Frustrated Rhode Island Teacher Resigns Via YouTube (VIDEO)

In December 2012, I covered the resignation of Stephen Round, an elementary school teacher who resigned his teaching job via YouTube. Read it below.

A Providence Rhode Island veteran school teacher has resigned after 15 years of dedicating his life to teaching children. The second-grade school teacher resigned because he feels that the scrutiny and focus that results from the demand for high standardized test scores has affected his ability to do what he became a teacher to do; help students to learn to be lifelong learners.

Stephen Round wrote a letter of resignation addressed to the Human Resources Department of Providence Public Schools, school district administration, the school board, and the parents of his students, but he was denied the opportunity to read it aloud at a public school committee meeting. Honestly, the school should have allowed him to read it there because his alternative route for getting his message to them was to do so publicly.

In a brief video resignation, Round shared his personal philosophy on education and teaching.

I believe my goal as an educator should be to create life-long learners. If I’m going to meet that goal, I must provide children with an educational experience that is both enjoyable and rewarding and enjoyable. Therefore, it is important for students to understand how the knowledge received in the classroom will benefit them in the real world. It is my responsibility as a teacher to find various ways to make the process possible. To do this, I must be creative and open-minded enough to try new methods and approaches but perceptive enough to embrace only those methods and approaches that prove to achieve that end. 

Here’s the original video:

Round says that the school system in Rhode Island has drastically changed and that their new goal is to create good test-takers rather than life-long learners. “Students are relegated to experiencing a confining and demeaning education,” he states.

Round found a way to help students with dyslexia learn to read. With a permission form from the parents and his principal, he began tutoring the five children on his own time after school. The children were showing progress until the school administration put a stop to his tutoring and forced him to teach only the school’s curriculum. He and the parents of the five children requested a meeting with Chief Academic Officer Shannon, who he says is committed to a  one size fits all curriculum. He said that Shannon “wouldn’t give me or the parents the time of day.”

I am responsible for these kids that are failing, but I can’t do what I know will help them,” Round said. “I’m walking away from the frustration. I went into teaching because I wanted to help kids and I can’t sit back and watch five kids failing, hating school, crying and saying, ‘Why can’t I do it the other way because it’s better for me?’ I just can’t handle doing that. That’s not why I went into education. I would rather leave my secure $70,000 a year job, with benefits and tutor in Connecticut for free than be part of a system that is diametrically opposed to everything I believe education should be.

Round mentioned several areas of concern, including the fact that children are forced to eat breakfast in minutes in their classrooms with no socialization, and lunch and recess being used as tools to force children to behave in class and be quiet rather than work off excess energy and have a few minutes of fun. He feels that many students’ behavioral problems are increased from lack of socialization and activities that make learning fun. For every concern he expressed, he said. “Gone.” And that’s exactly what he said in his last words.

“I’ve had it. I quit.” Stephen Round says in his resignation from the Providence school district. “So, gone, gone, gone.”

Apparently, the state of Rhode Island is struggling to raise their overall grade of C for the quality of their schools, as reported in an Education Week’s Quality Counts 2011 report. Rhode Island ranks 31st nationally.

The State of Rhode Island Public Education Ri-Can Research Report of 2011-2012 shows that Rhode Island has an enormous achievement gap. Rhode Island isn’t just lagging behind within New England and the United States. We are even less competitive when stacked up directly against other industrialized countries, the report reveals.

  • 33% of 11th graders were proficient in math on the 2010-2011 state test
  • Only 74% of Rhode Island students graduate from high school
  • 18 percent of 8th-grade low-income students are proficient in reading
  • 16 percent of 8th-grade low-income students proficient in math

Ironically, another point emphasized in the executive summary states:

Our new teacher evaluation system is an example of what progress looks like. By the 2013-2014 school year, a major portion of the evaluation will be based on student learning and growth, along with professional practice and responsibilities.

Indeed. It seems that the district in which Round taught took that goal to heart. They do want excellence, and in doing so will put their efforts into the students who can learn from their curriculum with none of the extra efforts that many teachers are willing to make. Second-grade students suffering from dyslexia, other learning disabilities, and behavior problems are dragging the school down and affecting the overall grade of C for the quality of our schools. So forcing teachers to put all of their time and energy into the higher-achieving students just makes sense, right?

This practice isn’t limited to Rhode Island. Teachers everywhere are graduating from college with a passion and enthusiasm for making a difference in children’s lives and upon entering the school system, are struck down with bureaucratic red tape and being forced to “teach to the test.” School districts across the country can expect to lose teachers like Round who refuse to compromise on their commitment to the learning of children.

As reported by NBC 10 and ABC 6 News in Providence, Christina Spaight O’Reilly, Director of Communications, Providence Public School District issued the following statement in response to Round’s resignation:

As a matter of practice, Providence Schools would not comment on the specifics of an individual’s resignation letter. We regret that Mr. Round has found his recent professional experience dissatisfactory, but we thank the hundreds of teachers in our schools who continue to make learning exciting and enjoyable for their students every day.

Round is now tutoring students in Connecticut.

Tiffany Willis Clark is a fifth-generation Texan and the founder and editor-in-chief of Liberal America and An unapologetic member of the Christian Left, she had a long and successful career actively working with at-risk youth, people struggling with poverty and unemployment, and disadvantaged and oppressed populations. She’s passionate about their struggles. In 2011, she made the decision to pursue her dreams and become a full-time writer. Connect with her on LinkedIn, follow her on Twitter, and like her Facebook page.