Singing Along With Radio Silence

Letter to the editor in response to “Radio Silence” from Volume 56 – Issue 6

The original story “Radio Silence” can be found here.

Dear Statesman,

I was excited to see the coverage you gave to the criticisms of EBR. As you may know, I taught at SHS for 23 years. I was a passionate and dedicated teacher devoting those decades to my students whole-heartedly. I was honored as a teacher who made a difference in students lives year after year. I had been awarded three Ambassador Awards. And, I had become a leading teacher in my field nationally. Despite this, last year I left abruptly and regrettably because my frustrations with EBR went unheard for years and when I finally vented in an exasperated attempt to be heard, SHS admin dismissed my concerns, ignored my professional opinion and used my frustration as an opportunity to threaten me into compliance. When I left, I received dozens and dozens of messages of support from students, alumni, parents, faculty and even teachers from other schools where SHS’s model was being implemented. Most of these people supported me fully but did not want to speak publicly for fear of retribution from SHS admin. That is why I was buoyed to see your article finally validating some of the criticism that I highlighted.

However, there was some context and additional information that I think your readers should know. First, EBR was not fully implemented in 2012. This was just the beginning of a gradual phase in of EBR. A small minority of teachers were piloting it during those first few years. I was one of those teachers and that is why my frustration was perhaps, larger than most—because I had been trying it and revising it and voicing concerns about it not working for years longer than most SHS teachers. EBR was not fully implemented across all departments until 2019.

The timeline is worth keeping in mind when looking at what graduates of SHS have said about their first year in college. On the D125 website, under the “about” tab, click on “district documents” and then “student satisfaction surveys.” The one year follow up survey reveals that students have felt less and less prepared since EBR was created.

In the Statesman article, it highlights that 41 percent of students feel SHS prepared them well for college, but that statistic has no context. Forty-one percent is the LOWEST percentage of students that have felt that way in at least a decade. And as the chart shows, since 2015, the percentage of students that said their study skills were prepared well for college has dropped by 31 points! Instead, the percentage of students who said that they were INADEQUATELY prepared for study skills climbed by 15 points during that same time. And this is not a change that has been experienced by their peers from other schools. Instead, there was a 5 point increase in students saying that they were not as prepared as their peers at college.

Finally, in this era where student mental health has taken center stage, I want to to emphasize how stressful it is for students to have a different set of rules in all of their classes for how grading will be done and then on top of those rules is the subjectivity that allows

teachers to change grades based on their own discretion. What’s more is that my students have said that it is unfair that they are competing with their peers for college admissions and yet a student who turned everything in on time and did all of his work, will get the same GPA as a student who turned multiple assessments in late and then even had multiple chances to do those assessments or reperform. All of this creates stress and disillusionment in a system that is already high stakes and inequitable.

Chris Salituro, former SHS teacher

*Some portions of this letter have been edited