Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pissed off teacher

Nicholas D. Kristoff has an article in the NY Times today about Democrats and Education. He gave a few horror stories about how hard it is to fire bad teachers. Mostly from New York and Los Angeles. With over 40,000 teachers losing their jobs in the last year it doesn't seem all that hard to get rid of teachers anymore.
I've been teaching for nearly thirty years. I run across many a teacher who had no business in the classroom. Most of them become administrators. If they really mess up as a principle they get kicked upstairs to the main office (mediocrity always rises to the top). I won't go into what I think about the paper pushers on top of the food chain.
Teacher's unions are always cited as the main cause of not being able to get rid of bad apples. Always spoken by someone that is anti-union. When you've invested four years of college, a year of student teaching and committed your life to this low paying profession the rug should not be pulled out from under you at the drop of a hat or whim of a principle that just came in and wants to get rid of the teachers already there in order to bring in their own people (preferably new teachers with smaller salaries).

It was this quote that I want to address item by item:

There are no silver bullets, (no shit sherlock) but researchers (warning Will Robinson: be very wary of anyone who uses a general phrase like this. They're usually spitting something off the top of their head. If you're giving specific examples use direct quotes that can be fact checked)  are gaining a better sense of what works in education for disadvantaged children: all of this research all they have is a better sense? They don't know? Maybe they forgot to ask the people in the trenches -- teachers! intensive preschool, (agreed)  charter schools with long hours, (why does it have to be a charter school? Why can't regular schools go to longer hours. Except longer hours means salary increase. Aha - charter schools don't have unions and they can get this for free) fewer certification requirements that limit entry to the teaching profession, Isn't his argument that we need to get rid of bad teachers? And you do that by lowering standards? How do you get better teachers this way? We could always go back to the good old days, say 1900 when some states let a person teach any grade they passed. Wow I passed third grade, now I can be a third grade teacher!higher compensation to attract and retain good teachers, The carrot reformers always dangle to get people on board, but they never deliver. objective measurement to see who is effective, this always sounds good, but people can't be digitized, we're analog. Students are not one size fits all. Classes are not one size fits all. The future of students can't be plotted like an Insurance actuarial table. How well students perform on standardized tests later in life is meaningless. Take the best teachers from an upper middle class school, put them in an inner city economically depressed, multi-cultural school and see what happens. Take the best teachers from an inner city economically depressed, multi-cultural school, put them in an upper middle class school and see what happens. My bet, not much. more flexibility in removing those who are ineffective. The thrust of his entire article is how to make it easier to fire teachers. How is this going to improve education?


Michael Manning said...

There is but no doubt that our society has changed and not for the better to have allowed this deplorable situation to assault the best of teachers, PM. I am beginning to hear of initiatives however, that could serve as an alternative to this situation and I'm glad you have chosen courageously to present this post!

P M Prescott said...

I can retire at any time. That's the go to hell stage where I can say what I want and not be worried about losing my job. Many of my fellow teachers don't have that luxury.

BadTux said...

There's a *reason* why the states with the strongest teacher unions are *also* the states with the highest scores on standardized tests, highest percentage of students who go on to college, yada yada yada. This anti-union nonsense is just that -- nonsense. The states that have basically outlawed teacher unions have educational systems that make Bulgaria and Romania look good by comparison.

- Badtux the Former Teacher Penguin