When the LA Times asked teachers to give a response to their value added assessment ratings, I don’t believe that this is what they had in mind. “A Child Left Behind” written and performed by Alan Aymie at the Katselas Theatre Company, is one teachers response to his “below average” rating and a truly touching and thought provoking evening of entertainment. Aymie takes the audience on a journey through a year of teaching in a public school in South Central Los Angeles, while skillfully mirroring the challenges faced in our public education system with his own struggles at home trying to relate to and teach his own son who is diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome.
The overwhelming theme of the evening is frustration. Frustration towards the LAUSD school system, frustration towards his own perceived failings and frustration towards the inability to make it better. The focus in public schools is standardized test scores, so the teachers that produce the best test scores are the teachers that are valued the most. However, as Aymie illustrates, test scores have nothing to do with good teaching, and not every LAUSD community is the same, so why are they treated the same?
A particularly poignant moment is where Aymie compares his son’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to one of a student in his school. His son’s is conceived by a team of professionals and well written and thought out: the IEP’s at his school are “hastily written over lunch and five years too late”. Why the difference – funding and man power. The LA Times value added assessment does not give points to inner city teachers for attending their students funerals, or cleaning their own classrooms because there isn’t funding for a full time janitorial staff. Unfortunately, no one seems to ask or listen to the teachers, and those that speak up or buck against the system don’t last long.
Aymie beautifully paints a world in which all of this comes vividly to life. However, amidst the frustration there is still hope. Hope that through the admission of our failings we can rise above them. He doesn’t have an overwhelming answer or solution to the problem, but he shows great character in having the strength to stand up, identify the problem and accept his part in it. After all, “When a 14 year old expectant father says you were his best and last teacher, and you teach fifth grade, somebody f***ed up.”
Kat Michels is a two time regional Emmy award-winning writer with an AAS in video production and a BFA in theatre.
“A Child Left Behind”
Katselas Theatre Company
Through May 26th
Tickets: www.ktctickets.com or 702-582-8587