Tuesday, August 7, 2012

You Can’t Improve Teacher Quality Without Treating Teachers With Respect and Putting a Priority on Teacher Retention

The latest obsession of the Education Reformers is improving the quality of the nation’s teaching force. This is the subject of the Gates Foundation’s newest initiative and it even shapes the publicity campaign accompanying the much ballyhooed new Hollywood film “ We Won’t Back Down,” whose main subject is how teachers unions obstruct needed changes to urban schools. However, the nation’s most important education reform organization “Teach for America,.” Whose ex Corps members provide the bulk of the staff members for groups like “Children First” and “Stand for Children as well as many charter school organizations and state education departments, has had little positive impact on teacher quality since it started 20 years ago. Although has recruited most of its corps members from the top academic tier of the nation’s top colleges, it gives little priority to teacher training, teacher mentoring, or teacher retention. As a result, less than 20 percent of Teach for America corps members remain as classroom teachers five years after their commitment up. TFA’s publicity actually encourages its recruits to become education leaders and advocates rather than teachers and as a result its Corps members get the message that teaching is actually the LEAST desirable option of those available to them after participating in this high profile, high prestige program As for other strategies to improve teacher quality, from merit pay, to rating teachers based on student test scores and firing those who fail to make the grade, none of them have succeeded in making the teaching profession more attractive, as a long term option, to talented people. Indeed, such measure, promoted at the Federal as well as local level, have undermined teacher morale to the lowest it has been on record, especially since it has been accompanied by a campaign of public demonization of teachers unprecedented in American history. How you can improve the quality of a profession by subjecting its members to public ridicule and abuse, in everything from campaign speeches, to editorials, to Hollywood films, is a mystery that I am too dense to unravel, but Education Reformers seem to see this campaign as essential to gaining the policy changes they desire But the damage has already been done. More and more, the brightest young people I know are seeking to leave the teaching profession because they can’t stand to see their jobs reduced to test prep in climate of constant surveillance and public abuse. The same is true of the best veteran teachers. It takes real courage for a teacher to keep their optimism and maintain their professional standards in this poisonous climate, and even that may not be possible unless they have a courageous administrator to defend them So unless the reformers switch gears and bring the most talented teachers and principals into the conversation, their teacher quality initiative will fail miserably. You cannot recruit and retain great teachers through coercion and intimidation. What those methods will produce is a revolving door teaching force of people who last a few years than leave, supplemented by on line teaching strategies which eliminate teachers entirely. That is where current policies are heading. And the result will be young people who lack the human touch and mentoring that helps make students better citizens and better people, as well as better learners. If you think our society is fractured now, wait till you see where THAT outcome takes us! August 6, 2012


Mr. Rottino said...

Education "reformers'" true goal is to privatize the implementation of public education. In order to do so they must eliminate the status quo stakeholders (career teachers supported by their unions) who stand in the way of such radical change. The reformers are cynically using poor urban children to make emotional appeals to the public ("Waiting For Superman" and other anti-teacher films) in order to achieve their goals. The reformers could care less about the poor. In reality, the reformers' are trying to "open new markets" in public education so their billionaire hedge-fund backers can profit. It's pure greed disguised in faux bleeding-heart sympathy for the plight of the poor that is motivating the entire reform movement. If they succeed in their quest to rid the nation of strong teachers' unions and publicly administered education all of our students, especially the poor, will profoundly suffer, while the billionaires laugh all the way to the bank with the money plundered from the public. Teachers are facing a battle for their existence in the years ahead. Unfortunately, the billionaires have a ubiquitous access to the media, and thus demonize and propagandize hard-working middle-class teachers. In my view, this is the 1% trying to further destroy the lives of the 99%. The sooner teachers' unions bond with the Occupy movement the better.

Zeno said...

Couple this with the use or rather misuse of the teachers in the ATR - these are experienced teachers who have basically been told that their classroom no longer exists. Hang on...now your school no longer exists.