Ann Florence: Utah English Teacher Stands Up for Real Teaching and is Shut Down by Administrators   13 comments

ann f
“I am required to teach key reading comprehension strategies,  the writing process,  information-gathering skills, grammar, vocabulary, etc., etc.  But I also hope to awaken a love of reading and literature, ignite curiosity about our complex world….  “All children are gifted—some just open their presents earlier than others.” I know that every one of my students understands something I don’t and has something to tell the world that no one else ever has. I am a “treasure seeker” and “talent scout,” hoping to help young people discover the gold within themselves and each other.”

This quote is excerpted from the disclosure statement of Utah English teacher Ann Florence who has been placed on forced leave, pending probable termination.  How awful.  This beautiful quote reveals that Florence is a treasure, not some problem teacher to be forced out.   But she has been pushed out, for her act of standing up for the right to teach and the right to be judged on her actual teaching rather than endless government mandated tests.

Administrators have labeled her insubordinate.  Read the news.  See  what has happened. 

It seems to me that Ann Florence doesn’t buy the notion that teachers must give up their rights to free speech, nor give up their rights to participation in the political process, just because they are employed by the government.  She certainly doesn’t believe that teachers should give up the art of real teaching to bow to government enforced, excessive high-stakes tests that narrowly judge not only students, but teachers as well.

A year ago, Florence  wrote an op-ed voicing her concerns.  She explained (excerpt):

“Managing teachers through intimidation is not working… teachers are looking for work elsewhere. Teachers who have loved their jobs are discouraging their own children from pursuing careers in education…. we feel exhausted and demoralized by the avalanche of mandates from the state and district… While legislators constantly raise expectations and think they can motivate us by publicly posting test scores, our time for teaching has shrunk….I now administer 19 days of standardized tests, costing me an entire month of instruction. This doesn’t include the days the testing site is down or the system crashes, eating up even more days…. I am held accountable for nine months of curriculum without enough time to teach it… Granite District has required teachers to learn the new Common Core, use a new grades program (which crashes regularly), design a new honors curriculum, use a new online system requiring the scanning and posting of all assignments and a daily summary of class activities, and learn to analyze complex data … No test score reflects the number of students who return to thank a teacher, the number who fall in love with reading again, gain new confidence to speak up in class, find solace in a teacher’s support, decide to try one more time just when they want to quit…  We are tired of having our dedication reduced to a number.”

Now, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that after Florence criticized new “standardized tests as a waste of time and irrelevant to what students are being taught” she was “placed on administrative leave and may be fired.”

Her students’ response?

“Oh captain, my captain, you have taught me so much this year. The value of honesty, imagination, and freedom to express myself. I cannot thank you enough for that. You are the best teacher Wasatch could ever ask for.”

Along with the emailed poetry, students launched a petition drive, urging that Florence not be terminated.

The Tribune reported that Granite District spokesman “Ben Horsley said personnel decisions of this gravity take time to make the right choice. He said Florence has been unreasonably aggressive in demanding an answer.”

“Unreasonably aggressive” seems a more appropriate label for the policymakers at the district, state and federal levels who are intimidating and degrading the professionalism of top notch teachers while trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the public.  Shame on them.

Bravo,  Ann Florence.

——————————————————————————————-

Update:  The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Ann Florence has been fired.   I sent a letter today and encourage others to write as well.  Every voice counts. Here’s mine, and contact info if you want to write too, down after the letter:

Dear Granite School District, State Board, and State Office of Education:

Granite District made news this week by firing Ann Florence, an honors English teacher who stood on principle and did what she (and I) saw as the right thing to do. I am writing to voice my support for Ann Florence’s actions and to ask the District and State Board to take action to right this wrong.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported, “Florence refused to grade the writing portion of the districtwide Acuity Test. She said the exam was a waste of students’ and teachers’ time, did not further any education agenda and that it was unethical to have teachers grade their own students on a standardized test that then would be used to judge the teacher. In a letter to her students, she said she loved her career but had to stand up for principle.”

The Acuity Test (McGraw Hill) was offering financial compensation to schools for having students take this test.

Did Granite District actually fire Ann Florence for refusing to enable the District to make money –by using children for unpaid research guinea pigs? What does “professional compliance” and “teacher ethics” really mean to the district?

Ann Florence’s opinion editorial of one year ago in the Salt Lake Tribune deserves careful re-reading. Her concerns included the non-validity of high-stakes testing because of the testing conditions provided at the school, about the push for Common Core and data analysis, and about the non-validity of reducing the whole time and dedication of a teacher to one student-test-based number, a number over which that teacher has relatively little actual control.

The Tribune also reported that this teacher was punished for speaking about her concerns with the high-stakes tests vocally, including speaking out in front of students.  Does a teacher lose her Constitutional right to freedom of speech just because she is employed by the government? Are teachers to pretend to political neutrality or should they instead be shining exemplars as vibrant participants in the American process of open debate –and sometimes also in honorable disagreement?

Furthermore, basing the heaviest “accountability measures” of state tests on the federal-corporate collusion known as Common Core State Standards, in my opinion, is not only an error but a form of academic malpractice.

Thus, any teacher who refuses to push the SAGE test on students, or refuses to give or grade the Acuity Test, or to promote other high-stakes tests that do not honestly benefit students nor teachers –tests that exist to benefit powermonering politicians and moneygrubbing corporate aims, is, in my opinion, the teacher who is ethically and morally defensible.

The Granite District has marred its honor by firing Ann Florence. The State Board and Office, by doing nothing in this teacher’s defense, are complicit in the wrong.

Christel Swasey

————————

Granite District Superintendent Martin Bates: mwbates@graniteschools.org

State Superintendent Dr. Martell Menlove: Martell.Menlove@schools.utah.gov

Wasatch Jr High Principal Christine Judd: crydalch@graniteschools.org

Wasatch Jr High Asst. Principal John Anderson: jcanderson@graniteschools.org

State School Board:

kbuswell@wadman.com; jensen1brit@earthlink.net; dthomas@summitcounty.org; krb84010@aol.com; dgriffiths@tannerco.com; lesliebrookscastle@gmail.com; jj@jenniferajohnson.com; heather.groom@gmail.com; crandall@xmission.com; jeffersonRmoss@gmail.com; dixieleeallen@gmail.com; markopenshaw@gmail.com; debrar@netutah.com; barbara.corry@schools.utah.gov; teresatheurer1@gmail.com; jensenmk@ldschurch.org; freddiecooper1@comcast.net; jamesvolsen@gmail.com; kelinkowski@msn.com; dbrowley@q.com;

Granite School Board:

ggandy@graniteschools.org; thbawden@graniteschools.org; clanderson@graniteschools.org; ccburgess@graniteschools.org; jmjolley@graniteschools.org; dlofgren@cowboy.us; srmeier@graniteschools.org;

Governor Herbert: http://governor.utah.gov/goca/form_comment.html (copy/paste your email into this form to send it to the Governor)

Utah legislators: http://le.utah.gov (look up by address here)

 

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13 responses to “Ann Florence: Utah English Teacher Stands Up for Real Teaching and is Shut Down by Administrators

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  1. AMEN! Thank you for standing up for true educational principles and for being actively involved in our republic! My husband has also experienced intimidation and threatening from the USOE and our local district for simply voicing concerns.
    We find it impossible to continue in a career that basically let us know that we signed our souls away to them and that we are not allowed to stand up for what we think is right as citizens and parents. This is wrong.
    The public school system is convinced they are a business. False. They are PUBLIC and thus are ran by the people and for the people…INCLUDING ITS EMPLOYEES! My husband, much like Ann, is a parent and involved citizen LONG before he is a public school teacher and will promote what he feels is best for his community and his children. No one has to agree with him but he should be allowed to have his opinions. …Apparently not because what we thought was freedom of speech cost him his job. That’s OK. We’re happy to give up a career to maintain our livelihood.
    We pray for you and will continue to fight for the rights of teachers to be upheld and help rid the system of the intimidating and fear they place on teachers to comply or remain silent.

  2. Summer and Stuart Harper, thank you along with Ann Florence for setting an example of what it really means to have rights and to stand up for them, and to defend what is best for children. Your examples speak louder than any lesson. You are great Americans and great teachers.

  3. It seems obvious that all the good teachers are going to be forced out of the system. Our youth seem to be getting angry so they will be wanting to escape. Then what? We have the makings of some excellent private schools — if we can think outside the box. Maybe we use existing buildings (ones that used to have businesses in them). Maybe students could work at home more so teachers could teach part-time (if they have to find other work). Those of us who are LDS know that things are changing: our youth are stronger than ever, we’re learning new ways of learning, and we’re using technology more. Opposition has woken us up. Can we expect some miracles?

  4. I am so proud of teachers who have the courage to stand up for what is best for our students no matter what they have to sacrifice to do it! I retired last year after teaching Common Core for one year. It was awful! I could see the damage it was doing to my students, their families, and my classroom. Children who loved math now hated it! Parents were beyond frustrated with what we were demanding of their children and of them, as parents. Behind closed doors teachers told me they hated the Common Core math. I was open to all in my opposition to the “new math.” Thankfully I didn’t experience the blowback that Ann Florence experienced but the handwriting was on the wall. Our Principal was often heard defending it.

    Sadly, many teachers will continue to teach, despite how this is affecting their students and their teaching style. They simply are dependent on the income to sustain their families. Because I’ve been there, I understand what a horrible trap this has created for many great teachers. They can’t afford to stand on principle! Don’t condemn all teachers because they aren’t standing up. None of us would want to walk in their shoes! My hat’s off to those who chose to stand boldly in the face of incredible opposition!

  5. How far down the tubes Granite District has slid since I was a student there in the 1960s and early 1970s. Now they are more concerned about CYA’ing and listening to their lawyers and wasting all their taxpayer dollars on inane standardized tests than they are with unlocking the minds and enlightening the hearts of their students, and with instilling a love of learning and culture. SHAME ON YOU. It is the district administrators, including the principals, who should be fired. Forever. And not replaced. Let the teachers run education, and you’ll see the greatest improvement in education in 100 years.

  6. I’ve been posting on here ever since walking out of my school with all my belongings at the end of 2011 school year. I did not SAY I was leaving for good. I was just SO STRESSED not being ABLE to express my opinion to district people, fellow teachers, principals, for 6 years without having them act like you weren’t going to be a very good teacher if you didn’t follow them, their ideas, bring all THEIR cute little methods into your teaching and come watch to make sure you did exactly like they showed you “examples” in our district training. It used to be they were of SERVICE to the teacher to AID those needing help, or asking for help. Now the district is TRAINED ahead of time to control people in their district. I was forced to be more and more distant with my parents. Don’t say this to them, don’t say that – be careful what you say at Parent Teacher Conferences. I’m sure a few parents we need to step easy with. There are those out there who make a “living” of suing others, believe it or not. I understand that concern. But the district felt like communism to me and I was UNCOMFORTABLE coming back to public school teaching for that reason. 6 years is a long time for me to tolerate the INTERFERENCE that districts became in my classroom.

    I knew a story about a teacher (like Ann) who actually SPOKE UP would show up here, and surprised it wasn’t sooner. If you’ve read my posts, you’ve already heard about the anger and the disagreements that teachers who EAT TOGETHER in their faculty room – or go out together to be able to TALK freely about the classes and courses – verbalize against the oncoming control of PRINCIPALS, to start with. The district is controlling principals, and how dare ANY of them say they aren’t going to do common core because they disagree with it. Under our noses, we have been sold to the devil – the Federal Government.
    Perhaps the district has already SPENT the money they got to install Common Core, the testing, etc. etc.So we are in bondage now to their dictates. That’s what common core is. BONDAGE to the dictates of the Feds. I am appalled that so many parents are NOT following closely enough to care. It’s a whole package of takeover, in my opinion. I step into my school computer lab and listen to the struggles teachers are having. The lab assistant tells me “they’ll get used to it” – meaning the students will get better at testing. The special ed kids are struggling – they can’t read the test. They DO have earphones and it can be read to ALL students. But when time’s up, time’s up. If you didn’t get a bunch of things answered, you aren’t going to pass. The parents come in and say things like – we don’t care if she didn’t pass, but we want to know what AREAS she struggled in. How can we help her? The self esteem of our students is AT RISK. Are the tests equipped to bring parents into the picture like our national and state tests do and show them graphs of what areas they did not understand? Who can answer this for me? OH – I forget – we will be suspended if we ask questions or disagree, or COMPARE to how much more efficient teachers COULD BE without this garbage thrown down their throats…
    Ann has NO RECOURSE…I guarantee the union will NOT come to her aid. Keep watching – see if I’m right – she’ll be let go and place MORE FEAR in the hearts of teachers who WISH they could speak up. It’s funny how they speak up to me – I’ve told them straight out I’m “retired” and only back to do early morning orchestra. UNCANNY how many comments I get they feel free to tell me as a former teacher. I let them know I WILL SPEAK UP – I retired early so I have nothing to lose from them. I’m going to fight this. Write me, call me. There is nothing I’d like better to do than HELP TEACHERS BE RESTORED to their rightful place in the classroom and let all their caring and love of children and their particular students TAKE HOLD AGAIN. Bump out the feds, people GET RID OF THE INTERFERENCE in the lives of our children.

  7. If only everyone had the courage that Ann Florence has! I applaud her for standing up for teachers and for students; for not letting her freedom of speech be taken away!

    In New York over 20,000 students have opted out of taking the SAGE tests. Here in Granite district, only 11 have opted out. I feel that in Utah no one is aware of what is going on and that Common Core has slid in under the radar, only to take away our children’s ability to learn on an individual basis. Even Jason Zimba, the lead writer for the mathematics in common core admits that the standards of common core are too low to make it into a STEM college or perhaps even a selective public college.

    Common Core is taking away students’ choices and rights in their education. To have one standard for all children is a total dead end! Why are there so few, like Mrs. Florence, who see this and are willing to risk everything to make a difference?

    What good is all the testing? It only benefits people like George Soros, Bill Gates – who has pumped over $200 million to encourage the creation and adoption of common core in 2013 alone, the Fordham Institute, and president obama, who wants to reign like a monarch. It has turned education into a production line in which they’re going to take little human beings and make them robotic. It will determine their future and push them in a direction they may not want to go. Mark Tucker, in his 17- page letter to Hillary Clinton explained that he wanted to transform education so that it approximated the German system; that focused workforce development with great databases that would allow us to pinpoint where we should push kids. Is that what we want for our children?! This is America not Germany and what makes us great is that we have had the freedom to govern ourselves up until now, and now that freedom is slowly being sucked away from us through programs like common core. It sounds good, but it is terrible!

    Common Core gives power to a select few. What happened to what President Lincoln fought for: that we are independent people who can think for and govern ourselves? Why do we let the elite step in and take over when they don’t even know anything about education? Thirty people were on the common core board. Five of them would not sign off and were simply expunged from the record. Two, of them, Jim Milgram, a math professor from Stanford, and Sandra Stotsky-a language arts content specialist did not approve the standards set by the common core and said that common core is going to harm education not help it.

    The only evidence common core has is that it is harming not helping education. Common core is diminishing literary study in the English curriculum and the students are leaving high school with over 40% of them needing remedial help in math and 60% needing remediation of some sort because the education system has now failed them. Thank heavens for people like Mrs. Florence who realize the degradation of the system; who have the wherewithal to speak out and speak up for students. All this testing does nothing but waste time, and make the Bill Gates’ and George Soros’ richer as pointless money is pumped into pointless testing.

    Education shouldn’t be about stereotyping all students into a lump group. It should be about meeting individual needs and giving the teachers time to do so, instead of forcing them to administer worthless testing. The purpose of education should be for children to discover what THEY love, what THEY excel at, and to be able to grow INDIVIDUALLY. They should leave the system knowing how to think, how to articulate, and how to continue to love learning. They should leave being passionate about what they do. Instead, they are being grouped into one lump; all the same regardless of backgrounds and interests.

    Are there parents and teachers here in Utah who are willing to step up to the plate and speak out like Ann Florence? Let’s stand behind her and opt our children out of the pointless, waste-of-time SAGE testing and other articulation testing. Let’s speak out against common core and get education out of the hands of the government and back into the hands of parents and students who know what’s best for their individual needs. Let’s get it out of the hands of those who simply want to build a business and make money; who want to stereotype our children as one, and instead, put it into hands of people who care about our children, like Ann Florence.

    I don’t know how to contact you Mrs. Florence, but I want to personally thank you for being one who has made a difference in our students’ lives. You are a true hero! Thank you for being willing to risk everything in order to get education back in the control of those who matter and out of the hands of those who are trying to make too many mandates and stipulations and keep you from even being able to teach!

  8. “I am required to teach key reading comprehension strategies, the writing process, information-gathering skills, grammar, vocabulary, etc., etc. But I also hope to awaken a love of reading and literature, ignite curiosity about our complex world…. “All children are gifted—some just open their presents earlier than others.” I know that every one of my students understands something I don’t and has something to tell the world that no one else ever has. I am a “treasure seeker” and “talent scout,” hoping to help young people discover the gold within themselves and each other.”

    The task of a teacher is exactly as stated by Ann Florence. Treasure and promote teachers who wish to “ignite curiosity” in every subject and dispose of educators who wish to create “workers”.

  9. All my support to this brave teacher, leading the charge. It’s got to start somewhere!

  10. Reblogged this on PUMABydesign001's Blog.

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  13. Pingback: For Utah School Districts: A Common Core Fact-Checking Adventure | COMMON CORE

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