Pasco teacher resigns over standardized testing

Posted at 6:20 PM, Jan 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-22 00:38:48-05

A Pasco County teacher has had enough of standardized testing. So much so, she’s resigning. 

Tracey Suits, a 10th grade English teacher at Land O’ Lakes High school, read her resignation letter at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Heidi Janshon was there and said it was heartbreaking to see a teacher resign because of frustration over too much testing.

“It needs to be heard. It needs to be said,” said Janshon.

In her resignation letter, Suits, a teacher for almost 30 years wrote:

"I cannot continue to teach students to regurgitate information for secretive, high-stakes standardized tests when it goes against everything I morally stand for."

Suits also wrote that she’s forced to spend hours of time after school and during planning periods dealing with testing.

Like Suits, Janshon is opposed to the Florida Standards Assessment tests. She opted for her kids not to take the exams this school year.

“It’s only data mining. The state only wants it to evaluate teachers, to give schools a grade... How does that benefit my child?" said Janshon. "Not at all. But hours of testing, a young child, and we are talking stressful."

Suits was a longtime media specialist, a position that was phased out in Pasco County.

Now, she’s planning on going back to working as a librarian for her new job with the Hillsborough County public library system.

Her last day teaching is February 1, and she declined to be interviewed on camera because was worried about causing more disruption at the school she loves.

Meanwhile, Janshon hopes the resignation is a wake up call for teachers and parents.

“If it takes a thousand parents, two thousand, twenty thousand in one county to make a difference, we are really going to have a revolution,” she said.

In response to the resignation, the Pasco School District said they know teachers have a lot on their plates, and districts don’t get funding to pay them what they’re worth. They said, “It’s unfortunate any time we lose an experienced teacher.”

Read Suits' full resignation letter here:

Oftentimes people in social situations ask me about my job. When I answer that I am a teacher, I frequently get a response of: “How do you do it?” or “I could never do that.” Well, the time has come when I have to ask myself “How DO I do it?” The answer is, I cannot.

I cannot continue to teach students to regurgitate information for secretive, high-stakes, standardized tests when it goes against everything I morally stand for. I want my students to be original, innovative thinkers, not a test score. Too much testing leaves no space for autonomy in teaching and creativity in the classroom. Teaching has become education by legislation.

I cannot continue to work afternoons, evenings, and weekends grading papers, typing formal lesson plans, uploading documentation for evaluations, and researching teaching methods to meet the needs of all my students. I am a parent and wife first.

I cannot continue to give up my planning period (when I should be grading and planning) but instead, am spending at duty, parent conferences, in PLC meetings, school staffing meetings, or IEP meetings.

I cannot continue to be cursed at by students, berated by parents, and bullied by politicians. Low morale transfers to the students, and they deserve better.

I cannot work where the library has become a testing center and librarians are undervalued to the point of non-existence.

I cannot ignore anxiety attacks, autoimmune disorders and other health problems that have cropped up these past few years due to the excessive stress.

There is a teacher shortage in our district. It’s not just because of low salaries. Retaining teachers has always been more than that.

Twenty-seven years ago, I started teaching. But now, most of my day is not spent on instruction. I am certainly not the only teacher who feels this way, however, I cannot do it any longer. I am resigning.

Those who can teach, I admire and respect you. Someone once said, “A good teacher is like a candle, it consumes itself to light the way for others.” Don’t blow our candles out.