Teacher Shortage in Dallas Puts Summer School in Jeopardy

Students are eager to relax during summer break, but Dallas teachers are placing a premium on a stress-free few months. Suzi Parker of TakePart reports that fewer teachers are signing up to teach summer school classes in Dallas this year due to stress, so when summer classes all over the state began this week, some of them didn't have an instructor in the classroom.

According to Angela Davis, the head of the National Education Association, the situation is unprecedented. Schools making up the Dallas Independent School District never before had any difficulty attracting instructors for summer classes.

Davis blames new superintendent Mike Miles for the change in attitude. An uneasy atmosphere created by Miles' "heavy-handed" approach resulted in high levels of stress for teachers during the regular academic year – and less desire to sign up for more over the summer months.

"Since the board hired Mike Miles to be superintendent, his heavy-handed approach has left the teachers and staff demoralized," Messer told TakePart. "The school board and Mike Miles decided to fire two principals and approximately 400 teachers in late May. Many experienced teachers have left the profession in response to these harsh measures. At some point, you have to expect people to start standing up for themselves, even if their typical response to administrative adversity is to grin and bear it for the students."

Messer said that teachers can refuse to teach summer school because their contracts do not obligate them to do so. Teachers are only paid a daily rate for teaching summer classes.

When teachers unions get into a scrap with district administrators, the real losers are the students. Over 6,000 of them are signed up for classes going through June, July and August, and without anyone to teach them they risk falling further behind their peers come fall.

The teachers blame the stress on new rules that increases maximum class sizes in Dallas schools as well as mandate 45 minutes of additional work every day. According to a blog of an anonymous Dallas-area teacher, on top of these problems, there are also unique challenges that relate specifically to summer school.

"The entire student body consists of the students who failed despite all interventions. A large percentage of these same students are disruptive and unable to behave appropriately in a classroom," she wrote. "It's a tough gig to jump in the trenches with so many below-level kids and get them up to speed so they can promote to the next grade."

Teachers attempt to do their best in summer school with struggling students, but it's tough. In addition, this year there is additional stress for teachers. The staff will be closely monitored with "more spot observations." She adds, "In short, teachers were promised more opportunities to get fired."

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