Education Climate Change

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It appears the uncertainty and inconsistency in public education is getting to be too much for educators across Texas. A decline in student behavior is a growing concern. Many north Texas teachers have taken to social media to lament a significant increase in negative student behavior with little authority or administrative support to manage it effectively. Teacher absences are adding to current concerns in education. Overcrowded classes are being split between teachers who are present, often leaving unqualified aides/paraprofessionals responsible for teaching students. 

In Dallas, there are reports of administrators covering classes, not only on their campuses, but other campuses too.  Substitute teachers seem to be opting to forgo the chaos as well. There is a critical shortage of substitutes to step in for absent teachers. Many districts are experiencing the new reality of having classrooms full of learners with no one to teach them. 

Right now, in north Texas, instruction has ground to a halt in many classrooms, but that’s not apparent to education stakeholders, particularly parents, on the outside. Many parents are not aware of the concerns in the classrooms they send their children to everyday. Debates about wearing masks, vaccinations and social curriculum has effectively overshadowed the current lack of quality instruction and learning happening in countless classrooms across the metroplex.

This concerning trend will probably remain veiled since it does not help the perception of public education. Since it is unlikely that parents will be apprised of the current education conditions in schools, here are a few suggestions for parents who want to ensure their children are receiving opportunities to learn.

  • Ask your child’s teacher to inform you if he or she will be out of the classroom for the day or longer. Ask about who will be covering the class in that person’s absence.

  • Confirm with campus administration your child’s teacher is in fact still in the classroom.

  • If there is a sub in your child’s class, ask campus administration about the person’s professional credentials as they relate to teaching your child.

  • If your child has an IEP, ask campus administrators if and how your child’s services are being provided and ask for a copy of the documentation that proves that.

  • Ask your child about the behavior climate in his or her classroom. If you have concerns, ask the teacher or campus administration the same thing.

  • Follow up your questions, responses or meetings with emails outlining what you were told. If you don’t have access to email, a simple spiral notebook is useful to keep notes about contacts with the school.

  • Ask your child specifically what they are learning in school and ask to see it.

  • If you discover your child’s needs are NOT being met, arrange a meeting with your child’s teacher, a campus administrator and anyone you might want to bring with you. Bring a pen and notebook for notetaking and consider using your phone to openly record the meeting. State your concerns respectfully and ask what steps will be taken to ensure your child is learning. Be sure to follow up regularly to ensure it is happening.

This unfortunate phenomenon is not limited to metroplex schools. Teachers and substitutes are declining across Texas and the nation. As parents, we may never hear about the condition of our children’s classroom unless we ask explicitly. Feel empowered to ask school faculty questions that will net information about your child’s learning environment, quality of instruction and behavioral climate in the classroom. As the public education situation devolves, the way to stay in the know is to proactively ask questions. Failure to inquire may end up costing your child significantly.

Dr. Teresa Sanders
Dr. Sanders is an international bestselling author, education researcher and student and family advocate in the education setting. Dr. Sanders has presented at international education conferences and is the founder of Safari Small Schools, an innovative micro school in Canton, Texas. Dr. Sanders created Safari Small Schools to meet the needs of learners who aren’t thriving in the traditional classroom. Dr. Sanders can be reached at DrSanders@safarismallschools.com.