Top 5 Myths and Lies About Teachers and Their Profession

falseWell-funded misinformation campaigns succeed in part by leaving no rock unturned in the quest to smear whatever person or institution they are targeting. In these cases, is there any meaningful difference between a hoax, myth, rumor or an outright lie? Not really, because they all serve to discredit and undermine, regardless of intent.

For more than ten years, public schools have been assaulted by a barrage of destructive policies that have been fueled by the widespread dissemination of misinformation. It begins with corporate cash flowing into new think tanks and advocacy groups, or films like Waiting for Superman” and “Won’t Back Down.” And it all eventually trickles down to the neighbor a few doors down who asked you, “I support public schools and I love my own child’s teacher, but, gosh darnit, why can’t bad teachers ever be fired and what’s wrong with being held accountable?”

Needless to say, the conversation over public education needs to change course but is still largely bogged down in the morass of distortions and warped opinions.

Education psychologist David C. Berliner and education professor Gene V. Glass hope to help clear a path with their new book, 50 Myths and Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools. Berliner and Glass take on and dismantle every half-truth, falsehood and bad idea that has undermined our schools, using logic and credible data to make their case.

“The mythical failure of public education has been created and perpetuated in large part by political and economic interests that stand to gain from the destruction of the traditional system,” the authors write in the book’s intro. “Many citizens conception of K-12 public education in the United States is more myth than reality. It is essential that the truth replace the fiction.”

Here’s a summary of the book’s response to some of the myths pertaining specifically to teachers and their profession.

Myth 1: Teachers Are the Single Most Important Factor in a Child’s Education

Great public schools depend on having first-rate teachers. Teachers work very, very hard. Their days are spent not only providing instructional and emotional support, but also performing countless other tasks to benefit their students.

However, many so-called reformers and lawmakers inflate this importance to such a degree that it permits them to ignore all the other critical factors that influence learning. The result: Let’s pin every failure on teachers.

Accountability is important but, as Berliner and Glass point out, it has become the “cornerstone of the education reform movement, putting teachers in an untenable position.” Do teachers control the economic struggles of their student’s families? Do teachers have the autonomy to make every decision about curriculum and instruction? Does the average teacher have at her disposal a wide range of effective and sustainable professional development opportunities?

They argue that accountability should be based on a metric that is a little more reality-based. “Families, communities, school boards, state and federal government  – society in general – all bear responsibility for student achievement,” the authors write. “Asking teachers to bear more than their share is shameful.”

Myth 2: Teachers Thrive on Competition

Reformers toss around the word “competition” as if it is some indisputably virtuous attribute that can turnaround any and all endeavors, including teaching our kids. Hey, it works well for the Fortune 500, so it stands to reason that a little rough-and-tumble competition will work for schools. Competition breeds better teachers and that will lead to higher student achievement.

And what would teachers be competing over? Merit pay of course, determined by standardized test scores. Putting aside the problems in trying to measure teacher effectiveness with a test score, the widespread potential for cheating, and the drill-and-kill instruction behind value-added measurements, Berliner and Glass argue that boosters of competition are making a number of damaging faulty assumptions. First and foremost is that students will benefit.

“Teachers are pushed to score the highest, which means others must lose. It means that many teachers  are likely to abandon their collaborative efforts of helping students of all classrooms succeed in order to increase the chances of their own classroom’s success. It means that teachers who seek a bonus, or fear getting fired, must plot to get the more affluent students because, as history shows, these are students with winning records.”

“Competition is a repugnant motivator that will alienate teachers from one another and decrease the chances of all students succeeding,” Berliner and Glass continue. “A Darwinian survival of the fittest, applied to education cannot be healthy for an education system inside a democracy.”

Myth 3: Teachers in the U.S. Are Well Paid Compared to Their Counterparts in Other Countries

No one argues that teachers make lots of money, but that hasn’t stopped some from trying to dampen talk of higher pay by claiming that, compared to educators in other industrialized countries, teachers in the U.S. have nothing to complain about.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the average U.S. teacher with 15 years experience earns an annual salary somewhere in between $45,000 and $48,500, depending on a variety of factors including whether he teaches at primary or secondary level. While this is higher than the average OECD teacher, once you consider other variables, the salary picture in the U.S. darkens.

“In reality,” write Berliner and Glass, “American teachers are paid less than teachers in many other countries 1) relative to the wages of other workers with similar levels of education 2) based on the amount of time spent teaching each day 3) in terms of the salary differentials between starting and experienced teachers and 4) in relation to salary trends over the past decade.”

Overall, teacher salaries in U.S. secondary schools make up about 55 percent of total education expenditures, notably lower than the 63 percent average of OECD countries. And unlike in the U.S., the salaries of teachers in industrialized countries are very competitive with those of college-educated workers in other professions. Their salaries are on average only 10-18 percent less, compared to a 25-33 percent gap in this country.

Salaries in the U.S. have stagnated, even declined, making it more difficult to recruit new teachers. Consider Singapore, South Korea, and Finland – all high-achieving nations – who not only pay their teachers salaries comparable to other educated workers, but also award bonuses for staying in the profession or pay teachers to continue their training. The teaching profession enjoys a status in these countries not experienced by educators in the United States.

Myth 4: Subject Matter Knowledge is a Teacher’s Most Powerful Asset

What makes a good teacher? A keen grasp of content knowledge? Of course, but teaching is obviously not just about the transfer of knowledge. And yet in the United States, the effort to downplay or outright dismiss the value of rigorous teacher education is fairly widespread. The Teach for America program (TFA) practically thrives on this perception. TFA recruits 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. (TFA’s inflated reputation is addressed in detail in 50 Myths and Lies)

As Berliner and Glass point out, “Telling, talking, lecturing, showing Powerpoints, putting students online or showing films is not what makes a teacher good. Teachers need to know how to start a lesson, motivate, act on information from formative assessments, manage classrooms, design tests and evaluate performance. There are literally hundreds of skills necessary for effective teaching. And these are quite separate from content knowledge.”

The authors also question how far subject area knowledge alone can take teachers who have to teach students 21st Century skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, decision-making and creativity.

“The best teachers will have to know their content. But if that is their only asset, they will fail as teachers and fail the country.”

Myth 5: “Tenure” is About Protecting Bad Teachers

One of the most enduring and frustrating myths about teachers is that once you become a teacher, you have a job for life (thanks to those pesky unions) regardless of performance. You hear it everywhere: Teachers have tenure and that means they cannot be fired. The purpose of tenure – a term that is frequently misused – is to provide due process protection that allow teachers to voice their opinions, advocate for their students, and challenge inequities and bad practices without fear of unjust retaliation by principals, superintendents or school boards. But for politicians who have targeted educators and their unions, it is much easier to rally public opinion around the fabrication that it’s about protecting underperforming teachers.

“Teachers know their students better than anyone else in the school, and they can be put in a vulnerable position at certain times,” write Berliner and Glass. “What about the special education teacher who challenges conventional ways of schooling and opts for a more inclusive method over his superiors failed methods? … What about the teacher who refuses a principal’s request to change a student’s grade from a C to an A? Or what about the one that demands to teach evolution despite community pressure not to do so?

“Without due process, they might feel that the risk involved in speaking up is too high and choose to teach as required, ignoring what they see as the best interests of their students or their community.”

  • Kim

    Thanks for sharing. This may be the reason many US teachers seek employment in other countries as well.

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  • captmath

    The real purpose of merit pay is budget control–not education.

  • I earn more teaching in China than I did in the USA. In addition, my classes are half the size of my US classes and I only teach 20 hours per week. That is considered full-time for a teacher here. I spend the rest of the time in office hours, planning interesting lessons and grading papers. I have a dedicated Chinese teaching assistant who helps me both in and out of the classroom. The students are highly respectful and motivated because their parents are very involved in their children’s education. I also receive the same or better benefits than I did at my US job, which was a public high school in Indiana.

  • Margaret

    After over 30 years in the profession, it seems to me what we need is: universal, non mandatory, preschool, all day kindergarten, longer day, longer year, and a test, prior to secondary school, which will match students’ interests and aptitudes to an institution teaching the requisite skills necessary for them to acquire a decent job (and stop the mythology that everyone can or should go to college). Additionally, we should return to an inexpensive (it used to be free here in California), inclusive junior college system for the late bloomers, and in recognition of the rapidity with which jobs become obsolete, in a fast paced, information age. It sounds expensive, but in the words of my favorite education ad/poster, featuring a monkey eating a banana: “If you think education is costly, try ignorance.”

  • Teaching a class of children with 3-year age span (required), and with wide range of intellectual and physical abilities and attitudes, lesson plan was written with a unique “goal” for each child. It’s like working with your own children as a group, where you know that each has different abilities and interests, and therefore the expectation will be different for each. Exdample: in a “science” presentation one child may be learning the spoken vocabulary, another how to handle the equipment, another the principle involved, another the printed symbol for different elements (which may or may not involve spelling). The problem then, is how can a single “test” accurately evaluate whether the teacher has succeeded in enabling each child to learn his or her targeted learning, and also be prepared to apply/incorporate that learning to the next appropriate stage for the individual child in that “subject” — or in daily life?

  • Teaching a class of children with 3-year age span (required), and with wide range of intellectual and physical abilities and attitudes, lesson plan was written with a unique “goal” for each child. It’s like working with your own children as a group, where you know that each has different abilities and interests, and therefore the expectation will be different for each. Example: in a “science” presentation one child may be learning the spoken vocabulary, another how to handle the equipment, another the principle involved, another the printed symbol for different elements (which may or may not involve spelling). The problem then, is how can a single “test” accurately evaluate whether the teacher has succeeded in enabling each child to learn his or her targeted learning, and also be prepared to apply/incorporate that learning to the next appropriate stage for the individual child in that “subject” — or in daily life?

  • scott

    Myth about content knowledge not being most important is wrong. In science, if people learned how widespread the lack of elite content knowledge is they would realize that this is by far the most important feature for a teacher to have. Find me a single person that understands science well and I’d back down, but the ignorance we have towards science is unreal and derails teaching. Having kids mimic something is not good teaching and understanding content is the only way not to have that happen. Look at how poor our definitions of bonding, chem/phys changes/Nerst equation are and how no one even notices. That’s because of content knowledge being poor or mediocre and this is why students struggle in chemistry consistenly even those who get good grades and test scores.


    The single most important factor in a child’s education is the parents/home environment.

  • Jim H

    I appreciate the points made in this article and wish for its wide distribution. For those of us who teach this is our common understanding. But the message needs to get out to a wider audience to counter the business interests who view children mostly as an untapped profit center.

  • Brian

    I don’t know about other states, but in Illinois one of the main reasons for tenure is to ensure that teachers are not fired because they are too expensive. We have a system where the longer one teaches, the higher one’s salary. Our tenure law ensures that a teacher can be fired only for cause, not because he or she costs too much. Our unions do not protect bad teachers. That is a much repeated myth.

  • Rick De Francesco

    You left out the top myth about education in the United States: TEACHERS GET SUMMERS OFF. No, the fact is: TEACHERS DON’T GET PAID FOR THEIR SUMMER BREAK. It is time off and without a pay check. Teachers still work during summer preparing for the next school year WITHOUT pay. And let’s face another fact: The reason we also get summrr off is money needed to maintain and cool the campus. Districts are so strapped for funds, they simply can’t afford it. Our nation is simply not financially committed to education even though it is a political mantra. Our public schools are not funded at a first world level.

  • Courtney

    In North Carolina teachers have not had a pay raise in five years. Teachers are not paid a lot. They struggle to support their families and put food on the table. Many teachers work a second job during the school year and work a summer job while school is out.

  • Dsmith

    Over it! Think it’s about time to retire! You can only fight for so long and so hard! At this rate the only teachers left will be sub-standard!

  • Bettye Todd

    Teachers, educators – we must stand, speak up for our profession – We must stand taller, speak more and louder so that our voices will over-take lies and myths. Others need to walk a few miles in our shoes – they would change their tunes if they were to stay at school all day for about three days – “Shadow-Us” Ground Hog days, and Cat-N-the Hat Days or any day. I am an Alabama teacher. Alabama is the state now known as Automotive State – who is preparing those workers for those plants? Who taught those that head our state to earn an income. And now they are in a position to read and ……
    Well if our people who are in control of money refuse to support public education then they are pulling our state down educationally and in economics. When I came to this state I learned that most teachers worked at least two jobs to pay off student loans and pay living expenses. What is happening to good teachers in Alabama? What will happen to future growth in this nation. Public education must be supported and I am willing to step up and speak up at any time, any where. Education is key and public education is the foundation. As stated in the Bible – Iron sharpens iron and we will not give up the fight for public education.

  • I come from an European country, AKA, France, believe me dear teacher colleagues: over there, the “system” fostered competition – and it was healthy (not between teachers – or may be classes – but between students. I swear to God: it worked.
    next, every student felt “accountable” for his behavior toward the rest of the class. One student “messed up” well, tough, the whole class was grounded- and again, believe, this is called “peer pressure” – it worked. no need to enforce discipline.
    Next homework: I have never, ever seen a French teacher “agonizing” with a clip board over recording if student X, Y or Z had his home work,the way the US teachers do, and painfully so, and miserably so. Who cares if these …..(expletive) didn’t do their hwk? guess what? since the teachers announced that the next test/quiz will exactly bear on the homework assignment, the kids scrambled to perform the assignment – DOH! –
    Next: since the US public school system is “plagued” with the transportation issue (I, e the bus system dictates the school schedule – I know I have made studies about it – and that’s the dog that runs after his tail – it should be other way around!!).
    Next, and according to my husband (US born)> you, poor US kids, have inherited he British system that “worships” sports, so they are stuck with the British legacy and feel compelled to abide by the school “counselors (a “specie” that never existed in France, at least in my youth) and who here “perpetrate” the fallacy – totted from college counselors, that if you engage in track after school, or whatever crappy sports, you are a “high achiever” never mind how much your academic life suffers, due to the physical exhaustion that you will incur and will prevent you from completing your assignments, past 10:PM, (I have seen so many football players knocking their heads on their desk the next morning, due to exhaustion ,and with no hwk done, that I allowed them to take a “nap” and I blame the college counselors idiots for foistering that rumors among the public school counselors, whereas my dear, US)born husband, again and appalled, reminded me that as a manager who hired and fired, he had no use for “after-school” activity – if anything, these activities were a sign that you were “scattered brained” and in any case irrelevant to ability to write a proposal or a code – damn it!

    (the story of the school transportation system “warping” the school schedule and philosophy needs to be aired further and exposed later.
    We shouldn’t be held hostage to a transportation system, that impedes learning on the part of the teen agers that need more sleep than the younger ones -from several studies that finally made their way to several school districts!
    Next: do not have the illusion that you can “shove” knowledge, curriculum, down the throat of your students -e specially the teen agers from math, to English, to science, to latin, like that without allowing them 15 mnn recess in the AM and 15 mn recess in the PM – French style. Knowledge has to “percolate” the way a coffee machine does.
    Sure, it means that the school day will last longer, especially if a college kid will help you with your homework during lunch time that you will have longer – as In France (1: 30 for ex) during which time, you do not spend 1: 30 eating, but you swallow your food, then you socialize and vent out, play basket ball hoop, and then study with a college kids so that you have no excuse when you come home at that crappy early time of 2: 30PM (!!), when no one is home to check if you are indulging in drug or – instead of doing your hwk. On the contrary, you remain on school campus until 5 :PM because you have been helped by these college kids who spared you the embarrassment of not being prepared for the next exam…(fear not: you can play soccer or rugby in France, but you do not need a school team for that, you need a youth club, which France has plenty of..)
    And speaking of “academic” achievement, warning: yes, you need to foster competition otherwise, the students will not strive. You do not necessarily to have “FUN” in class to succeed: by the way, a school district is not a “resort” where the main reasons of its existence are shuttling kids back and forth and “feeding: these mouths.
    a school district is an academic place where you learn the standards because you cannot afford to have mustered an “A” in California, if it is not accepted in New- York state, etc..
    The “pleasure/fun” that so many teachers tout is irrelevant to the academic knowledge required to succeed in the adult world.
    Fun? Students can have fun during the two recesses that ought to be programmed into their schedule, and they still play in stage performances – but only after they have fulfilled the “PURPOSE” of school: achieve the standards – the “fun/creative” stuff can take place around and after the standards have been met. Otherwise, imagine how you would feel if a doctor didn’t meet the “standards of his medical profession? Would you trust him?
    No, you would take him to court – a very nasty American vice – which costs doctors heavy insurance premiums
    I heard: “but the kids have plenty of time to learn to be adults? ”
    No, wrong: believe me I am not a “Korean” mother. I am from a very well-balanced French family and I never felt “traumatized” by the requirements levied upon me by my genitors- after all, they paid the rents and the bills didn’t they? and I knew that if I didn’t get the grade required to pass class X, Y or Z, I wouldn’t get the baccalaureat, which means I wouldn’t go to college- end of discussion – and by the way, my best friend was from a very poor family, yet, she performed like a..”top notch”.. gal!

    To be continued… so, stop indulging the kids, thinking they are the 7 th wonder of the world: they are here to perpetrate your name, your legacy and your genes so that you may leave a positive impact on earth – capis?

  • Renee Crawley

    I have been teaching 31 years and I’m being paid $36,000 this year. I left to teach overseas for 7 years and upon return to the same District took a pay cut of over $9,000. I’m going back overseas where pay is not necessarily better, but good, housing supplied, and we are RESPECTED! Makes me sad that teachers in the USA are being blamed for kid’s failures, but not lauded for their successes. Is it fair to pay teachers based on scores on tests? Really? So what happens when you end up with a large population of students who enter your classroom at least 2 – 3 years behind? I work very hard, but it is difficult to move students “up” more than 1 1/2 years at most each year, soooo, I’m to blame for their deficits even when they make above adequate yearly growth – comparing where they started from and where they end up> 20 of my 26 students are “Intensive or Strategic” in reading and math, and they are NOT the ELD/ESL students. I didn’t make up the class list, but I will be maligned for them not being at or above grade level on required tests. My team-mates? 4 out of 5 Intensive/Strategic out of 29 and the other class is ELD and has 4 out of 14! Arizona is dismal for pay and now talking about throwing out Common Core – haven’t even given it a chance. Teachers have worked hard for at least 2 years to implement it and are now wondering why? Crazy times!

  • carrie

    The problem is, of course, that the myths and lies can be perpetuated with Senate Bill 191 in Colorado. What was supposed to help weed out the “bad teachers” has become a weapon to weed out all of them and start over. Teachers can now be unfairly targeted and unjustly evaluated based on a perceived inability to teach based on the socioeconomic status of their school choice. Who will then want to teach our minority and disadvantaged children at this rate?

  • Elizabeth

    Sure, let’s blame everything on the teacher. Why not? It is the easy thing to do. Let’s forget that parents do not “parent” anymore. Kids get very little sleep, eat nothing before going to school, and are zoned out during class. But, hey, it’s the teachers’ fault, right?

    These over-paid public dole freeloaders must be the reason kids do not do well. It can’t be the students’ refusal to do the work as assigned. It can’t be that the parents give them anything they want, but ignore them most of the time otherwise. Nah, it’s the teachers.

    You know, those people who stay up late grading papers, who spend their own money on their classes, who call child protective services when kids show up bruised and abused. It’s their fault kids in the U.S. don’t beat out the kids in other countries. It can’t be that other countries get it, and we don’t, naw…let’s blame the teachers. So much easier than looking in the mirror and seeing the real problem!

  • Amen! That’s all I need to say.

  • Cindy

    I work in a rural Wisconsin school district. Since the elimination of collective bargaining in 2011 (WI Act 10), huge cuts in public school funding, the loss of educator benefits, increase in staff out of pocket expenses, the expansion of public funding going to unaccountable private voucher schools, and the demonization of public school employees, we have witnessed a mass exodus of educators leaving the teaching profession. In a few short years, our great, progressive Wisconsin public education system is quickly being dismantled by politicians working to privatize. The damage to public education continues and the loss to the next generation of children won’t tell the full story for years to come. It is heartbreaking.

  • Rachel Irene Summers

    The myths brought up in this article are well thought out and correct in my opinion. I began teaching 8 almost 9 years ago. When I began we had to teach the Common Core which was a wonderful guide line for our curriculum. In the past few years everything has changed.
    In my district we are being micromanaged. We are given a minute by minute schedule for the year and science is not included even though it is such an important subject especially in conjunction with math. Next year they will come into our rooms anytime they want and if we are not exactly where the map says we should be we will be written up. They do not want us using supplementary material including hands-on science.
    A couple of weeks ago I got remanded because 80 percent of my students are not at 80 percent. They do not take-into-account the fact that at the beginning of the year half of my students were below level in reading. Even though several of my students are reading forty words a minute faster.
    The district is asking more and more time for less money. We were stripped of 17 work days and yet we were asked to do report cards from our personal time. They ask that we get a master’s degree but they pay very little for all the work and money that goes into getting an advanced degree.
    We are teaching so much to the Sage test and everything else we are told to do we are not given the time to do it. Yet they hold us accountable if our students do not do well.
    In the East they are starting to realize this is not a good way to teach and along with the common core they want to rein-power teachers. These educators realize how important teachers are and think they should be supported. I agree with this, but how many children will be hurt before they let us get back to our job.
    Many people feel they are tons of poor teachers, but the reality is that most teachers are really good and spend hours getting ready to teach. When they get rid of these (bad teachers) where do they think they will find amazing teachers. In my opinion, people had better open their eyes if they want their students ready for college. I hope this happens before rather than later. Sincerely, Rachel Summers

  • Dan

    Teachers should only be judged by what they CONTROL. It would be absurd to judge dentists by the town’s cavity rate, or doctors by the cancer rate, or mechanics by the condition of people’s cars. Only judge by what the individual controls…

    Merit pay can only work if (a) all teachers get the exact same quality of students, and (b) if the teacher is only measured by him/herself–meaning a pretest and a post-test to measure improvement.

    Universal standards are inherently unfair. I can’t teacher high school literature to kids who cannot read. I can’t teach higher order skills to kids who don’t have basic skills–so the junior lit class suddenly becomes a 6th grade grammar class. That would be better for the kids but disastrous for the assessment of the teacher. Both the students AND the teachers are set up to fail in those cases.

    Comparing teacher to teacher is also inherently unfair. It’s impossible to give two teachers identical sets of students. All this accomplishes is political infighting over who gets what kids. It also negates any chance of getting the better teacher to help improve the weaker teacher. It’s just counter-intuitive: if I’m paid more when the other teacher fails, I’m being motivated to NOT help the other teacher’s students. That’s an AWFUL system and should never be adopted.

  • Dan

    Don’t talk about teacher salaries until you understand teachers’ professional requirements.

    1. I must have a 4 year degree to begin work. That’s roughly $40,000 in student loans from the get-go. My starting salary was about $1700 bring-home pay each month. Now subtract $400+ in student loan repayments. That’s $1300 a month.

    2. I must have a master’s degree half done in 5 years and fully done in 10 years. If I take two master’s classes per year, that’s another $4,000 to be paid out (unless I take yet another loan) from my $1300/month. That’s about $350 less to live on.

    3. I get a “tenure” bump in my 5th year. (Haven’t had a general increase in the last 4 years, despite the state cutting 2 days off the school year–and the pay that came with it.) That increases my bring-home to about $1950 a month. Now I’m living on about $1,200 or so.

    4. A year or so later, my graduate degree is finished. I get to keep my $4,000 per year, plus get a step bonus. I’ll finally get to live on my full salary which will be around $2,100 per month take-home. That’s about 7 years or so into the profession…

    But I still love hearing people say how well we get paid…

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  • Rick

    Someone should send this to Chris Christie of NJ. If he was president he could destroy respect for teachers country wide.

    No I am not a teacher!

  • John

    The most effective Big Lie used to frighten and anger voters right now is that teachers’ pensions are bankrupting states because of huge “unfunded liabilities” that states supposedly owe to the plans. That works because most people don’t know that an “unfunded liability” is not an actual debt owed to a pension plan. Here’s how an “unfunded liability” is calculated: 1. Take a state’s current-year contribution to the pension plan (it’s typically less than 5 cents of the state’s budget dollar). 2. Using appropriate actuarial tables and economic assumptions, incrementally increase that annual contribution each year for 30 years into the future. 3. Add up the total of all those 30 years of small annual contributions. That total of 30 years of small annual contributions is the “unfunded liability.” It’s not a current debt; just a sum of 30 years of small future contributions that don’t come close to “bankrupting” any state.

  • Peter York

    Given the left-wing anti-America control of public schools (perhaps 10% of teachers are conservative? -or would you rather lie about it?); given the absolutely rotten product; given the fraud on the taxpaying parents; given the crocodile-tear bloviating for more money; given that the union is uniformly anti-conservative (my president called them ‘the evil ones’…out loud…in front of everybody); given the ease with which teachers at conferences talk themselves into funding their cocktails with school money, for example; given the pure corruption of funding democratic party candidates with my dues money…
    …allow me to say that another bullshine attempt to apologize for public teaching charlatans is despicable. Ptui.

  • zellko

    John, Pull your head out in the light and think about it. Check you stats, just how many teachers do you think are drawing pensions in comparison to the number of non workers who are on the dole? In my state teachers contribute to there own pensions. I don’t believe that teachers’ pensions are the problem, it’s those who refuse to work because the government will pay the. Pensions are the ONLY benefit of this profession and you want to take that away? See what quality of teachers we get when there are NO benefits for teachers. You, sir, are obviously, NOT a teacher and don’t have a CLUE!

  • John

    Hmmm…quite a curious misread of my posting on “unfunded liabilities” whose entire point was that teachers’ pensions are NOT a problem for states. Here again is my posting. Read it carefully: The most effective Big Lie used to frighten and anger voters right now is that teachers’ pensions are bankrupting states because of huge “unfunded liabilities” that states supposedly owe to the plans. That works because most people don’t know that an “unfunded liability” is not an actual debt owed to a pension plan. Here’s how an “unfunded liability” is calculated: 1. Take a state’s current-year contribution to the pension plan (it’s typically less than 5 cents of the state’s budget dollar). 2. Using appropriate actuarial tables and economic assumptions, incrementally increase that annual contribution each year for 30 years into the future. 3. Add up the total of all those 30 years of small annual contributions. That total of 30 years of small annual contributions is the “unfunded liability.” It’s not a current debt; just a sum of 30 years of small future contributions that don’t come close to “bankrupting” any state.

  • mick

    hmm, stupid people stand up and fight for their land.keep the education system standards low and you get millions of volunteers to soon as students can think for themselves. they see the system how it is. my tip educate yourself,never take anything for granted,check if true,learn a second language so u have a chance too see other is about choices,choice is the most important right there is.if you have no choice you do not exsist.

  • Jaycee

    I ran into a teacher from Germany who was in the U.S. teaching on a three year contract. I asked her what the main difference was between the two countries and she said the amount of disrespect the students showed teachers here in the U.S. In this country parents want to be friends with their children. And since they want to be friends with their children, their children can do no wrong. They are always coming to their rescue and are more interested in playing superhero to their child when there are issues in school, rather than understanding the teacher and believing him/her when the parent is told there is a problem. More often than not, the teacher is blamed for a child’s academic incompetence or behavioral problems. This leads the child to believe it is the teacher who has a problem, and therefore does not deserve respect. Disrespect is actually being taught in the home, and I can guarantee the mouthiness that I see in the classroom is also tolerated by parents at home.

  • Mark

    Does the average teacher have at her disposal a wide range of effective and sustainable professional development opportunities?

    Meaningful, useful PD is something we all would like to have. There have been too many times my colleagues and I have had to endure training that is just a waste of our time. Often times we’d be better off back in our classrooms collaborating and planning.

    By the way, I’m a male teacher . . .

  • BK Yohnka

    “Teachers make lots of money.” That’s the biggest myth I saw in the first five myths. Up until now, the only way teachers received pay increases was to log in more hours for additional degrees, notwithstanding the modest cost of living increases that came with new contracts, or as the result of strikes. The money that teachers make is not the reason most people become teachers. It was the calling, not the money. If anyone really thinks that teachers make loads of money, they should first look to corporate America, (especially the test makers forcing teachers to be test monitors, not educators) where the CEOs and various partners get millions of dollars just based on the profits made by their companies. By the way, why is the NEA supporting the corporations that are force-feeding standardized tests and Common Core down the throats of teachers and students across the nation? Perhaps we should look at the executives in the NEA…

  • Wolfgang

    BK IS SOO WRONG! Maybe you have a spouse that makes a high income enabling you to teach as a calling not for pay. I AND MANY OTHERS DEPEND ON THE PAY AND TEACH FOR INCOME!
    I need the money! One of the biggest problems destroying teachers and compensation are teachers that don’t need the pay because their spouse gets the bacon.
    Then they pay for work supplies, don’t care so much when medical is reduced and are ok with sacrificing some increases with pay! I am so sick of this.
    I am a dam good teacher but I also need the income. Income IS a big reason why I do this. A benefit is making a difference….in that order.

  • Wolfgang

    Pensions? Why are you attacking? Why not instead demand that you earn a pension at your job too? Don’t attack others for things you should get too.
    Good read Elizabeth… Thanks

  • What in life is perfect, dear colleagues? If you are fortunate enough to find your passion early on, teach for 35 years, then receive a fair percentage of your wage in retirement benefits, is it really so terrible? We have a noble mission in shaping the lives of children and learners, and no politics or budget cuts will ever take that away from us.It is a priviledge, a calling, and an honor to do this job. People who can’t see it that way should do something else.

    • Lisa Pilgrim

      Preach on! I feel that my career has really been a calling, and I have treated it as such. 30 years in and still enjoying it. I love hearing from my former students and their parents.

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  • wbelisle

    It seems at though the almighty test score is what is most important. Teachers that love to teach, know their content area, and care for their students are faced with the reality that if they teach in a title 1 school or any impoverished community you are at risk for your ability to even have a job. My career is a science teacher. My parents have 68 years in public schools in FLorida. They tried so hard to talk me out of teaching. I knew ahead of time what teachers deal with just by growing up in a home where both parents were teachers. But I grew up in a home with two parents.

    Most of my students.. actually I should say it this way. Out of 160 kids this year I have 35 to 40 with two parents in the home. they are good kids. Some just have not been taught right from wrong. I can only talk to them so much. There comes a point when you just have to send them for more intervention and guidance from an administrator.

    Why an I to blame for a student not passing the class when chances are he is only at school to eat 2 meals a day and it keeps him off the street. where are the parents? where is the accountability for the child that the father and mother created. where is the father and mother? why are they not raising the child. Why am I the one that has to teach morals and values in class. Why are teachers the surrogate parents?

    Teachers are an easy mark. Politicians have no back bone to make laws that place responsibility on parents. Teachers today are the most educated knowledgeable, and committed people. No one goes into education for the money, benefits are generally a joke, and respect is an idea or only a word in a dictionary.

    Schools have to have numbers to report to the state. funding comes from numbers. teachers must supply numbers or be pushed aside. Schools will continue to blindly lose teachers until there is no one to take up the slack. Does a standardized test prove the value of a teacher? Why is teaching to the test still the standard in American education?

  • Christine

    It’s about time a book with some real facts about teaching is written and published. But, showing it on the NEA website is preaching to the choir. Just as “Waiting for Superman” was publicized and promoted endlessly, wouldn’t it be more advantageous for the NEA be doing to the same for this book and its authors?

  • Tim Mitchell

    Another problem with education is gutless administrators that are afraid of enforcing rules with children. They are afraid of putting misbehaving students because of how it will affect the administrators’ view from downtown. Too many administrators leave the classroom for more money and they cannot deal with the students. My last administrator was so afraid of the kids that he would allow them to do anything they wanted. The behavior in this case was terrible and it was not the teachers’ fault but they were the ones blamed for it!!

  • LisaM

    Well put wbelisle and Tim Mitchell. I feel the same way you do. Why are teachers the blame for all of societies ills. The first teachers are the PARENTS. I work at a Title I school and I have seen very few good examples of parenting, very few. Some people just have no business having children. We need to start moving the critical eye towards parenting but like you said wbelisle, “Politicians have no back bone to make laws that place responsibility on parents.” In addition, these administrator need to grow a pair and show who the adult is. Children are not in charge of us, WE (adults) are in charge of them! BTW, NEA please fix your thumbs up/down icons…they’re not working.

  • LF

    Very interesting and very informative article. I love the world of education and fasinating information like this
    I’m a retired teacher who has written an ebook about public school teachers …

  • Kym Godwin

    I’ve been in the trenches for almost 20 years and I agree with most of this except #5…while the intent of tenure/professional status/whatever you call it is to provide due process, it has become a way that bad teachers are kept. In making the transition to admin and working on the “other side” I have seen firsthand how difficult it is to prove that a teacher is ineffective. The amount of documentation needed from the school if the teacher were to challenge their release makes many administrators avoid the conflict all together and hope that the teacher resigns or retires. I have even seen districts use involuntary transfers in hopes that the teacher will flee to avoid teaching a grade level or subject.

    Public education in the US needs an overhaul but educators must be involved in the reform or we will continue to experience the same problems that have flagged the system for decades.

  • Paul Reiter

    Sorry, but I still can’t remember hearing about any real number of teachers actually getting fired in the last 10 years and that includes the home mortgage crisis. Sure, we hear stories of teachers getting “pink slips” which means they might get fired down the road. The key word is “might.” What gets buried in the headlines is the fact that very few (if any) actually end up getting fired. The unions (especially in California) have far too much power and they end up nullifying most of the scheduled layoffs. If you disagree, I challenge you to present me with facts about how many teachers actually get fired.

    I would take tenure and lower pay if it meant that I had stability in my career. If there is one thing that I have learned in life, it’s the fact that job security is probably one of the single most important factor in being happy. Sure you might not make as much as some corporate professionals, but please don’t discount the tremendous benefit of job security.

    • Lisa Pilgrim

      Not all states have tenure or unions. In Texas,we do not, so we are issued one year contracts every year. I have taught 30 years, in several different positions, and I have a love for my profession that keeps me plugging along. When it ceases to be rewarding, or I cease to be a good teacher, I will retire. I wish that I could tell you that there is job security. In a sense there is because our numbers of students continue to increase. If you are good at teaching, have consistently high scores on student assessments, and a principal who likes and respects you, you are probably safe. However a drop in scores, a higher number of parent complaints, or a principal that doesn’t like you can all affect your security. I guess I have been lucky – I have 29 of 30 years in one district.
      We have had small school districts fire all teachers in the district. It doesn’t happen often, but west Texas saw that happening in the past few years.
      I think in this day and time there is no job security.

      • Paul Reiter

        In regards to layoffs the key phrase here is “…it doesn’t happen often.” Please keep in mind that corporate professionals are on edge every single quarter when profits come out. It is very common for most corporate professionals to bounce from job to job every 1 or 2 years. It is very rare to make it past 5 years nowadays. This is fine when you are in your 20’s and 30’s but when you get to age 40 the threat of losing your job is more and more stressful. Why? Have you ever tried to interview for a position after age 40? It’s much harder to land a job unless you are a perfect fit and have the right experience because companies realize they can pay a young kid out of college much less. I am not here to bash on teachers. I think what they do is great and I do think they deserve a very good salary. I just want teachers (and other government workers) to understand that job security and pensions are a rare luxury nowadays and should not be taken for granted.