Three ‘Reforms’ That Are Deprofessionalizing Teaching

According to the 2012 PDK/Gallup survey, the American public believes the teaching profession should impose entrance requirements that are just as selective, if not more so, than those required in fields such as business, pre-law, and engineering. In other words, treat teachers like true professionals – as they are in nations that have much higher rates of student achievement.

And yet, as Richard Milner of Vanderbilt University points out, certain so-called education “reforms” that enjoy a good deal of public support, not to mention sycophantic media coverage, are doing exactly the opposite – de-professionalizing the teaching profession.

In a policy brief published with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, Milner identifies and analyzes the three predominant policy culprits that have moved teaching away from professionalization. These fashionable reforms have had the most direct impact not only on the daily work of educators, but also on how the public and the media view the profession as a whole.

Student taking standardized test.1. Value-Added Assessment. The first on Milner’s list probably ranks number one with most teachers as well. Students’ scores on high-stakes standardized tests produce at best murky data and yet are held up “The push for high test scores undermines the very essence of teachers’ creativity and their ability to be responsive to the particular needs of their students, varying as they do from student to student, year to year, and classroom to classroom,” Milner writes. “Their ability to draw from and put into practice their professional judgment is compromised.”

What’s especially damaging about the focus on standardized test results is the media’s tendency to cite them as proof of diminishing U.S. student achievement and teacher effectiveness.

“In this way, the media seem to feed public ambivalence and opinions that teachers are weak and that teaching is not a profession because it has insurmountable problems.”

Milner recommends a moratorium be placed on the use of test-based teacher evaluation system until a satisfactory level of accuracy has been achieved.

Blowback against standardized testing in recent months has at least forced some districts to revisit evaluations. In some states, policymakers have consulted affiliates of the National Education Association and worked with them to develop comprehensive evaluation systems based on multiple measures of student achievement and traditional classroom observations.

“If we really want systems that help all students reach their full potential, we must allow educators, parents, students and communities to be a part of the process and have a stronger voice in the conversations around high-quality assessments that really do support student learning,” says NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.

2. Fast-Track Teacher Preparation. Alternative teacher certification programs that push candidates into classrooms without any real intensive training contributes to the already pervasive sentiment that teaching is something anyone can do. Milner singles out Teach for America for recruiting teachers from top schools who, while they may have impressive knowledge of a specific content area, often lack proper training in learning theory, child development, or pedagogical skills. Attracting the best and brightest candidates to the classroom is a worthy and valuable goal, writes Milner, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of extensive classroom preparation. Nor should teaching be seen as a pit stop between college graduation and another career.

In response, Milner suggest policymakers take a time-out from expanding these fast-track programs until their long-range effectiveness in meeting students needs can be determined.

NEA believes it is critical to raise teacher standards both at the postsecondary-admissions and preservice stages. Learning how to teach, however, does not stop when the teaching career begins. NEA believes the profession must focus on supporting teachers, providing them with career options and helping teachers improve throughout their careers.

“In order to prepare the coming generations of students, all teachers must be effective—period,” says Van Roekel.

3. Narrowing of the Curriculum. A highly-scripted curriculum, while it may provide a useful roadmap for educators on what to teach and when to teach it, nonetheless does not allow teachers to rely on their professional judgment to make the best decisions for student learning. Saddled with pre-determined curriculum, “teachers are to act as automatons rather than as professionals. …Teaching is seen as technical and mindless, as work that does not require the cognitive ability to be responsive to learners because curriculum decisions have been predetermined Consequently, professionalism is further undermined because a narrowly-focused, mandated curricula sends the unmistakable signal to the general public that these important decisions shouldn’t be left to teachers – they are merely in the classroom to carry out cookie cutter policies.

A broadening of the curriculum is needed, Milner says, but as long as “high stakes consequences” are decoupled from the test scores that are usually the engine behind a highly-scripted curriculum.

  • Jonathan K.

    In vocational schools students must get accepted in order to gain entrance. Many students who will not go to college and are ideal candidates for a vocational education are being denied because the Superintendent does not want a potential low achiever muddying their statistics. It’s a “not on my watch” mentality. Instead of boasting about their students who enter the trades, vocational Superintendents are prouder to boast about how many of their students are going on to post secondary schools.

    I taught at a proprietary school and many of the students who had wanted to go to vocational schools, were denied entry, ending up paying for the education after high school. Apparently their “test scores” or behavioral history (k-8) was enough to prevent a vocational Superintendent from allowing them the privilege of a vocational education.

    The denials are all media driven as stats are published annually and vocational Superintendents want to shine. It is no longer about the students, it’s about the perception of how well the school is run by the administration.

    Vocational Superintendents are the highest paid Superintendents per student in the education system. Some receive salaries in excess of $180,000, a car and car expenses, and all the other perks for watching just one building with 1,200 students. Education has become a business and it’s top CEOs (Superintendents and Principals) are cashing in-

  • Carol S

    This is a response to the person who complained about Vocational Schools having entrance requirements. I teach at a Vocational School. We have basic entrance requirements. A student MUST have at least 5 of their core credits. Is that too much to ask of a kid who has been in high school for TWO YEARS? That he/she has attained 5 of their core credits? That this student be ON TRACK for Graduation?
    They have SO much they have to take to graduate from HS now, if they come to us behind AND a large part of their daily schedule is taken up by Voc/Career Tech classes….WHERE are they going to make up the credits they are missing??? YET, the home schools these students come from ARE expecting that their students will earn their credits and graduate from HS.
    SO, YES, They MUST have an entrance requirement or they will just fall farther and farther behind instead of being successful.
    Which do YOU want for YOUR students? OR are you just hoping to push off your low to non achieving students on the Vocational school? (which too often, IS the case)
    I’m so tired of the bull.

  • Mary Jane

    If we don’t want the public to impose these circumstances on the teaching profession, we should be figuring out how to professionalize the profession. Lawyers, engineers, doctors have all set standards, and why can’t teachers do likewise?

  • Terri

    I have been teaching for 10 years and have been given curriculum to teach from that I must teach and have been given a scope and sequence to teach from and I have been given a lot of training. What I have not been given training in is how to get parents to support what we do in the classroom. It is a community effort and sometimes I feel we get the short end of the stick. We need to come together and figure this out or our kids will suffer.

  • Tim

    I think the vocational education system is often a catch-22. The students who are not going to go to college because their skills and abilities lie more in the trades cannot get into the pre-trade training system of vocational education because they are not succeeding in the the rigorous, pre-college-oriented curriculum of their home schools. They’re not succeeding in the pre-college education paradigm, so they want to go to vo-tech, but they can’t get into vo-tech because they’re not succeeding in the pre-college education paradigm. Anyone see a problem here?

  • Maureen

    What is ignored in this push for “professionalizing” is that a majority of states do have very stringent requirements for teacher licensure. The current media discourse makes it sound like this is something not occurring, and the public believes the trope. In OR we must have a masters degree, I have taken 5 different 3 hour tests in order to be certified. On top of that every year we need to log continuing professional development. Teachers we must be the ones defining this discourse, not the corporations who are salivating at the thought of making money creating new standardized teacher certification programs.

  • Sue

    What seems to be such a dichotomy is the preparing to become a teacher and the fast track system. I have had the displeasure of teaching next to fast trackers, and know they haven’t got a clue about kids. Couple that with the media hype about how poor schools are in the US and of course our profession looks bad. Those of us that actually were education majors and now have a few years under our belts have seen all the fads, seen the pendulum swing, but this time around there is a concerted effort on the part of politicians that have run our finances into the ground to blame the educators instead of their own mismanagement and lack of priorities for the people they serve. And their fix? Get some enterprising dude that wrote a book of impossible “new teaching strategies” to deliver a system of HOW to teach that isn’t realistic, let districts fail, and then turn it all over to a cheap substitute called “virtual education”. Imagine the cost savings when school buildings are closed and only the rich afford computers AND internet. My district will become an even more depressed area. Virtual education is only for a few students – not every student. [My own child got her bachelor’s online, but she is an exception and her public school education got her there]. Teaching IS a profession that is flexible, and this whole standardized teacher idea is a joke. The sad part is, we are so busy meeting student needs that we rarely can defend our profession. It is shameful that we have to do that. = (

  • Bill Bellamy

    Proud that NEA is taking an active role in addressing the learning needs issues of our students. Mr. Roekel’s plan of action is good but the focus is on-the-job training. All good stuff! But the molding begins sooner – in undergrad programs. We need to be providing updated programs there that typifies the pedagogy desired. I want to offer one other suggestion for retrofitting. In everything we do, we need to always put the learning needs of students (our customers) first. ALL objectives should be based on the philosophy that everything we do is a focus on the needs of our customers. Until we are ready to offer them the priority parking spots, we are not prepared to address their real needs.

  • Larry Wiener

    Very well done article.

    Actually, these three mistakes go together.

    We do the fast track teacher recruitment and then develop teacher-proof or scripted curriculum to make sure that a teacher without a lot of knowledge can teach them.

    Then we test this very narrow curriculum and so much of teaching becomes test prep.

    That may keep the people in the State House happy, but it leads to a very narrow education which really doesn’t prepare students for the complex thought that is required in the Twenty First Century.

  • This article and comments cover much of the ‘problem’ but the real problem is school ‘reform’ itself. Bill Gates doesn’t know his butt from a hot rock in education, but his billions give him a megaphone and a pulpit. Truth is, education reform is a collosal failure, including Billionaire Bill. Business guru Peter Drucker said it best for me back in the 1990s: “Go back to doing things the way they were when it worked, and then try to improve from there.” One sentence. Right on the money! Today whiz kid newbie teachers don’t do a year of unpaid student teaching (the way it used to be) so they learn nothing of classroom discipline. Without that, you are nowhere. That’s why they are clueless. Take a lesson from Drucker and implement it. You’ll be amazed by the results.

  • Carissa

    Thank you for bringing up scripted/cookie cutter lessons. I have a masters degree in teaching and yet feel as though anyone really could step in and do what is expected of me. This is NOT my idea of “highly qualified !” I’ve had more room to be “professional” as a grocery store customer service representative. It is for the reasons listed above that I find myself, along with many of my co-workers, looking for a new career, even if it is back to retail or waitressing!

  • Ronald J. Cappuccio, J.D., LL.M.(Tax)

    The alternative teaching route is very valuable in our education system. People that have subject matter expertise should be encouraged to teach. As a practicing tax and business attorney, I have taught in law school, but if I wanted to teach a business law or a related course in high school, I would be excluded. Another real-life example is my personal music teacher. He has a Ph.D in Music Pedagogy (and a Master of Music in Voice.) He cannot teach in our school system without taking education courses to become certified.

    We need a system that allows for multiple entrances into teaching. Then we need a system where the teachers can work in cohorts and spread their knowledge among themselves.

  • Felak

    I have mixed feelings on the idea that pedagogy courses necessarily make better teachers. My own teacher-preparation program was a series of hoops to jump through where the content was simplistic and faddish, and the standards were embarrassingly low. As graduate students, we were assigned “homework” and required to purchase textbooks that made sweeping statements about educational efficacy without a single source citation. I had classmates who couldn’t write a grammatically correct sentence, turned in assignments weeks late, and one gem who, on a group research paper–my mind spins even to type those words–plagiarized a source that was itself plagiarized and couldn’t see what the big deal was. These students passed and are, presumably, currently employed as teachers.

    While some of my courses gave me resources to use in the classroom, a week-long or even two-day workshop would have communicated the same information. Now as for the truly valuable experience that helped me become an educator? I had an excellent mentor as a student teacher. I think I learned more from her in the conversations before I even set foot before a class than I did in all the other “pedagogy courses” combined.

    I’m sure not all programs are like the one I completed. However, I rarely meet a teacher who doesn’t acknowledge that a Master’s in education is a joke, the easiest route to meeting a state requirement. I’m currently doing an MA in my content area, English. The difference in expectations between that and the Master’s program in education–at the same school!–is astounding.

    Unfortunately, with so many people wanting to change careers to education, as I did, universities seem to be onto the fact that a teacher-prep program is cheap to run and guaranteed to bring in money in graduate credits from people like me who are already employed and able and willing to pay it. I would love nothing more than to take education classes that challenge me as my current grad-school classes do. I would love nothing more than to feel like my grad work in education actually means something besides a piece of paper that lets me teach. Sadly, I don’t.

  • Just Sayin

    What if other professionals had a scripted lesson or had to follow a scripted roadmap.
    Imagine a Dr. being told how to do a surgery, and it had to be preformed during a certain time frame, every patient had to have it done the same way, and if not complete, close and move on! SAD OR FUNNY?
    Picture a Lawyer on cases with a script or guideline. Not being able to deviate , even to make a point using examples that are …”gasp” …Not dictated by people who have never been in a courtroom!. SAD OR FUNNY?
    Now imagine them being paid on only the cases they win, or only on successful surgeries. SAD
    BUT THE REAL JOKE… PAY THESE PROFESSIONALS WHAT AMOUNTS TO AN INSULT IN SALARY, expect them to put in mega overtime with no pay, and purchase many of their own supplies and tools of the trade!!

  • Michael

    I was a Title-1, inner-city teacher for 20 years. I became highly successful depite our school’s 97% impacted ratio. The dirty little secret about state standarized testing… the tests are awesome! The problem has always been that they were rolled out in a punative fashion; they should’ve been more evaluative. Instead, they have been used as the stick to hit teachers and students every year, and the the state asks, “Now, guess why I hit you!” It’s such a shame. I remember education before standards-based reform. So many inner-city schools (especially) were a mess. Most people who criticize state exams have never seen them. Our state exams really demand thought, organization, the ability to write about what one knows, and a reasonable ability to show mastery of age-appropriate skills. So much better than the ITBS crap so many of us had to endure. The problem has had more to do with the atmoshpere in which the exams have been administered and lethargic district-wide reponses to the standards. We have waisted time hiding information from students, parents, and teachers. Honestly, how did we screw up this much needed reform?

  • Larry Wiener

    The examples that Ronald Cappucio cites are much different from the type of people who often get in under fast track.

    The people that he cites are mature, seasoned people in their professions. We can be open to a different type of certification that values their experiences while teaching them to work with young people.

    Many of the fast track people who come in are recent grads with little life or professional experience.

    Also, we need to remember that stories abound of high power professional people who go into teaching with little training and who fall on their face in the first week because they have no idea how to manage a classroom of young people or how to make their content understandable to students.

  • Deskilling, rather than “DE-professionalizing” would be the more correct term. This article is a mixed bag, so to be brief, I will just look at the three points and try to answer them as rationally and honestly as possible:

    1. Value-Added Assessment. Mr. Walker points out that “high-stakes standardized tests produce at best murky data…” Gathering a baseline from which to accurately assess performance and thus differentiate instruction is “murky data?” What would be “clear” data: portfolios, posters, community service, internships, etc…? If we don’t get our heads out of the ground on this point, NO ONE will ever take teachers seriously.

    2. Fast-Track Teacher Preparation. Yes, this is a very, very bad idea. But why are they “fast-tracking” if so many teachers say there are no jobs out there?

    3. Narrowing of the Curriculum. “A highly-scripted curriculum…” What? What does “scripting” have to do with “narrowing?” Maybe teaching more vocabulary for the NEA writers wouldn’t be a bad idea.

  • Sheryl

    I think we should put everything on hold and study it for 5-10 years. Just tough luck for the students hoping for an education during the endless studies.


    Having worked as an Administrator for a “low performing school,” I will offer just a few thoughts. First, there is indeed a need for parents to be as fully engaged with their children as possible, and currently this is not happening. Second, in some states the teaching standards have been lowered, and not for “Fast Trackers,” but for educators. The purported rationale for this action was that the standards in place at the time were too hard, as many miniority teacher candidates were unable to pass the certification requirements in place at the time. So they were lessened, thus producing a potentially lower caliber of educator. Combine an ill prepared new teacher with children who have no support mechanism at home, or a desire to learn, and it spells failure on all fronts. There should be a rigorous standard for educator certification, but with that there should also be equally better remuneration for those who spend many years acquiring the requisite education and qualifications to TEACH. That includes any and all fast trackers.

  • Emily

    Well written and hits the nail right on the head…especially about the media. If media would stop stirring the pot, parents and teachers might be able to get back on board together instead of a parents vs. teachers mentality that is created by the media. I don’t mind state testing, but I think if we are going to have mandated tests, students should be held just as responsible as the teachers are for the tests. Social promotion is a HUGE problem and it has come along with all of these issues put together.

  • Deanna

    Is this just a re-release of a 10 year old article? High-stakes assessment as the biggest indicator of student, teacher, and school success is just foolish, but it has been for a decade – this is not new.

    Fast-track teacher preparation causing a problem? I have worked with equally poor traditionally prepared teachers as fast-tracked teachers, and with exceptional traditionally prepared teachers and fast-tracked teachers (or completely uncertified long-term subs).

    The problem is NOT the preparation, though I do agree that supervised teaching should occur for all certified teachers for a minimum of 1 semester, but not because people need to “pay their dues”. That’s just petty. People should work with a supervising teacher to learn management, collaboration, the “hidden curriculum” (like who to avoid, how to ask for a meeting, what and how to document, how to get supplies, etc.), and have someone to talk to about how things went that day. This would lead to better professional collaboration skills for everyone.

    Finally, the narrow standards and scripted curriculum should be out the door if people are correctly embracing the Common Core State Standards. These standards give teachers the freedom to decide how best to meet the needs of their students.

    Stop allowing bad teachers to keep teaching. Reward professionals who demonstrate quality practices and a commitment to student learning. Recognize the value of the individual, and insist schools cut loose the dead weight and recruit educators who are capable and interested in doing the work.

  • Joe Smith (retired)

    The goals of GOVERNMENT will only dumb down things further so people become easily trained to do what we say and do NOT think or protest. As an adjunct in my retirement, some of the most capable students (some products of “gifted programs”) complain and struggle the most when asked to write reflections of constructed knowledge from lessons in teacher prep methods courses. Why can’t you give us a test to memorize answers for to get a grade? is their common statement. Creating non-thinkers has occurred and further erosion of thinking leading to compliant standardized test takers will be expanded to have people be zoombies to whatever they are told to do to keep the status quo.

  • Shelly

    Tim’s comment on vocational ed is interesting. I do agree that the push to be college and career ready has pushed out and pushed on the traditional vocational student whose talents and intelligence lie elsewhere. However, the texts that students must read for those technical careers and training are often higher in lexile levels than traditional “academic” texts. What do we do to help those students get ready if they can’t read well enough?

  • Alex

    What failed to be cited in the discussion of Teach for America is that these “fast-trackers” are sent to very rigorous training the summer before they enter the classroom. Then, whilst teaching, are concurrently enrolled in a teacher certification program as full-time graduate students who take classes in the evening and online. On top of all that, these “fast trackers” attend weekend professional development and training on an ongoing basis. Furthermore, many alumni of TFA find life long careers in the classroom.

    Finally, a solid majority of positions in my district that are currently filled by fast trackers were positions occupied by strings of substitutes or long term subs. I think someone who is as devoted as a TFA “fast tracker” is obviously the better choice over a substitute.

  • Dawn

    As someone who entered the teaching profession without an undergraduate degree in education (I am a teacher/librarian), I believe that the requirements to enter the teaching profession need to be raised. My undergraduate degree in liberal arts has prepared me to be a continual learner. That is the factor that has made me a successful and popular teacher. I was trained by history and English professors to sift through vast amounts of information and choose necessary pieces to support my goals.

    I have never had any classes on how to “relate” to children. My psychology classes have served me well. I have worked with teachers who have degrees in education and were still clueless about children as well as those who have great rapport.

    I recently finished an EdS in curriculum and instruction and agree with one of the earlier commenters that it was not nearly as challenging as my MA in a liberal arts field. Many of my colleagues at a high performing school are having great difficulties figuring ou the common core. These teachers state (as if it were a badge of honor) that they have not read and are not going to read the documents that explain these new standards! The same teachers also complain because no one is “giving me any direction” about how to manage the transition!

    I have worked with amazing teachers and some not so amazing ones. I believe that if teachers received a more balanced education at the university level, they would find the constantly changing world of education much easier to maneuver.

  • Todd Sliktas

    I am a former Voc. Ed. teacher. Even people who support Voc. Ed. still misunderstand it. Those supporting it still often fail to realize how “academic” the curriculum is. The days of the old “shop class” are coming to a end. The curriculum are often very intense and technical. There do need to be academic requirements tied to Voc. Ed. otherwise the curriculum will have to be “dumbed down”.

  • Rick

    In response to Ken from Freemont, Drucker also said: “People in any organization are always attached to the obsolete – the things that should have worked but did not, the things that once were productive and no longer are.”

  • Just Sayin

    If this wasn’t SO SAD, it would be FUNNY…

    What if other professionals had a scripted lesson or had to follow a scripted roadmap.
    Imagine a Dr. being told how to do a surgery, and it had to be preformed during a certain time frame, every patient had to have it done the same way, and if not complete, close and move on! SAD OR FUNNY?
    Picture a Lawyer on cases with a script or guideline. Not being able to deviate , even to make a point using examples that are …”gasp” …Not dictated by people who have never been in a courtroom!. SAD OR FUNNY?
    Now imagine them being paid on only the cases they win, or only on successful surgeries. SAD
    BUT THE REAL JOKE… PAY THESE PROFESSIONALS WHAT AMOUNTS TO AN INSULT IN SALARY, expect them to put in mega overtime with no pay, and purchase many of their own supplies and tools of the trade!!

  • Cynthia Keedy

    I have been a professional tutor since 2008. I taught in the Hurricane Katrina aftermath of students evacuated to Texas of 2005-2007. I have seen all different grade levels & various school systems both large, small, public & private. Until the last year or so, all I did had an element of TAKS.

    To say TAKS was a minimum standard of skills would be a gross underestimation. Students didn’t really need Algebra 2 & certainly nothing higher. Counselors stopped having students take higher maths. Science was generalized & simplified with one final, all subjects, basics, exam. Whatever common standard set was clearly lower than what we had before. There were no writing standards & grammar left the curriculum. We had high school graduates who had zero concept of the outside world & no geography skills.

    In Texas we have a new state standard for the last year or so. We call it STAAR. Since I teach from lower elementary up to students studying for the ACT & the SAT, I have seen the drastic change in quality of what is being taught. What may have been mentioned in those higher maths like Algebra 2, now is introduced in 3rd grade & reinforced every year into junior high when they start algebra concepts. Junior high algebra is no longer what does n equal, by the end of 8th grade, but all rules down pat by the end of 6th grade.

    Students entering our high school system that are currently in elementary will more prepared than ever before. The high school level of our new state tests requires a common end of the school year final exam across the state. Each course taken in the high schools requires one of four subject area exams. Each level of math, four years worth, will have a final exam. Each level of science, 3 years worth, requires a subject specific test. They receive specific formulas they must know how to use pass these exams. The state requires 4 years of science, but we offer elective sciences for that last year. What I’m finding is that the fourth year of many courses is the AP level. This leaves room for those vocational students to takes their courses while the college bound take theirs. History now has a state run world geography exam. I dare you to ask future graduates where some of those places the older students haven’t got a clue about, are.

    Some of these subject areas are showing teacher weaknesses, but I feel the counselors assigning the teachers to topics outside their certifications are one of our real problems. Teachers get into teaching for many different reasons, but they quit for the same few. Teacher apathy & accountability are always part of that bigger curriculum picture. We all need to remember that the same union that protects us is the one that keeps the teacher down the hall employed.

    We can blamed state exams for our woes, or common standards. Patience & not abandoning what has just been revamped (at least in my state) will help propel us into the future of education. I have gone back to teaching for a low income public school. I love every minute of it, even the moments where teachers tell me they don’t have to teach that because we won’t have state tests next year. My favorite comment I heard was when I was told not to worry about a student not taking more than 2 exams this year because it won’t be my problem next year.

    Whomever you are in education, optimism & obsessive perseverance can be our students’ salvation, what ever the bad policies.

  • Jerry Bear

    Greetinngs! I am a math teacher and I went through a 20 credit hour university alternative certification program to get certified in teaching Secondary Mathematics. I think that in the case of high school math, you absolutely need to have in depth knowledge of the subject matter or you are just not going to be that effective, however good your classroom management is. it doesnt seem to matter if the teacher came into the profession intitially through an education degree or via an alternative pathway like me, there is just a world of difference between a math teacher who has an advanced degree in the subject versus one who doesn’t. The students too are quick to pick up on whether or not their teacher knows the subject or not. I think on the elementary level the emphasis should go to those going into education as their major as they need a lot of information on how children learn and ways of teaching them. On the high school level, the emphasis should be on deep knowledge of the subject matter. Techniques of classroom management can be taught relatively quickly but in depth knowledge of the subject matter takes far longer. As for being able to relate to the kids, that seems to be a matter of personality and temperament and you really can’t teach that, iy is eaither in you or it isnt and if it isnt you need to find another profession. teachers also need to be good role models of successful adults and not neurotic misfits to whom the kids will never respect. Teenagers are also very tired of being constantly lied to by adults and appreciate sincerety and honesty from their teachers. i think we need to professionalize teaching on both the levels of subject matter content and effectiveness in the classroom. The best judge of a teacher is other teachers, Administrators should not be allowed to do this. Far too many abuse the resulting power. Teachers teaching the same subject should evaluate the teacher in classroom observations and then there should be district level professionals who do this also and the results combined. I also think teachers should vote on their administrators. Their input should count when a new principal is hired and if a large majority of the teachers give a vote of no confidence against an assistant principal, that person should go1 teachers need administrators they trust and respect and can work with. i have pretty much taught in tough ghetto schools with overwhelming minority strudent representation but I would say fewer than 10% of the teachers were incompetent but at least half the administrators were. The problem of ineffective, poor quality administrators is a huge part of the problem of our educational system today but it is almost totally being ignored or outright denied. A large part of this situation is not because bad people become administrators, but because candidates for administrators are poorly trained. School districts spend a tiny fraction of the amount that big businesses do on continued training and professional development for their executives. If you think dealing with a classroom of rowdy students is tough, just try dealing with all the teachers in the typical school! I tried suggesting to my district that they pay for Carnegie Training for the administrators but of course I was completely ignored. I still believe that neither teachers nor administrators can do an effective job if they are not properly prepared and what we see going on in our schools clearly shows this. Remedying this will go very far towards properly professionalizing our chosen vocation, or maybe it is really a matter of our vocation choosing us……….


    Jerry Bear ^,..,^


  • Marilou Metcalf

    This article hits many points about teaching as a profession on target. When I worked as a Fulbright Exchange educational psychologist in Scotland, I found the difference in attitude and approach to educators as professionals to be very positive as opposed to the “evaluation” system in the USA.
    There an educator is viewed as a professional who will succeed given the appropriate tools and supports. Instead of: EVALUATION, one has: SUPPORT AND SUPERVISION. Teachers and other educational personnel have a supervisor with whom they develop goals for themselves each year and then mutually discuss progress throughout the year. For example if a teacher wants to improve her knowledge and competence with autistic children, who are often integrated within the regular classroom, s/he can request to go on a “course” which is paid for by the local council (i.e. Board of Ed.) or may go observe others working with that population, or have someone come in and observe/advise her within her classroom. There is no stigma attached to a teacher who requests help with a particularly difficult classroom problem, such as behavior management. The teacher receives the needed/requested support and is usually able to improve and reach the goals, which she has been key to developing for herself. This focus on improvement as opposed to “critical evaluation” sets, from my observation, a very different tone and direction. It gives people the courage and opportunity to look at where they need and want to improve without the threat of being “put on probation” or losing their job.

  • Frank Harrison

    Many of you on here seem to blast alternate route teachers. How can you you teach real world issues without experiencing it. I worked in Washington, served in two recent wars on terrorism and on political campaigns, then joined the corporate world, but always wanted to teach. I see many of the new teacher breed get to work and are the first out the door. I present real world scenarios to my students and I scored higher than all my teachers around me on content knowledge, but I did not go through teacher certification like the rest. I am real and not a fake, like many people think alternate route teachers are labeled as; only real world experience can tell kids what they need to know. In fact I think most new teachers taught through the system are why kids are out of control because they were never taught discipline like we were in the real world.

  • Frances Ford

    Three simple steps will get us back to success in public education.

    One: make the principal a principal educator. Get him/her out of busy-work admin. and into the classroom of each teacher for a full class period on a regular basis. That way he/she has intimate knowledge of the classroom, the teacher, the method and is able to evaluate and help. His/her in-class day begins mid-morning and ends when school does. His/her administrative duties are accomplished before and after.

    Two: put high school kids on elementary playgrounds for their community service. They can play with the kids, as well as prevent the bullying which starts there. Put retired teachers who volunteer on school buses. They can watch out for and interact with children, again to prevent the bullying which occurs, which no bus driver ought to have to deal with.

    Three: put colleges on notice that the public schools will no longer accept their poorly prepared students as student or, later, hired teachers. Education courses were bad in my day 45 years ago; they haven’t gotten any better.

    Once these issues are solved and there is a sense of cohesive movement forward, schools can begin to work together toward issues. Because we have allowed outside forces to determine how our school functions, we do not function as a unit; we have no buy in; we feel hopeless.

  • Robert Hall

    This is a good article. I retired 11 years ago after 34 years of teaching science in secondary schools in New England. I recall the NEA and national science teachers’ associations wanted to improve teacher preparation way before the early 1960s, over 50 years ago! Not much has changed. It is sad to know that a person with little or no science or math background can be assigned to teach science and math classes. Elementary science teachers are especially unprepared, and how tragic is that? In fact, the whole area of elementary school teacher training should be revised. But if such standards were to happen, there would be a lot of positions unfilled because of poor teaching conditions. There is a reason poorly-prepared teachers are hired.

  • Beatrice

    If standardize test were used to show students where they were lacking, and not as a weapon to beat the living lights out of teachers, you would see improvement. Student do not have to take responsibility for their own learning. If they sit there cursing out a teacher, the teacher get asked “What did YOU do to make this child mad?”. The education system is a joke and not because teachers do not try to teach. Instead, its lazy students who do not want to work, or are to scared to show weakness in front of peers so they act out that cause students not to learn. When do students take responsibility for their actions and their learning. I seen a “master teacher” walk out of classroom because she was called a “itch” for asking a student to try. Honestly, I don’t care what you say about how easy teaching is or how easy it is to clean up the public education system. When you have students who curse at you, yell at you, and tell you their parent let them do what ever they want, how can you teach students like that?

  • Jerry Bear

    Howdy! ^,..,^ Jerry Bear here again!
    There is an old story that once on the deck of the Titanic there were three men watching the oncoming iceberg. One was a Conservative, one was a Liberal, and one was a Radical. The Liberal looked worried, and said, “Maybe we ought to form a commitee and discuss whether or not we should do something.” The vConservative said. “Hell no, we have done just fine up to now so why should we need to discuss anything?” The Radical said, “We have to change direction NOW!” folks, I am with the Radical on this. We are dealing with a dire emergency affecting the very future of public education in this nation. Starting with George Bush’s first year of office, No Child left behind has effectively set up impossible and unfair standards for public schools whose only result can be the end of public education in all but afluent areas and the rest of the schools privatized. Although there are a few good charters, created apparently for show, most are dismal places that use untrained personnel and minimal resources to achieve depressing results. They seem to exist only to funnel tax money into the hands of private business. In my area, half the schools listed as in trouble by the state are charters though these are only a small fraction of the total number of schools. Teachers need to fight and fight hard to prevent the destruction of free, public education in this country. Get your unions to take this seriously rather than meekly acquiesce to the deprofessionalization of teaching. Far from making things better, Obama’s “Race to the Top” is making things worse, as are billionaire ‘friends of education” like Bill Gates who do everything possible to accelerate the destruction through privatization of public education. the huge propaganda effort to scapegoat and demean teachers seems to be motivated purely by the factthat untrained, inexperrienced, in a word unprofessional instructors are a lot cheaper to hire. Also, since charters are overwhelmingly non-union, it is easy to scapegoat the teachers and fire them in mass. Many charters have effectively a 100% turnover rate year after year.

    my suspicion is once pretty much all schools exceptthose in affluent areas are replaced by charters, then the powers that be will suddenly discover that the charters aren’t doing the job after all! this will be followed by a strongly enforced movement to simply shut them down. Public education in this country will disappear for all except the priveledged and affluent. Teaching as a professional will also basically disappear too.

    get radical!

    Jerry Bear

  • Frances Ford

    Jerry Bear, you are correct and I applaud you!

    Let’s look at how to deal with the first go round in education, elementary school. Each student follows grade level, but is taught at ability level. Thus a kid can be in third grade, but reading with the fifth grade and doing math with the second grade. If teachers are teaching all to one level, they can be far more effective; furthermore, a child learning at proper level will catch up if h/she’s behind, soar if h/she’s ahead.

    This program is not difficult to implement. Each teacher knows where the students are and moves them when they need to go up or down. Why must we continue to compound frustration with failure, boredom with brilliance.

  • PJ

    Why isn’t Common Core mentioned?!? This whole concept of the federal government and a special interest group (smarter balanced)knows better how to educate a child than a parent and the local teacher is demoralizing!!! Anything the government gets its hands on it fails miserably and costs us (tax payers) too much money for a failed project!! California need s to resign from this epic disaster before it bankrupts the state.

  • Shellebellenh

    I agree with 1 and 3 but not with #2 and I will offer my alternative later. I was a career changer who came to teaching after a very successful business career. I am probably what you consider a fast tracker, having come through an alternative path based on my education, experience and critical shortage in my area. Students benefit from my “real world” experience as I can help them build skills for the very competitive job market they will be entering soon. This is a valuable perspective that offers balance to the narrow view of pure academia. Just last night I talked to a principal who told me that her best Health teacher was a Registered Nurse prior to teaching; also a job changer. I was told the same when I taught Health; probably because my goal is accepting personal responsibility based on reality and not cryptic fact regurgitation.
    So for my third idea, I would address the problem of teacher burn out and provide alternate paths. Too often I have worked with teachers who are bored to tears and should have moved on long ago. This is what truly rankles those outside the profession. What is mind boggling to me is that in business the more experienced and higher paid employees clearly understand that they must mentor newbies and consistently offer higher productivity. In education it is too often the reverse-the newbie must work much harder for much less money and often support a burnt out colleague by doing much of their planning and preparation. In one of the previous comments Just Sayin imagines what happens to surgeons, lawyers and others if they are not productive or do not follow the script and presumes to know the answer but is wrong. Surgeons are taught how to perform surgeries with modifications, lawyers often work on contingency so are not paid at all if they fail as is the case with sales people. In other areas, they are unemployed if they deviate and are unproductive or for a variety of reasons i.e. “at will” employment.

  • Frances Ford

    Contrary to common thought, teaching is the oldest profession. Further, it is the most basic animal activity. Evolution succeeds because one generation can pass on survival strategies to the next.

    Thus: why do we find the most basic behavior so difficult to implement successfully? I suspect it is because we don’t clearly understand what it is that we must do. Further, as educators, we have given away any input and insight we might have brought with us to “the system.” We have meekly followed those who fund education and those who have been fortunate enough to sell some company their method.

    The main reason Catholic and other religious private schools of the early Twentieth Century were so successful is that there was no question what they were about. They had standards, social and academic, which they implemented. Parents knew what they were getting when they enrolled their children. And, in the main, they got it.

    I am not suggesting that we return to martinet-style education. But it is imperative that we stop dead in our tracks and decide what it is we want taught and let teachers and schools alone to do it. I have been in classrooms so quiet I could scarcely hear children breathing, as well as in classrooms approaching chaos, and in both children were engaged and learning. There is no one way to accomplish any task, certainly not when dealing with children’s minds. But if we know what we want, we’ll know if we get it, without the horror of the no-understandable-standards standards-based testing.

  • Justin J.

    To those early contributors who used the term “vocational” education. Please know that that is no longer the accepted term. I also teach in a career technical center and teach a career technical education program. Using the term “vocational” education has been out of vogue for nearly ten years. We no longer teach a vocation but technical skills that can be applied to various career fields and many of our students also attend college to further their education and opportunity for success.