LANDCASTER, Pa. – A Pennsylvania teacher who is quitting her job of 20 years to retrain for the medical field is blaming her career switch on an overemphasis on student standardized testing.
Dina de Vitry sent in a letter of resignation from her job teaching sixth-grade math at Martin Meylin Middle School in January citing increasing pressure on students to perform well on state standardized tests, Landcaster Online reports.
“I can’t watch these kids struggle and work as hard as they can and still, they start to feel like failures,” de Vitry said. “They give up.”
So de Vitry apparently decided to do the same, and quit her job mid-year to purse a different career in nuclear medicine technology.
Her story puts a face on a survey conducted by the National Education Association last November that revealed about half of teachers consider quitting because of standardized testing, though unions rarely reveal the methodology or questioning that produce the desired poll results. Teachers unions have opposed standardized testing for years, but amped up efforts against the practice as states implement tests tied to Common Core federal education standards.
According to Landcaster Online, “almost three-quarters of teachers in the survey reported feeling moderate or extreme pressure from administrators to improve test scores.”
The news site pointed to the federal No Child Left Behind act of 2001 as the initial driver of increased standardized testing, and acknowledged that President Obama has continued to emphasize student test scores as a measure of progress.
Students in Pennsylvania specifically must complete tests on language arts and math in grades three through eight, as well as science tests in fourth through eighth grades. Pennsylvania’s high school students must pass three “Keystone” tests – in algebra, biology and literature – to graduate, Landcaster Online reports.
Those tests, according to Lampeter-Strasburg teachers union president Calvin Esh, are too stressful for teachers, who are evaluated in part on School Performance Profiles tied to the tests.
“There are people who are being told (by their doctors), ‘Your blood pressure’s too high, you need to do something else,’” he said. “We really shouldn’t be in a place in society where people who love teaching and are good at teaching should have to have a plan B.”
The district’s superintendent Kevin Peart declined to discuss de Vitry’s resignation, but said the district works to address issues with testing with lawmakers.
De Vitry, meanwhile, is hoping to use her career change to spark a discussion about testing, which she believes is useful but overemphasized.
“My biggest hope is that the priority goes back to the students and what’s best for the students and learning, and not what score they get on a test,” she said.
Those who commented on the teacher’s story online had mixed reactions.
David E. Jones, for one, doesn’t believe a career change to the medical field will alleviate de Vitry’s frustrations with regulations.
“If standardized testing drove you out of teaching, wait till you see how much regulation inhibits your ability to give care,” Jones wrote. “You are also going to be overworked when it is busy, and sent home when it is slow. You will work holidays and weekends. By the way, no pension, just a 401k.
“You will risk your life with HIV, hepatitis C and ebola. You will put up with ignorant patients on Medicaid telling you how to do your job. If I were you I would stick with teaching. After 20 years in medicine, I can’t wait to get out!”
De Vitry also responded to readers in the comments section.
“To those who may judge my decision, while you are certainly entitled to your opinion, please keep in mind that the focus of this article is not on my decision to resign or the path I choose to take from here,” she wrote.
“The intention is to create a better understanding of what is truly happening in even some of the best school districts and the effects it is having on our students, teachers and communities. I chose to share my story because I am able to provide a voice for many struggling teachers, since I no longer have to face the possible repercussions they might face by speaking out.”