Teachers say blame for poor test scores unfair


"I think we're the easiest target, so unfortunately we get the blame put on us," said Valorie Luke, a 4th grade teacher at Marsh.

Luke is among 18 teachers who received pink slips at Marsh, part of the district's larger budget crisis.

"We're really sad," said teacher Jennifer Raymond, "Especially when we're being called mediocre. We've worked so hard with these kids."

Nonetheless, Marsh test scores have not improved. Last year, Marsh scored last among Antioch elementary schools with a 688 on the California Academic Performance Index. The state goal or benchmark is 800.

Besides the 18 teachers who received pink slips, the other nine classroom teachers requested transfers after meeting incoming principal Bill Bolio, who told teachers he will regularly sit in on their classes.

"I just wanted to let them know of the challenges that Marsh is going to be facing," said Bolio. "We have to get moving and get moving quickly."

The 66-year-old Bolio will move to Marsh from Belshaw Elementary, one of Antioch's higher-performing schools.

Marsh is in its fifth year of "Program Improvement Status," a designation given to schools with low state test scores. If there is no improvement by the fifth year, the federal "No Child Left Behind Act" recommends replacing all or most of the staff.

Antioch Assistant Superintendent Marsha Brown Ed.D. told ABC7 the teachers at Marsh were not pushed out.

"Marsh in no way was singled out with those notices," said Brown. "Those notices were given strictly based on seniority."

Whatever the reasons behind them, some parents worry making wholesale changes at a struggling school will only make things worse.

"There's a lot of kids at that school and all of their emotional health and well-being is at stake," said Jordan Bruce, whose son is a 3rd grader at Marsh.

"My kid's going to come back next year to a complete different staff and that's not going to be easy for a kid to take in, says parent Jacqueline Kolsut. "He's 8-years-old."

Only the music, P.E. and resource teachers plan to return.

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