I have received a lot of feedback on the ongoing AJC teacher quality series, much of critical toward the Sunday piece on how hard it is to fire ineffective teachers. (This series is subscriber only, so I can’t reproduce a lot of it here, but this is a sampling.)
I thought this e-mail from a reader was well written on the teacher quality series and offered a balanced perspective. With her permission, I am sharing it on the blog:
I have scanned the blog postings and have found many who are pointing out the very things I want to comment on. I do feel that I need to add my comment as well.
First, in full disclosure, my husband is a teacher. And he is a skilled teacher. He has a master’s degree from a major university and is a nationally certified teacher.
He has not received a raise in years and has had money taken from his pay both in furlough days and the loss of money promised to nationally certified teachers. But he goes to school every day and gives his best because he believes in the profession and believes that these children are our future. He could have used his skills in a more financially lucrative way but has chosen to stay in teaching. And he is not alone. There many others just like him.
What the AJC did in exposing Beverly Hall was a true civic contribution and the paper is to be applauded. But this continual berating of teachers is unfair.
First, schools reflect our society at large. We as a society no longer respect education and that disrespect comes from all directions. Funding for education has become political as has everything in our country. For those who detest government and taxation, public education is an easy target. You starve it enough and of course its effectiveness diminishes. For some, education has become just another way to make money from the government – a government which so many of them hate. There are both good legislators and inept legislators who make countless decisions for education without truly understanding the needs of the schools.
While technology is important and schools need to use technology as appropriate, we put countless dollars into technology that is not targeted or practical for the schools. While buying technology does put money in the hands of companies, many of them who are their donors, it does not solve our education problems.
What schools need is a lower student-teacher ratio. Study after study shows that students achieve higher success with lower student teacher ratios.
We have school boards who are unable to work together or understand their roles in guiding the local schools. For many it has become a way to advance their religious or political views or merely a stepping stone to something else.
Every day we see changes in the school administration. Each new superintendent comes in with their own plan for success and that places new requirements on the local schools. Sadly, in many cases these superintendents leave after a short time only to result in new plans and new requirements and more turmoil. And what about the “bad” administrators?
Look at the Beverly Halls and countless others like who have not gotten caught. What about all of the principals who quietly (or not so quietly) get removed or who are enabled to stay. How does that affect the quality of teaching at that school?
While there are many good parents there are many who do not participate in their children’s learning – either by choice or by their personal limitations. There are the supercharged parents who demand good grades not from the child but from the teacher. It surely cannot be their child’s problem. And there are the parents who don’t even know when the school is closed. How do you think these people affect teacher success?
My frustration at watching this is that we don’t seem to want to tackle the larger issues. The solution seems to be to single out a group (preferably at the lower end of the food chain) and blame them. Then we don’t have to both look in the mirror nor look around us. And while I certainly understand that there are some bad teachers, there are bad performers in every field.
Certainly we need to get rid of those “bad” teachers but teaching is no different than any other field. But the difference is that we are dealing with the future of this country. We are already behind other countries. And if we do not start addressing the larger issues, our future is not so bright.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog