Why one teacher quit teaching in Charlotte-Mecklenburg

This letter of resignation is from Kris L. Nielsen, a teacher in NC’s blog, Middle Grades Mastery. Nielsen was a teacher in the infamous Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the place our new superintendent and several of her top brass came from. Teachers, you will hear a ring of familiarity in this essay. We found it via another of Nielson’s posts originally reposted on the AJC Get Schooled Blog. We admire his courage in standing up for teachers and students by speaking out on the frustrations in the teaching profession today. We are saddened to report that the suffocating demands of the testing age have driven scores of wonderful teachers like Nielsen away from their chosen profession – and once again, the children lose.

Dear North Carolina Public Schools: I Quit

by Kris L. Nielsen

Let me cut to the chase: I quit. I am resigning my position as a teacher in the state of North Carolina—permanently. I am quitting without notice (taking advantage of the “at will” employment policies of this state). I am quitting without remorse and without second thoughts. I quit. I quit. I quit!



I refuse to be led by a top-down hierarchy that is completely detached from the classrooms for which it is supposed to be responsible.

I will not spend another day under the expectations that I prepare every student for the increasing numbers of meaningless and expensive tests.

I refuse to be an unpaid administrator of field tests that take advantage of children for the sake of profit.

I will not spend another day wishing I had some time to plan my fantastic lessons because administration comes up with new and inventive ways to steal that time, under the guise of PLC meetings or whatever. I’ve seen successful PLC development. It doesn’t look like this.

I will not spend another day wondering what menial, administrative task I will hear that I forgot to do next. I’m far enough behind in my own work.

I will not spend another day wondering how I can have classes that are full inclusion, and where 50% of my students have IEPs, yet I’m given no support.

I will not spend another day in a district where my coworkers are both on autopilot and in survival mode. Misery loves company, but I will not be that company.

I refuse to subject students to every ridiculous standardized test that the state and/or district thinks is important. I refuse to have my higher-level and deep thinking lessons disrupted by meaningless assessments (like the EXPLORE test) that do little more than increase stress among children and teachers, and attempt to guide young adolescents into narrow choices.

I totally object and refuse to have my performance as an educator rely on “Standard 6.” It is unfair, biased, and does not reflect anything about the teaching practices of proven educators.

I refuse to hear again that it’s more important that I serve as a test administrator than a leader of my peers.

I refuse to watch my students being treated like prisoners. There are other ways. It’s a shame that we don’t have the vision to seek out those alternatives.

I refuse to watch my coworkers being treated like untrustworthy slackers through the overbearing policies of this state, although they are the hardest working and most overloaded people I know.

I refuse to watch my family struggle financially as I work in a job to which I have invested 6 long years of my life in preparation. I have a graduate degree and a track record of strong success, yet I’m paid less than many two-year degree holders. And forget benefits—they are effectively nonexistent for teachers in North Carolina.

I refuse to watch my district’s leadership tell us about the bad news and horrific changes coming towards us, then watch them shrug incompetently, and then tell us to work harder.

I refuse to listen to our highly regarded superintendent telling us that the charter school movement is at our doorstep (with a soon-to-be-elected governor in full support) and tell us not to worry about it, because we are applying for a grant from Race to the Top. There is no consistency here; there is no leadership here.

I refuse to watch my students slouch under the weight of a system that expects them to perform well on EOG tests, which do not measure their abilities other than memorization and application and therefore do not measure their readiness for the next grade level—much less life, career, or college.

I’m tired of watching my students produce amazing things, which show their true understanding of 21st century skills, only to see their looks of disappointment when they don’t meet the arbitrary expectations of low-level state and district tests that do not assess their skills.

I refuse to hear any more about how important it is to differentiate our instruction as we prepare our kids for tests that are anything but differentiated. This negates our hard work and makes us look bad.

I am tired of hearing about the miracles my peers are expected to perform, and watching the districts do next to nothing to support or develop them. I haven’t seen real professional development in either district since I got here. The development sessions I have seen are sloppy, shallow, and have no real means of evaluation or accountability.

I’m tired of my increasing and troublesome physical symptoms that come from all this frustration, stress, and sadness.

Finally, I’m tired of watching parents being tricked into believing that their children are being prepared for the complex world ahead, especially since their children’s teachers are being cowed into meeting expectations and standards that are not conducive to their children’s futures.

I’m truly angry that parents put so much stress, fear, and anticipation into their kids’ heads in preparation for the EOG tests and the new MSLs—neither of which are consequential to their future needs—in addition to the all of the other testing that happens almost weekly. As a parent of a high school student in Union County, I’m dismayed at the education that my child receives as her teachers frantically frontload trivial information in preparation for more tests. My toddler will not attend a North Carolina public school. I will do whatever it takes to keep that from happening.

I quit because I’m tired being part of the problem. It’s killing me and it’s not doing anyone else any good. I will now take my place among the rest of the American educators, parents, citizens, and children who are dedicated to getting our schools–and our future–back.



Be sure to read Kris’ follow-up essay, Parents: You Are the Power.

About dekalbschoolwatch

Hosting a dialogue among parents, educators and community members focused on improving our schools and providing a quality, equitable education for each of our nearly 100,000 students. ~ "ipsa scientia potestas est" ~ "Knowledge itself is power"
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11 Responses to Why one teacher quit teaching in Charlotte-Mecklenburg

  1. Boy, that sure hit close to home.

  2. teachermom says:

    It all hits home. This is a perfect storm. We have a new super who is aggressively trying to make changes on a system that is in a non-functioning. Who is feeling the pain the most? It is those who are on the front line doing the real work of the system; the teachers and the students. Can we fix it? Yes. The money is there, the talent is there. Just get out of the way…

  3. Has anyone else heard the rumor that Atkinson will announce her resignation this week?

  4. KD says:

    I left a job in DeKalb teaching EIP math, 2 years ago. Kris’ resignation letter echoes many of my own feelings about working for the county.

  5. Around the Water Cooler says:

    Wow, he wrote everything I wanted to say (but didn’t) when I resigned from DeKalb County Schools last year.

  6. September says:

    I certainly understand. I don’t encourage anyone to enter teaching these days. Working conditions are poor. Salaries are not keeping up. There is very little respect for the people who are working with our children. Yes, there are unqualified people in the profession, but this is true of most professions. The fact of the matter is that a large majority of teachers are well qualified, and strive to provide quality instruction. We are in a very sad situation. I see no hope for improvement.

  7. WR says:

    I also heard that Atkinson resigned Friday night. Heard she is taking a job in Texas. I wonder if she is taking her posse with her?

  8. We have been told that Cheryl Atkinson and Kendra March attended a conference together in Texas back in September. Perhaps this is what is fueling the rumors? Anyone know about this conference?

  9. Cedar says:

    More Government intervention less local control, less faith in individuals, more bureaucracy.

  10. cmon dekalb teacher too and wr…dont tease us, it snot funny.

  11. dekalbteacher says:

    Sounds a lot like the conversations I have had with my principal–directed not at him but at those “above” him. He knows I am leaving and fully understands why.

Comments are closed.