An organization that serves as the voice for teachers at Camp Lejeune Schools in Jacksonville, NC is speaking out against a proposed federal policy change that it says would cut instructional time and negatively impact the classrooms of their youngest students.
The Lejeune Education Association has joined the Federal Education Association in opposing Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) plans to eliminate the use of substitutes during the administration of BAS reading assessments, which are given twice a year to students in kindergarten through third grade.
“Our classroom educators — the people responsible for administering these tests and actually educating DoDEA students — tell us the lack of a substitute will make it harder to get useful results from this reading assessment. Teachers simply cannot monitor a full classroom of 18 to 20 children while simultaneously listening intently to each individual student for 30 to 45 minutes to assess their reading skills,” said Laura Hastings, local president of the Lejeune Education Association, in a statement which has been sent to the Camp Lejeune District School Board.
Hastings said the hope is that the school board, which meets again in September, will support the reinstatement of the policy allowing for substitute coverage during the BAS assessments.
The Benchmark Assessment System (BAS) was introduced as a pilot program in DoDEA schools during the 2011-2012 school year and was imposed in all DoDEA schools in September 2013. It is administered near the beginning of each school year and again near the end of the year.
Each student’s reading skills are assessed individually and it can take as long as 30 to 45 minutes for a teacher to administer the test, which requires a teacher’s full attention to detect errors, omissions or other issues with a student’s reading.
According to information on the BAS assessment, for a typical class of 18 to 20 students, the process can take the equivalent of about six full school days during the academic year.
Since use of the BAS began, teachers have had the option of requesting a substitute to teach his or her class while they are administering the test to students.
Hastings said only kindergarten classes have regular teacher assistants and without the help of a substitute, educators are left with two options, neither of which is good for students.
Teachers face giving their students simple, less academically valuable activities that don’t require much supervision during the approximately six days of assessments or attempting to give the test to students while simultaneously trying to monitor the other students in class.
Hastings said it means either less quality instructional time, or less attention on the assessment by the teacher, which can lead to incomplete or results that can’t be used.
“Now, even though DoDEA management continues to require testing each student twice a year, they want to stop providing a substitute teacher for each classroom while those assessments are going on,” Hastings said. “This means the teacher will be individually testing students while at the same time they are responsible for the instruction of 18 or 20 other students. In most cases, this is quite simply an impossible task and a disservice to our students.”
The Federal Education Association issued a statement July 31 in response to the proposed policy change.
“If their priority is student learning it makes no sense for DoDEA management to do this,” said Jane Loggins, FEA Director for DDESS schools. “Teachers have had the option of requesting substitutes since the BAS was introduced five years ago and that option should remain.”
FEA said it was notified this summer by DoDEA management of the intent to eliminate substitute coverage.
By Jannette Pippin, The Daily News, Jacksonville, N.C.
©2017 The Daily News (Jacksonville, N.C.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.