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LTHS Teacher Resigns In Protest Over Grading Policies | #teacher | #children | #kids


LA GRANGE, IL – A longtime Lyons Township High School teacher announced his resignation Thursday, blaming the school’s grading policies.

English teacher Tom Stukel, who started at the school 17 years ago, posted a letter to Patch detailing his reasons for leaving.

He said the school administration had disciplined him for speaking out against the policies.

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With the announcement, Stukel attracted much support, with many calling him a hero for taking a stand.

Joining in the praise was former Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeanne Ives.

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“God Bless this Teacher for courageously writing this article and truly caring about his profession,” she wrote on Facebook.

A school spokeswoman has yet to comment on Stukel’s announcement.

Over the last year, many parents have protested the same policies. A Change.org petition has collected more than 1,700 signatures.

In an interview with Patch, Stukel said he and his wife are moving to Miami Beach. His wife will continue being a reading specialist, he said.

Stukel isn’t sure he will remain a teacher.

“With all the difficulties at LT, I don’t know that I want to go back into that,” he said. “I may find something different.”

Stukel’s resignation takes effect Thursday.

An Oak Park resident, Stukel started his career 24 years ago at Argo Community High School in Summit.

In his announcement, Stukel said he could not, in good moral standing, teach students well, given the current policies.

“Based on my 24 years of experience as a high school teacher, it is my opinion that it is immoral to teach the way LT teachers are being asked to work,” he said.

One of the most controversial changes at Lyons Township is that homework is no longer factored into grades. Stukel is against the policy.

He said about half of his sophomores and 80 percent of his seniors have consistently not done their homework.

“The administration believes that (homework) should not be counted because the students are learning and have not mastered the skills yet,” Stukel said. “I agree, in theory, but not in practice. The administration is ignorant of the day-to-day happenings in the classrooms. Most students will not do the work unless they get credit for it. It’s a flawed system based on theory instead of facts/data, and it is hurting the students, creating apathy and idle minds.”

Stukel also opposed the policy giving more flexibility when major assignments are due. He said such a policy reinforces a lack of discipline and focus, with students putting off work until the last minute.

As a result, Stukel said, students are constantly behind and trying to remember what they need to do on an assignment that they were taught two weeks before.

He also criticized the policy of giving students 50 percent, rather than zeroes, for assignments that they fail to turn in.

“How does the administration see this as morally just? Giving students credit for doing nothing?” Stukel said.

He said his message was to parents, not the administration. He said they need to stand up against bad policies.

“Quality change will not come from the administration, the board, or even the teachers,” Stukel said. “The teachers here at LT are wonderful, caring people, but they don’t have a strong enough communal voice to fight against lame policy.”

He said he tried to fight for what he thought was right, speaking to both parents and the administration. But he said that effort got him a “notice of remedy,” putting him on probation.

“I was denounced and negatively scolded, told that it’s my fault for not fixing anything that was a problem in my class,” Stukel said. “These policies directly changed my classroom and its environment, but I was held responsible for failed policy.”

Stukel said the administration compiled notes on anonymous accusations that could not be proven.

“I was told that if I did not follow their new policies, they would fire me. I argued my case in front of the board of education last year, but the board defended the administration,” he said.

Stukel also said, “Because of all these changes, and so many more (cell phones in classrooms a huge distraction from education), over the last four years (the pandemic is not the only reason) I cannot in good moral conscience teach at LT any longer.”

In April, a top school official acknowledged divisions existed among teachers over the new grading policies.

Here is Tom Stukel’s announcement on his resignation:

Effective June 2nd, 2022, I, Tom Stukel, resign from my English teaching position of 17 years at Lyons Township High School because I cannot, in good moral standing, teach students well based on current administrative policies. I care too much about education and too much about students to abide by these policies. Based on my 24 years of experience as a high school teacher, it is my opinion that it is immoral to teach the way LT teachers are being asked to work. Our school has changed the following in recent years:

  1. Homework not scored: Homework (formatives) are no longer scored as any part of the students’ grade. Because of this, an average of 50 percent of my sophomores this year consistently did not do their homework, and 80 percent of my seniors consistently did not do their homework. These students know they will not be marked down, so they don’t think it is important enough to do, even though doing this work in class and at home is an essential part of the learning process. It has had an awful impact on them; we are essentially encouraging the students not to work. The administration believes that formatives should not be counted because the students are learning and have not mastered the skills yet. I agree, in theory, but not in practice. The administration is ignorant of the day-to-day happenings in the classrooms. Most students will not do the work unless they get credit for it. It’s a flawed system based on theory instead of facts/data, and it is hurting the students, creating apathy and idle minds.
  2. No due date: The administration forces teachers to not have a set due date on summative assignments (major assignments/essays). For example, if I assign a summative essay to be turned in on February 1st. The students know that they can turn it in on Feb.1st or anytime two weeks after that and I can’t consider it late when it comes to grading. In my opinion, this is teaching them laziness, apathy, and disrespect. Many, about 70% of my seniors turn in their summative assignments late. There are a number of students that wait until that last evening, Feb. 15th (two weeks late), to turn in their work. This practice reinforces a lack of discipline and focus (putting off assignments until the last minute) and mediocrity (many of these assignments turned in late are not well written). Also, since it is an extension of two weeks, we have moved on to new material and skills. Students are not only constantly behind, but they are trying to remember what they need to do on an assignment that was taught to them two weeks ago.
  3. Revisions: And then once I grade their summative assignment and turn it back to them, they have two more weeks to decide to revise it for a better grade, even though, in my class, I go over the writing process with every major summative assignment and give feedback on all their drafts multiple times before they turn it in for a grade. This last semester the administration changed the policy to where the students had to turn in the “majority” of their formative assignments in order to get the chance to revise. The problem with that is many students still did not do their homework and did not learn the skills to do well on the summative assignment. Even with this new change, students who revise could be working on a revision that is two months old. This creates more anxiety, which runs counter to the reason the policy was changed. Also, this is not making students “college ready.” Most college students will not get this similar opportunity. I taught the Indiana University literature dual-credit course here at LT last year and we had to follow IU policies; IU has a no revision policy.
  4. Failures: Sadly enough, these are becoming less and less, I believe, for the wrong reasons. Instead of teaching discipline and encouraging consequences for actions to teach students that they need to take their education seriously, the policies at LT are reinforcing D standards. Dejectedly, 30 percent of my seniors this year received a D. In the last three or four years the administration has made it their duty to limit failures. However, they are not taking on the main, complex issues of why many students fail or just falter to the easy way out. One initiative is getting rid of standards-based grading for equal-interval grading. In theory, equal-interval says that all letter grades should be equal. Sounds great but in practice that means giving a student credit for not doing anything. If a student does not turn in an essay, he/she receives a 50 percent credit. How does the administration see this as morally just? Giving students credit for doing nothing? Another way is when students fail a course putting them in online classes, where they can make-up semester credit. They take this online course at their own pace in a class called “Academy.” There were over 100 students in the class this year. I talked to one counselor that knew one of her students that finished the program in just a few weeks! An 18 week course reduced to three weeks. And she/he gets the same grade and credit as any student sitting in a class for 18 weeks. What do you think that student learned in that limited time? Another way this “Academy” class was used was with a senior in my class this semester. He was failing because he didn’t do any of the work so he wanted out of my class, in a different one to start over. The administration wouldn’t do that but they put him in this online class so he could get enough credits to graduate, more than half way through the semester. What will happen to more students when they know this exists? It is so immoral.

Because of all these changes, and so many more (cell phones in classrooms a huge distraction from education), over the last four years (the pandemic is not the only reason) I cannot in good moral conscience teach at LT any longer. And I know that many other teachers, parents, and students feel the same way about how bad it has become.

I tried to fight for what I thought was right: My fight got me a “notice of remedy” (on probation) from the administration. I have spoken out against these policies to parents and administration over the years. Two things happened: 1. I was denounced and negatively scolded, told that it’s my fault for not fixing anything that was a problem in my class. These policies directly changed my classroom and its environment, but I was held responsible for failed policy. I am trying to uphold quality instruction and a growth mindset development, with effort and hardwork as a focus to learning. 2. Without first addressing me, administration was compiling notes on anonymous accusations that could not be proven as fact; I was told that if I did not follow their new policies, they would fire me. I argued my case in front of the board of education last year, but the board defended the administration.

Parents! I write this to you, not the administration. I care about your students. I care that they get the quality education that they deserve and you expect. Parents! Be aware and be proactive to what is happening at your school and your students’ classrooms. Quality change will not come from the administration, the board, or even the teachers. The teachers here at LT are wonderful, caring people, but they don’t have a strong enough communal voice to fight against lame policy.
Parents! It is up to you to make the change you want for your student. Parents! Demand that the policies that are harming your children’s education change.


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