Thursday, September 20, 2012

If the Kids Don't Learn, You're Bad!

The current mantra in education is that if students aren't learning (otherwise known as "not testing well"), then they must have poor teachers. After hearing all of the negative (or misleading) reports about test scores, we have to listen to commentators and some in the public complain about bad teachers and how unions supposedly protect them. If students are not performing well, the teacher is obviously not teaching, right? Granted, there are poor teachers, and contrary to popular opinion, poor teachers can be fired without abolishing "tenure" protections. However, there are other factors at play in student performance. Comparing teaching to your typical private sector job (even a private school job) is not as good of a comparison as some people think. The private sector has the power to do things with their "products" and "clientele" that public schools cannot do. 

I was reading an article about the Chicago Strike and how the parties' arguments about teacher evaluations will impact the course of reforms in the entire country. A reader posted an awesome comment, and I would like to share that here:

Evaluating teachers sounds like a good idea right? I mean they are hired to do a job (educate children) if the children aren't educated, they failed. In the business world if it is my job to say, train a group of incoming workers (say call center new hires) and I don't train them well, I am responsible.
But take a step back. Would you want your job and bonus on the line if:
You couldn't drop any of those reps from the program - even if they didn't show up, showed up late, could barely speak english, or weren't smart enough to do the job? What if they didn't care, didn't want the job anyway and were disruptive to the rest of your group and you STILL couldn't drop them from the group... would that be fair?
Teaching is unique and not at at all like the business world. Widgets are not being produced and teachers are not dealing with people who want to be there, or even need to be there for a paycheck. They have no power over teh students
In many districts parents fight against the teachers if their kid receives a bad grade - even it is the result of not even turning in the assigned work.
Parents complain when homework is given.
School boards have mainstreamed children with learning disabilities, which holds back other students
School boards have removed "levels" when I was in school there were lvl 1-4 classes, now in my old HS they are doing away with levels becuase of self esteem - which also gives less incentive to work to get into the higher level classes
Teachers can no longer remove disruptive children from classes at my old school - they can't even send a disruptive student to the office becuase it would "deny them their right to the education of that class period" the other students be damned
Teachers I know in my town are adivisng their kids that want to go into teaching NOT to becuase of the crap that teachers have to deal with. We have prevented them from actually teaching, now want to hold them accountable for teaching every kid in their class regardless of ability, desire to learn, or parental stupidity (I'll sue if my kid doesn't get an A).
While the pay has gotten a little better from the poverty wages it used to be, the job satisfaction has gone down preciptously. Bring back common sense to the classroom, then find a good way to evaluate teachers, not by scores on a bubble test. 

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