Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Keeping Great Teachers is More Important than Getting Rid of Bad Ones

I have been a teacher and a coach now for 50 years, with extensive experience working in public schools and neighborhood sports programs
as well as universities. And what upsets me about the Vergara case is that the strategy for improving schools of those who filed the suit is focused on getting rid of bad teachers rather than attracting and retaining great ones. Two things happen when you do that. First, you demonize the teaching profession in ways that make all teachers feel under attack. And second, you rate teachers through methods of data gathering that overlook the qualities of great teachers, and you take power away from all teachers so that bad teachers won't do damage.
The resulting mix of fear, intimidation, scripting and negative public scrutiny takes away what makes all great teachers I know love their jobs: respect, autonomy, the opportunity to be creative, the commitment to develop relationships with students and help them develop in a way consistent with their abilities and unique gifts. Great teachers subject to these pressure feel undermined and devalued- many leave prematurely. And young teachers who come into the profession filled with energy and ideas leave within a few years of arriving because the job is stressful and because the scrutiny they are under is humiliating.
Basically, this lawsuit symbolizes an approach to improving schools that can't work because it takes the creativity and freedom out of teaching. It assumes that the only way you can have good schools is to make them teacher proof. No other society in the world is approach things this way.
Unless we change course and ask our best teachers what we need to keep them and find  them, we will be treading water at best, and quite possibly making schools worse