Nine students are trying to make a difference by suing
the state of California in the hope of raising the bar for public
education by demanding that teachers be held accountable for being ineffective. The trial, which began on January 27, will address the process behind teacher tenure, dismissal and layoffs.
Raylene Monterrozza, a 16-year-old junior at the
School of Extended Educational Options (SEEO) in Pomona, Calif., is one of
the nine students who stand firm in believing that if this lawsuit is ruled in
the favor of the plaintiffs, the entire country will experience major reforms
in education with respect to the way teachers are hired and fired.
“I am dissatisfied with the high amount of ineffective
teachers in school,” Raylene reported. “I am left with outdated, non-working
teaching techniques in which I cannot—nor any other students for that matter—understand. I cannot soak in the curriculum that is being taught. Then I am not
prepared when moving on to the next grade.”
Unhappy with the quality of her education,
Raylene says she went through several channels to seek a solution. “I informed
my counselors. I tried the principal. I even took it as far as contacting the
district,” she said. “It was always the same story. I received no
reply, and nothing changed.”
The last in, first out, mandate for layoffs is
particularly frustrating to Raylene, who believes this is a confusing
way to determine which teachers will remain with students long-term.
“These layoffs do not even correspond with a teacher’s
effectiveness,” she said. “I want to keep the good teachers and easily
eliminate the ineffective teachers. I believe this can be brought about by removing these laws and actually gauging a
"I was hoping to change schools."
As Raylene begins her journey toward attaining the
required education to become a family therapist, she has had to stand up for
herself more than once when it comes to securing a quality education. While
attending her neighborhood high school with all of her childhood friends, she
noticed a dismal change in the grades she received.
“I had gone from getting straight A's since elementary
to failing many of my classes at this school,” she recalled. "I felt I was
giving all I could. I talked over and over to my counselors
and teachers. I made my counselor aware that I was dissatisfied with my
experience. I was hoping to change schools.”
This request was not met with the approval of her
counselor, who told Raylene that she could not change schools. Undeterred by the
lack of concern for her request, Raylene found a charter school on her own,
applied and was accepted. She has now regained her confidence as her grades have
returned to straight A's, and she is preparing for advanced studies again.
involvement in this lawsuit is fully supported by her mother, Martha Monterroza,
a catering manager who claims she also tried to resolve issues
she had with her daughter’s school, but no action was taken.
“The biggest thing that upsets me about the system is
how we are basically protecting some ineffective teachers at the expense of our
own kids,” Martha said.
The Southern California mom remembers a teacher that
had been absent during most of the school year. “When she was there she was
being very unprofessional,” Martha explained. “She let the kids do whatever they
wanted and even threw a projector at the students. I am still upset about that
teacher until this day. My daughter is struggling in math
because she was not taught the necessary skills for that grade.”
Hiring tutors, meeting with school officials and
sitting down with her daughter were all ways that Martha tried to offer her
own assistance, but she wants the school system to serve in conjunction with
parents instead of against them.
This mother and daughter firmly believe a faulty system of gauging teacher
effectiveness is to blame for the chasm between the expressed goals set for
students and the actual results. Raylene, along with eight other brave students are willing to fight for the education reforms they hope will offer them the foundation
they deserve. Let's see what happens.