Thursday, September 11, 2014

My RIF Hearing Defense Part I: No Child Left Behind

You may wonder why I continue to Blog about my feelings while other wonderful "Rifffed Writers" have stopped writing several years ago. It is because my case never received a proper judgement and is, in my mind, still unresolved. It wasn't because I didn't try to keep my job. My dear husband did his best to represent me at the Long Beach Unified School District hearings. In fact, he did such a great job that teachers swarmed him after our presentations, requesting he represent them instead of the Teachers Association of Long Beach. While these were honorable requests, they were quickly denied, as my husband is merely a highly educated man and not an attorney!

I asked my husband to represent me because my case was different from all the other Riffed Teachers in the LBUSD Hearings of 2010. Unlike others solely based on Seniority, the basis of my case was a combination of our Federal No Child Left Behind Act and Section 44955 of California State Education Code. So, with a softcover copy of each book on hand, we proceeded to present my case. I'd love to hear what you think about it!  :)

 Part 1: My No Child Left Behind Defense.

In our nationally-adopted No Child Left Behind Act, Title I- Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged cites its Statement of Purpose in Section 1001 as follows: "The purpose of this title is to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging State academic achievement standards and state academic assessments. This purpose can be accomplished by meeting the educational needs of low-achieving children in our Nation's highest-poverty schools, limited English proficient children, migratory children, children with disabilities, Indian children, neglected or delinquent children, or young children of reading assistance."

NCLB's Remote Island Community
By receiving federal funding, school districts are obligated to adhere to NCLB's Statement of Purpose and there is no better description of our Nation's highest-poverty or limited English proficient children than the youth on Catalina Island. Cynthia Reeves, with funding from the U.S. Department of Education, lays out the challenges to implementing the No Child Left Behind Act in Rural Communities in her 2003 paper, "Implementing the No Child Left Behind Act: Implications for Rural Schools and Districts."

Ms. Reeves' Executive Summary states: "The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) presents challenges for schools and districts to ensure that all students meet state standards for proficiency by 2014 and that, by 2006, all teachers are highly qualified. Because of small student populations and geographic isolation, these requirements are uniquely problematic for rural schools and districts. While the challenges are not insurmountable, rural schools and districts will require assistance and guidance from federal and state policymakers to effectively build the local capacity necessary to comply with No Child Left Behind."

There are funds made available by the federal government to assist in this process through Title IV of NCLB and the Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP). Ms. Reeves indicates they "have taken an important first step toward addressing the specific challenges associated with being a small and rural school. Continued federal support, combined with state policies and programs targeting the unique needs of rural areas, will be helpful as rural schools and districts work to comply with NCLB." 

Some of Ms. Reeves' rural community needs and "challenges" include small geographical isolation affecting access to resources, small populations, declining enrollments, low-income residents, no alternative within the district for school choice (in the case of Avalon, students live on an Island), transportation issues for supplemental services, and teacher recruitment and retention.  
Interestingly, she states, "Small schools, many of which are rural, are in greater danger of being mislabeled as “in need of improvement” than large schools due to the volatile nature of school-level reporting from year to year (Figlio, 2002; Kane & Staiger, 2002; Linn et al., 2002)"; citing student mobility, an influx of immigrants, and teacher turnover can "cause dramatic fluctuations in annual average test scores."

Finally, teacher recruitment and retention were cited as major inhibitors to student progress, "Many rural schools already have difficulty recruiting and retaining teachers, particularly teachers who have credentials in several subject areas, special education teachers, foreign language teachers, and teachers for LEP and bilingual programs. Geographically isolated communities have difficulty attracting teachers to their communities because of lower pay and social and professional isolation."

As it is so difficult to retain teachers in remote locations, Ms. Reeves went to great lengths to address this issue, "One approach to improving retention frequently used in rural districts is to recruit and train teachers from the local community. By targeting individuals who have ties to the community and the qualities to be good teachers, school are less likely to lose those teachers after only a few years. Under NCLB, rural districts will have to ensure that teachers recruited from the community are certified, or have access to a teacher certification program before they enter the classroom in 2005-2006."

As a side note, I was hired by LBUSD the 2005-2006 school year to teach on Catalina Island as a foreign language teacher in a High School Spanish classroom, several classes of LEP (ELL) Middle School students, and an 8th Grade English class. The following years, I used my Spanish to teach Kindergarten Spanish-Speaking ELL students who came to me with "blank slates" as there is No Island Head Start Program. Do meet NCLB's criteria?

Finally, Collins (1999) is cited, "The degree to which a rural teacher becomes involved in the community influences his or her decision to leave or stay; therefore, retention requires a coordinated school-community effort. A school-community orientation helps new teachers overcome feelings of isolation, acquire a sense of community security, and develop professional competence." 

After working and living for 5 years on Catalina Island, I overcame all the above feelings and established working relationships with my parents, students, and colleagues. In all instances except one (lower pay), Ms. Reeves has amazingly described Avalon Schools. However, the end result was much different for me. Although many of the above factors were presented during my hearing, Long Beach Unified School District made no attempt to consider the challenges of an employee working and living in a remote Island community! Instead of retaining me as a contributing, qualified teacher in this rural community, I was laid off the same as any other teacher! And, contrary to the wishes of Ms. Reeves and the U.S. Department of Education, to this day the Island teacher turnover has continued to be an educational nightmare for LBUSD on Catalina Island!


  1. Linda, excellent points and thanks for sharing and explaining! Best of luck to you, and keep up the well-written blogging!

    1. Thank you, Gina, for your support and encouragement to keep writing! As a result, I am at it again! :)