Teachers and school district clash on report card expectations

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DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — Strong accusations by the teachers’ union prompted the school district to try to resolve conflict between the teachers and administration.

Some teachers believe they are being blamed for something they never expected would happen. The union says more than forty teachers were given letters saying they violated the new grading guidelines.

All classes have been taught remotely in the district this year because of the pandemic. Heather Samonds, a teacher at John’s Hill Magnet School spoke at this week’s school board meeting saying, “The climate of our district is such that we can never do enough or meet expectations.”

This aggravation stems from those letters that dozens of teachers received from the principals, requiring individual meetings to talk about why they didn’t follow the midterm progress report guidelines. Assistant Superintendent Jeff Dase says, “We discovered that there were progress reports where students did not have progress scores or grades.” This raised a red flag that needed to be addressed. “If we’re seeing a lot of progress reports without grades, then we definitely don’t want that with the report cards.”

In the last year, the district started implementing first quarter progress reports. Dase said, “We’re not trying to reprimand or discipline a lot of teachers. We just want improvement and at the same time we have to be given a clear picture to our parents that this is how your child is progressing throughout the quarters and throughout the year.”

But instead of being sent letters, the teachers say they hope the district will be more communicative and understanding of the challenges they, and their students, are going through. Decatur Education Association Teachers’ Union President Chrissy Petitt said, “Number one, [we want] to feel supported. Two, to be able to do what we do best teach students and give them what they need. I would say three is grace. We’re in a pandemic. We’re teaching virtually, which none of us have ever done before, and nothing is scripted. Nothing is easy.”

Some of those letters have been recalled since Tuesday night’s school board meeting. Dase says no teachers have been reprimanded or had any strikes against them in their files because of this. When WCIA asked him what they plan to do about the teacher’s concerns moving forward, he said they will remain open about communication with them regarding future conflicts.

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