In her third year at Eagle Valley Middle School, Hannah Golik, 13, has felt her educational experience decline, she told the Carson City School Board on Tuesday evening.
“I am the type of student, along with many others, that need a hands-on learning experience, and a quiet, controlled work area,” she wrote in a letter to trustees.”I have yet to come with a substitute teacher that can give any of this to the students like the hired classroom teacher can.”
The school district is relying heavily on substitute teachers — or guest teachers as they are being referred to as part of the program — this year as it implements reforms associated with the $10 million Race to the Top Grant. Teachers are being pulled from the classroom in order to collaborate with one another in creating a standard curriculum.
“In order to provide the best opportunity for our students, our teachers need to develop a curriculum that’s universal,” Superintendent Richard Stokes told the Nevada Appeal earlier this month. “We’re trying to unify the curriculum and unify the assessments.”
However, Golik said, the substitutes are often not experts in the subject area nor are they able to control the classroom. She said her 4.0 grade-point average is suffering as a result.
“With the countless worksheets, ruckus, yelling and talking that a substitute cannot control, it makes it almost impossible to learn,” she said in her letter. “My grades are dropping. With all of the substitute teachers, in the same class three times a week, I cannot talk to the teacher about these grades.”
Trustee Joe Cacioppo was not surprised by the letter, he told Golik.
“I’ve heard this from a few students,” he said. “Your input is pretty valuable.”
Golik said she worried the decrease in educational quality could have long-term effects, especially because she is taking two high-school level courses.
“If I pass the challenge test, the grades I get in these classes affect my high school transcript and my opportunity to go to a college of my choice,” she said. “The fact that teachers are being pulled out of the classroom as often as they are for training or curriculum changes is ridiculous.”
While she stood at the podium by herself, she said, she is not alone in her grievances.
“I do not like to have to write a negative letter addressing responsible, great adults that the decisions they are making are wrong,” Golik said. “Please take into consideration my perspective, as I do not only represent a few students’ education, but hundreds of students.”
Lynnette Conrade, president of the board, said trustees would take the suggestions seriously.
“It’s tough because our teachers are going through all this change. They’re trying to learn new things,” Conrad said. “You’re right, we don’t think about the impact on students. What is the solution to this? I don’t know. We’ll definitely look into this.”
She commended Golik for bringing her concerns to the board.
“That’s how things happen,” she said. “That’s how change occurs. Thank you for doing that.”