Common Dreams reports on a survey of teachers that found them dissatisfied with their career and the way they are being treated in a time of reduced job salary/benefits and services for students. The survey, sponsored by MetLife, finds that teacher are facing more and more obstacles to teaching while fewer resources are available. One union leader says more teachers will leave the profession. Is that a surprise?
“Education reformers” (a.k.a. union busters) have been attacking teachers for several years. Now teachers are facing flat (or, here in Chicago, reduced) wages and worse working conditions. Who would want this job? The reformers beat their chests and proclaim that their working in the best interest of children. How can that be if their actions are making teaching a profession no one in their right mind would want to pursue, especially in challenged schools?
In a related article, Diane Ravitch gives Secretary of Education Arne Duncan a taste of his own medicine. Duncan, one of the reformer-experts who has never been a teacher or principal, touts evaluation as the key to success in education. Ravitch evaluates Duncan’s performance and finds it a complete failure. She writes, “Do Duncan’s policies encourage teachers and inspire good teaching? No. Duncan’s policies demean the teaching profession by treating student test scores as a proxy for teacher quality. A test that a student takes on one day of the year cannot possibly measure the quality of a teacher.” She evaluateDuncan’s performance in several other areas and finds it equally dismal.
We need to support teachers while challenging the reformers to prove that their experiments are helping children, not filling the pockets of parasitic corporations that are feeding off education through charter schools, testing, and tutoring programs. We do need good teachers. We need to pay them well, get out of their way, and let them teach.
Roger Bybee, writing in In These Times magazine, explores the root causes holding back students in many public school systems. Conservatives, their media allies, and – at times – President Obama and Arne Duncan blame poor teachers. Bybee looks at poor students and their families and considers the social and economic factors that affect learning, which all start with poverty, not bad teachers. This article is a fine antidote to much of what is accepted as conventional wisdom about public education.
Are there bad teachers? Yes. Are their back school administratiors, business excutives, and political leaders? Yes. Let’s look at people who have more power to influence change.
Diave Ravitch thinks so. Ravitch, who was once a champion of charter schools and high stakes testing, has turned against both “reforms.” She says that President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are “anti-teacher” in using test scores to evaluate poor teaching perform. Ravitch has done extensive research and found that poor neighborhoods, not poor teaching, are the main cause of low test scores. She also points out that cities like New Orleans that claim to have a successful charter school program have built their success by cherry picking students, leaving the disadvantaged and discipline problems in the public schools.
Why do President Obama and Secretary Duncan favor charter schools? They are free of union rules, which means teachers have no job security. Duncan followed a similar course in Chicago, which is being maintained by his successor, Ron “Doomsday” Huberman. (I call him “Doomsday” because he and his flacks used that term to justify layoffs and service cuts when Huberman headed Chicago’s transit system. The man is a political sock puppet.)
Working people need to look hard at the claims being made about teacher performance and salary. If we join with the campaign against teachers, we are simply helping to drive down salaries for all workers while we are carving up what little is left of job security.
Follow this link to see an interview with Ravitch.
Click here to read an essay by Ravitch, “Why I Changed My Mind.”
Common Dreams has reprinted an editorial from Rethinking Schools that asks why teachers are under attack. There is a sudden panic to get rid of “bad” teachers. The editors of Rethinking Schools look behind this simple, who-can-argue-with-that statement and find a theme in our culture: wage cutting and union busting.
Rather than ask how we can make schools better or really improve how students learn, the goal behind this “school reform” meme is getting rid of teachers (cutting the budget – not raising taxes). Bad teachers in this context, the editorial argues, are the same kind of boogey man that “welfare queens” were in the 1980s. This is a political question, and the sad fact is that President Obama’s Secretary of Education, the non-educator, Arne Duncan loves all the schemes (merit pay, charter schools) that will bust unions and push down compensation.
We claim to want the best and the brightest in the classroom, especially at underperforming schools. Who will want to be a teacher if it is a job with low pay and no security? This is another money game. It has nothing to do with teaching and learning.