so stressful, I could no longer continue. I was retaliated against for calling HR about issues. These issues were never addressed. I was reprimanded for telling parents their students made progress, because those students did not pass the FSA and were being retained. Every Sunday night, I broke out in hives thinking about going to work. It saddens me what is happening to our educational system. I hope we can remember to look at the whole child and the whole school year. I truly hope things change.

Thank you for listening.”