Last night while online, I read some horrible news about the suicide death of Rigoberto Ruelas, a wonderful fifth grade teacher at Miramonte Elementary School. Although I do not personally know this teacher, I, along with the whole world, became of aware of him through a recent article in the LA Times that shamed him with an overall “value-added” rating of a “less effective” teacher.
I cannot imagine the horror and humiliation that he and 6000 other 3rd through 5th grade public school teachers must have felt when told that their names, test score averages and “effectiveness” ratings were posted in the newspaper for all to judge. Ruelas, along with the 6000 other teachers were unfairly rated using a flawed “value-added” measurement that categorized the teachers into levels of “effectiveness” based on their students’ test scores.
This publishing of students’ test scores was a means of shaming & humiliating many hardworking public school teachers during a turbulent time when ed reformers were (and still are) attempting to take over our public ed system and privatize it. It’s also interesting to note that numerous charter schools did not have to report their test scores. Unfortunately, because Ruelas chose to work in a gang-plagued public school in his impoverished community, he was one of the unlucky teachers to be held up as an example of a “less effective” teacher. Imagine what it must have felt like to be him.
The LA Times was warned that posting test scores was the wrong thing to do and that there would be problems resulting in such a ruthless tactic. The LA Times heard from numerous teachers and their union that they were doing the wrong thing. They didn’t care. They had an agenda and they went through with it and did it anyway. In fact, the database still remains today on LA Times’ website for teachers to continue to be publicly and unfairly shamed. http://bit.ly/dhzvqB
In my opinion, what LA Times and its financial backers did, was bullying. Teachers have been bashed and pummeled day after day in the media by ed reformers through their slick orchestrated tactics to discredit and devalue public school teachers so that the doors can be opened for charter schools and privatization. The ed reformers are so driven to accomplish this that they will not let anything or anyone get in their way. Their tactics have been ruthless, inciteful, and bordering on criminal.
The article about Ruelas’s death explained that his family and friends said he was feeling stressed about work and the recent teacher evaluation report that was printed in the LA Times. Maybe Ruelas’s death is because he just couldn’t take the stress and humiliation, anymore.
I know from experience that being a teacher in a public school can be very stressful. I’ve had colleagues express to me that they had to take anxiety medications just to get through their insane day. I’ve had another colleague express that she had thoughts of suicide because the stress of working in a Title I school was just too much to handle. In my school district, we had the President of our teacher’s union kill himself. Then not long after that, his teacher wife came down with Bell’s Palsy from the stress of losing her husband. Much of this has happened in the little Florida school district that I work in. Imagine what it must be like in school after school across the nation. Stress. Public education is stressful enough without having humiliation and shaming mixed in. Educators are working themselves to death for test scores and it has gotten out of hand.
Ruelas might have received a “less effective” rating from the LA Times, but he received an excellent ranking from his colleagues, students and parents. His life’s work should not be summed up in that LA Times shaming article. In this following article are some statements that sum up Ruelas’s effectiveness as a teacher. The article says it so much better than I can. While you read it, ask yourself these questions: Was this teacher an effective teacher? How should we really be measuring our teachers? What would Ruelas’s students say about his ratings and his effectiveness as a teacher? http://bit.ly/cj3U54