Teacher making pancakes during standardized testing deemed a “distraction” by school
My kids are in the middle of standardized test season at school. They’re not thrilled about it, because taking tests isn’t exactly a blast, but their wonderful teachers do their best to make it bearable by letting them chew gum during and read a book once they’re finished. But a teacher at a Pennsylvania middle school took the fun a step further — and faced disciplinary action because of it.
Kyle Byler teaches eighth grade social studies at Hand Middle School in Lancaster, PA. Last week, he was proctoring a test for the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, which is the state’s standardized test. Byler decided to grill whole grain pancakes in the corner of the room for students to eat when the vice principal walked in and determined that the teacher’s cooking was “distracting” to students taking the test.
Perla Rodriguez, a student in Byler’s class, tells Fox43, “The only distraction was when the principal entered the classroom and just looked at him a certain way. That was when everyone turned around. And then he was trying to get us back to work and ignore him while he was talking to her.”
“I don’t understand what I did wrong, to be honest with you.” Byler tells Lancaster Online. “There was no infraction whatsoever. At no point was it any distraction for any of the students. They worked their butts off.” The teacher was suspended without pay on Monday. At Tuesday’s school board meeting, the matter of his employment was expected to be discussed. They didn’t vote for his termination, as the board tells Lancaster Online it was never on their agenda and the matter was handled with Byler. Still, parents and students showed up to the meeting to support him.
— Alex Geli (@alexgeli) April 17, 2018
Edna Reyes, a parent of one of Byler’s students tells Fox43, “He’s getting terminated or suspended over pancakes, when all he’s doing is being a great teacher for these kids. He’s like a father figure for these kids. He’s the papa of Hand.”
“What has happened was not right. It was not fair. And we feel as if all this over pancakes is wrong,” said Alizea Rodriguez, another of Byler’s students.
“All teachers serving as PSSA proctors receive specific training on testing protocol,” school board member Kelly Burkholder tells Lancaster Online. “Had permission been sought by a teacher to cook in the classroom during PSSA testing and serve food to the students, the response would have been that such activities would distract the teacher from the required duties as a test proctor.”
She also adds that students receive free breakfast and lunch daily at school.
Though Pennsylvania Department of Education spokeswoman Nicole Reigelman admits there’s no rule prohibiting the preparation or serving of food during testing, “those activities would likely interfere with ‘actively monitoring’ the assessment, which is a key task.”
Happily, Lancaster Online reports that Byler will be able to come back to teach today and won’t be fired, which will come as a relief to his students and their parents. Naryeliz Lopez, one of his students, says his brief absence from school still caused a hardship for her. “He is an amazing teacher. He’s been there for me since day one, and when he wasn’t there (after his suspension), I completely fell apart.”
“It takes a village to raise children,” says Crystle Martinez, a mother of two in the district. “He’s part of that village.”