The Long History of Blaming Teachers First

Teacherwar

A high-ranking education official in a major U.S. city feverishly argues that schools should be operated like a business. Unapologetic about targeting and firing ineffective teachers, the official  pushes for an evaluation system that is rooted in student test scores.

You’re right if you think this sounds like  Michelle Rhee, the former DC schools chancellor, circa 2009. But this description also fits William McAndrew, Chicago schools superintendent. The year? 1924.

The pillorying of teachers and the championing of misguided “reform” policies has a long and exasperating history, chronicled by journalist Dana Goldstein in her new book, The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession. Anyone who wonders “How did we get here?” –  the divisive and polarizing rhetoric, the  mystifying staying power of discredited ideas and the recent raid on teachers’ collective bargaining rights  – will find the answers in Goldstein’s engaging and valuable book.

The Teacher Wars appears in a left-formatted inline image.Goldstein recently spoke to NEA Today about the origins of the most contentious education debates, the players in politics and media that have heightened the teachers wars, and how a greater teacher voice can help move the national dialogue in a more constructive direction.

The combination of a feminized teaching profession and unionism in the early 20th century triggered a slew of politicized attacks and what you refer to in the book as “moral panics” across the nation. To what extent  does that fact that the profession is roughly 80 percent women today still make it an inviting political target?

Dana Goldstein: We tend to have more of a public debate over teacher pay, teacher job protection, and the cost of teacher health care plans than we do about policemen or firefighters. Teaching is a larger profession, so it’s more expensive – because there is more of them. But I do think that, because this is a job done by women, it makes it easier to vilify.

When I was working on the book, I went back and watched videos of Chris Christie yelling at teachers, which are really difficult to sit through. It’s always a middle-aged woman, and the condescension is seething out of him in these confrontations! It’s like this concept of “mansplaining” – I think that happens a lot to teachers. Their expertise as the practitioners in the classroom is often not respected.

Probably the most contentious issue in education right now is teacher due process or “tenure.” What do you think is most important for people to understand about tenure and its origins?

DG: We have to understand why we have tenure in the first place. At the turn of the 20th century, teachers got fired very often for very stupid reasons. They were pregnant or they were black. Or they disagreed about the mayor about something. Seeing how politicized these firings were, good government reformers and teachers unions agreed about tenure. It was the consensus position in 1909 when New Jersey became the first state to pass a comprehensive tenure bill.

Dana Goldstein

Dana Goldstein

Secondly, at the turn of the 20th  century, like we do today, we looked to other countries for ideas about how to improve our schools.  People wondered  how to  make teaching a more respected profession and a more attractive job, considering the low pay, and tenure or due process was something that was going to help. The idea came from Prussia, where teachers had more job security.

There’s no evidence that suggests ending tenure will lead to student improvement, so why are we talking about it so much?

DG: Yeah, I agree with your take. There is nothing magical that would happen for kids if we ended teacher tenure. That’s partly because recruiting teachers to work in the neediest schools is so hard. Turnover is just as much a driver in poor student performance than those ineffective teachers who are stuck in those schools. There’s a lot of research on this that I cite in the book.

Why is everyone talking about this so much? I use a term in the book that teaching is seen as a somewhat “peculiar profession.” Only 7 percent of private sector workers are in unions. So when we see that teachers have fought and won for themselves a due process right, people ask ‘Why? I don’t have that.’ Because teachers are different from other workers, the way they are different is a source of debate.

There have been many eras in which teachers have been targeted, but this particular wave of concern has a lot to with the weak economy. People want to know – are schools sending kids out with the tools and skills they need to survive what is an unforgiving job market?

Has the media generally informed the public about public education in a constructive way or has it done more to escalate the teacher wars?

DG: Over history the media has played a big role in both calling attention to quality issues in our schools but also fanning the flames of these “moral panics.” The muckrakers wrote these sometimes overheated exposés of child labor and truancy. They would often point the finger at the school system and ignore some of the systemic causes.

Time magazine takes the teacher wars up a notch in 2014.

Time magazine takes the teacher wars up a notch in 2014.

When A Nation at Risk was released in 1983, you saw the media getting very, very excited. A lot of the coverage really fanned the flames and was much less nuanced than the report itself. Also, articles can become talking points. A very famous story by Gene Lyons in The Texas Monthly called “Why Teachers Can’t Teach,” published in 1979, was one. A few years ago, there was Stephen Brill’s “The Rubber Room” in The New Yorker, which failed to mention that these rubber room teachers make up something like only 1/10th of 1 percent of all teachers.

The book describes how the flaws in merit pay were evident back in the late 1980s – typical of what you call the ‘hype disillusionment cycle’ that follows many reform ideas. Are we seeing other policies reaching a similar point today?

DG: Definitely. We’re entering the “hype disillusionment cycle” with teacher evaluations based on student test scores. When you hear Arne Duncan, whose policies have incentivized that to a great extent, coming out a couple of weeks ago and saying that standardized testing is ‘sucking the oxygen out of the room,’ we are at a turning point from where we were in 2009 or 2010.

But what happens next? Are we really going to search for new ideas or are we going to go back and find another failed idea from the past?

You write that the teacher wars can be reined in when we come to a basic agreement about what great teaching is and then work together to support that vision. What kind of training, expertise, classroom climate and other qualities promote great teaching?

DG: In terms of training, I think there’s a good argument to be made that a teacher’s college education be rigorous and focused on a specific content area. When we look at other high-performing nations, teachers learn pedagogy but they are expected to achieve academically in a subject they are going to teach. I think that makes sense. But we can’t just pluck teachers straight out of college and drop them into the classrooms. That doesn’t work to prepare teachers on any large scale. A lot of the student teaching isn’t realistic to the conditions they will find. What I like about the residency model in Memphis that I talk about in the book is that you are there with a master teacher, who has already created the conditions of control in the classroom, on day one. You see how he or she establishes a healthy classroom climate and discipline from the very beginning. We know from surveys that first year teachers really struggle with these issues.

Regarding specific pedagogical skills, we know it is more important to have more conceptual questions be guiding lessons, not simple factual questions. It’s easy to understand why. Conceptual questions teach kids how to think, how to question, and how to learn over the course of a lifetime.

We talk so much about these accountability systems, which are meant to measure teachers, but tell us so little about what great teachers are actually doing. There’s very little systematized structures to take the skills of those great teachers and share them with others.

You include a quote by John Dewey, the 19th century educator and social reformer, in the front of the book that reads in part: ‘The teacher …is not like a private soldier, or like a cog in the wheel. He must be an intelligent medium of action.’ Given how under assault teachers have been recently and the daily pressures of the classroom, what would you tell a teacher who is struggling to find the time and energy to take on such a role?

DG: I’m very sympathetic to that. Demands on the teacher are high and getting higher all the time. Their day is exhausting. So the vast majority of teachers, even if they are interested in the policy debate and the political questions, feel that they don’t have time. And some teachers are afraid that administrative action will be taken against them, which is not an unrealistic fear. But we need teacher voices in the debate much, much more than they are currently.

I do believe that teachers who start a blog or find other ways to get involved in the policy debate will be  listened to. I think of someone like Jose Vilson, a full-time middle school math teacher in New York. He has a successful blog and he’s gotten the chance to meet with Arne Duncan. A lot of doors have opened up for him and people are listening because he has dared – and somehow managed to find the time! – to get involved. So when teachers ask me ‘what can I do?’ I encourage them with the success stories of some of the teachers who have built up a profile and have found an audience. Most people want to learn from teachers and welcome the opportunity to hear from them.

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  • Yes teachers are blamed for all the social ills, real and imagined and have been since the 60’s. If the profession were dominated by men instead of women, this scenario would not exist. Nor would the fact that the federal government has dumped all society’s problems on the public schools and still expects teachers to be able to teach and be a dozen different professionals at once to boot. When the impossible doesn’t happen they blame the teachers. Meanwhile, from the poor house to the White House there is nary a peep about the real purveyors of student attitudes, behaviors, and preparedness for the school day; namely PARENTS!!!!! If society wants to blame a population for unprepared, dysfunctional, ill clad, unfed, disruptive and too often criminal behaviors, it’s the PARENTS fault, NOT the teachers!!

  • Jerry Querciagrossa

    Thanks Ken McLaughlin for stating the core of educations’ problems so well. Why can’t more people see it. Also, teachers continue to accept the blame for society’s problems. Big mistake on their part, and now it is kicking them in the butt!

  • Craig

    I find it so sad that we as teachers are always blamed for everyone’s woes. Like we are the creators of it. It starts with what do we “value” as a society? Education is very low on that list except in some areas where there is parents or so who are also highly educated and teach those “values” to their children. Education seems to be a thorn that no one wants to address, even though teachers are screaming behind closed doors what the true problems are. It is just that we, as teachers, are both a pariah to the state and seen as a necessary evil to those who wish to shove their kids in private school thinking that will solve everything…

  • Chris

    The real problem is that school systems think that schools should be run like a business… Give the schools back to the teachers not to businessmen.

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  • Don Amend

    I’ve been retired for 15 years, now, but still think of myself as a teacher. This book is well worth reading for anyone who wants to provide support for public schools and the teachers who educate their students in spite of the many significant barriers society places in their paths.

  • J. Whitney

    The importance of asking ourselves why politicians and media thrive on the blame-the-teacher platform is vital. The payoff is that if you transfer the blame for societal conditions, poor parenting, or even the impact of 50 hours a week of screen time on kids, then you can’t get people to vote for you because the voters themselves–whether individual overwhelmed parents or community leaders who don’t want money spent on schools– NEED to blame someone else. It sells. Voters don’t want to hear that schools need more money for more teachers. Overwhelmed parents don’t want to hear that they need to carve out more time to help with homework or monitor their teens’ activities. Blaming and retraining teachers works because the alternative is not something we, as a society, know how or want to do.rn The countries whose test scores are high, hold active parental positions about supporting education, the parents are supported economically in being able to do this, and the schools do not have to beg their government leaders to keep their class sizes small enough so that it is actually possible to help children as much as they require that help. We do not have a national culture that supports educating a child because it takes our money, it takes time we don’t have due to the escalating work day required to pay rent and medical bills, and it takes a government that would never think of designing a competition between massive profits and an educated population. rn We–all of us-buy the ‘it’s their fault” platform. We buy the belief that everything from “my kid won’t do homework,” to a child being suspended for horrible behavior is a teacher’s fault because then it isn’t our fault. Our leaders sell teacher blame in exchange for the money it takes to drop the teacher-to-student ratio because they want that money elsewhere.rn This is about a female dominated profession, but it is also about a society that is blame-based so they do not have to mirror the sacrifices of the people in countries where children achieve. It won’t change until we embrace sacrifices and stop pointing fingers.

  • martha knox

    I have a BSBA and a M Ed Math. I was a manager in the real world and later a teacher for 20 + years. OK the premise is let’s run schools like a business. Logically as teachers we are the managers of our classrooms at mid -level management we should be making at least $100K per year, plus stock options etc. Now our employees i.e. students will be drug tested before attending school, no felons allowed. If you drink or drug on the job the employees(students) are fired. Employees(students)are expected to dress in proper business clothing. Employees are also expected to show up to work on time. 2 weeks vacation, one week sick time. Any employee (student) who has excessive time off is fired. Employees(students) are expected to punch a time clock, 15 minute breaks,1 hour lunch. 7 hour workday. No time off for sports, music, etc. Students are expected to have their tools of the trade ready (pencils , pens books etc. if not you are fired. All of you know what it’s like in the working world. That’s why students get a real wake up call when the actually go to work. Oh and NO cell phones on the job. I can think of many more analogies but school is not a business it’s school. We take everyone, all levels, all sizes, all creeds, all nationalities, all races. all sexes whether they work or not, ready or not. That business leaders is the bottom line. Would you be willing to accept the human beings we do everyday? NO you would not.

  • We finally have a real chance to change this in New York. Our current Governor, Mr. Cuomo, wrote, “…we need to shift the focus in Albany to a system that focuses on improving student performance and school accountability. Key to this effort is adopting a real teacher evaluation system.” It’s those teachers holding the kids back, right Mr.Cuomo? That’s from his ‘NY Students First’ website. He is the most virulent anti-teacher Governor we’ve ever had! On the other hand, his opponent, Mr. Astorino, wants to abolish Common Core and empower classroom teachers to actually use their skills. He also wants to bring democracy to the selection of the Board of Regents, electing them by region, instead of politically appointing so many rubber stamps for the Governor. Astorino is the most pro-teacher candidate I’ve ever seen!

  • martin

    Teachets arent beong blamed thougj any suggestipn ay improvement is charactetized by the unipn as such. The ‘reformers’ arent just corporate. They want to address the 30% urban drop out rate and specialed crisis and 70% unprepared for college readiness rate.by improving many teachets a little bit and some a lot via training. We’re not talking about turning the South Bronx into Scarsdale byt we are talking about moving 8th grade reading levels to 10th grade. Thats not a firing issue. Thats a lets roll up our sleeves issue and implement strategic improvements plan. Oops too corporate. Johnny and LaKeisha deserve our best.

  • ME

    If teachers are not to blame then how is it that charter schools vastly improve student performance? Why fight the CA law that allows parents to invoke a circuit breaker at poor performing schools? Teachers and the entrenched unions must share some accountability

  • After almost 40 years in San Francisco I have seen so many great teachers leave because they were not supported for another year of teaching. I have also seen very few but they are there dead beats who do nothing with respect to teaching and involving students. The vast majority of teachers are dedicated and educated to bring ideas and concepts to students. Our hands are tied when they come from homes with no support for education and neighborhoods which frown on academic success. Materials to teach with are another matter :(. NCLB was a huge mistake as we teach children from all classes of life and society. We are not Texas where stand tests are the norm for evaluation. Very complex issue and people need to open their eyes and see what is really going on in schools. The media has a field day picking on teachers and not talking about the homes of the kids.

  • Diane

    Charter schools do not improve student performance. In the latest studies of chater school students actually did no better than their public school counterparts and in many cases worse on tests and classroom performance than did their peers in public school. Charter school is a push for privatization of education so that corporations can take all that federal tax money that is going into the public school system, nothing more. Charter schools promote segregation as well. One analysis also showed that charter schools have intensified racial and economic segregation in Twin Cities schools. A geographical analysis shows that the racial make- ups of charter schools mimic the racial composition of the neighborhoods where they are located. This contrasts sharply with the claim that charter schools would sever the link between segregated neighborhoods and schools. On the contrary, the data show that charter schools are segregating students of color in non-white segregated schools that are even more segregated than the already highly-segregated traditional public schools. In some predominantly white urban and suburban neighborhoods, charter schools also serve as outlets for white flight from traditional public schools that are racially more diverse than their feeder neighborhoods.

  • Not one research study confirms better results at charter schools. Just saying so doesn’t make it so.

  • Bob from Mass

    The book and these comments are right on the money. Is it really 80% women? That’s an interesting angle. But I think more to the point is that teaching is publicly funded by budgets which have pressure from all quarters to keep them austere. And a lot of the voters who decide the budgets would rather shave %100 off their tax bills than fund a school renovation or give teachers a raise–because a lot of politicians have convinced these voters that teachers are overpaid, underworked, and have “all that time off” (which they’re very jealous of).

  • Bob from Mass

    The book and these comments are right on the money. Is it really 80% women? That’s an interesting angle. But I think more to the point is that teaching is publicly funded by budgets which have pressure from all quarters to keep them austere. And a lot of the voters who decide the budgets would rather shave $100 off their tax bills than fund a school renovation or give teachers a raise–because a lot of politicians have convinced these voters that teachers are overpaid, underworked, and have “all that time off” (which they’re very jealous of).

  • Okay–I try more complex questions, and demand more thorough answers. I call a parent for positive comments about a child, and get falsely accused of abuse. My lessons are based on curriculum, and are filled with higher-order questions, and can be demanding. Students want simplicity. Unless in Gifted or AP classes, most kids simply want to “get through it.” I want excellence, but will be happy with good.rnrnEvery class room needs a good teacher who is supported by administrators, not blamed for social ills students bring to class, and has the power to dole out reasonable and real discipline as needed.

  • Nancy Abbott

    Run schools like a business? Which business – Enron? Arthur Andersen? Goldman Sachs? AIG? the possibilities are endless.

  • Jerry Doctor

    If you want to stop teachers being blamed, stop giving people reasons to blame them. Stop pushing a progressive agenda that has nothing to do with education. Stop defending incompetent teachers. Stop helping pedophiles keep their jobs. Stop being the local office of the DNC. Stop pushing “new” approaches to education that haven’t been shown to be effective. Stop telling people the solution to every education problem is higher taxes. Stop the jihad on accountability. Stop telling parents they aren’t competent to have an opinion on how their children should be educated.

  • April

    As a teacher who has gone through all aspects of the public school system from substitute teacher, teacher to administrator and back again to substitute and now full time teacher, I know and recognize that the problems does not begin with teachers. It begins with the out of touch “people” who are making the rules and regulations for public education. With over twenty years of experience and a Master’s Degree in Teaching, I have never worked so hard as I have worked this year to meet the needs of my fourth graders. rnrnIt’s starts at 8:00 am when we have to feed them breakfast in the classroom. The governmental accounting system for that is just as tedious as lesson planning. Just this week, I was given some cleaner and hand sanitizer and told by the custodian that it was now my responsibility to wipe the desks off after 8 hours of teaching; many days without a planning period. My day ended at 9 pm this evening. I often give eleven hours or more a day. This doesn’t count weekends grading papers and additional lesson planning. Whatever happened to the reduction of paperwork law! The responsibilities of teaching have increased dramatically over the last years, yet the pay has remained consistently low. Let’s really have equal pay for equal work!rnrnI love my job. I love teaching. But, whoever is up in that glass tower making the rules should come in the classroom and teach for a week or so. Kids are not a business; they are human beings. They have social, emotional, physical and academic needs that often teachers are responsible for meeting, shaping and dealing with. rnrnI challenge you to stop criticizing teachers and try walking a mile in the shoes of any public school teacher today for 48 hours.

  • alice

    It is not just politicians who blame teachers first. I lost my job in Washington (state) in February 2014 for the following reason. I found a tiny bit of marijuana in my high school classroom. No students were around but they were starting to come into class so I locked it in a drawer until my break so I could take it to the office. When I walked into the office, administrators got right in my face and accused me of bringing it to school, and of being under the influence! They claimed I was in possession because I carried it to the office. I was immediately put on leave, then given the choice by my union attorney of resigning, or remaining for the rest of the year and undergoing an investigation, after which they said they would not renew my contract. My attorney advised me to leave, since administration was so hostile and kids at the school were out of control with violence and drug problems which made teaching no fun at all. It was my third year there (a career change at the age of 50). I taught art and all of my performance reviews were stellar. I had started a student gallery and been showing work out in the community! I was active in extracurricular activities and voluntary committees. And students and teachers alike liked me. I also advised a very popular after school art club. could not believe that administration did not support me in any way.rnrnI now have to write about it on every teacher job application and I am banned from working in that district. I have waited a year to go in front of OSPI for a hearing, and I cannot get a job. Why do they want to destroy good teachers! After having completed my Masters in Teaching just three years prior, and with huge debt, this has been devastating to my career and my self esteem. I don’t ever want to teach in a public school again!

  • I taught for 15 years and enjoyed my job but it was the lack of accountability across the spectrum (students, parents, and teachers) that drove me away. My catharsis was writing a book about the insanity of teaching through my personal experiences (Failing Mr. Fisher). Fifty percent of new teachers end up leaving the profession within their first five years. it’s sad that no one but a teacher will ever truly understand why.

  • Weesnerd

    I love to talk to people like Jerry! “If you want to stop teachers being blamed, stop giving people reasons to blame them.” Great idea, where do we start? “Stop pushing a progressive agenda that has nothing to do with education.” Oh like what; Creation vs Natural Selection, Dinosaurs 65 million years ago, global warming? “Stop defending incompetent teachers.” By whose standard? “Stop helping pedophiles keep their jobs.” You mean like the Catholic Church has – great idea! “Stop being the local office of the DNC.” In my school there are probably more MODERATE Republicans than any of those bad nasty liberal Democrats (ie Thomas Jefferson) “Stop pushing “new” approaches to education that haven’t been shown to be effective.” How are we going to show if they are effective if we don’t try? “Stop telling people the solution to every education problem is higher taxes.” Well at that rate we should stop fixing all those miles of roads because I don’t drive on them anyway. “Stop the jihad on accountability.” Oh I will be accountable when I can get all of the tools to work with! Kids that come to school prepared to learn. parents that will support their kids education. Supplies and time to do my job. on and on and on! “Stop telling parents they aren’t competent to have an opinion on how their children should be educated.” Oh, I think that parents are more than competent to have an opinion on their child’s education, but what was good enough twenty, thirty, or forty years ago – will not be competent today and if you can’t or don’t see that – I don’t trust your opinion either, so you probably need to become MORE competent yourself! But that is just my opinion, take it or leave it!

  • Bonnie Nielson

    There was a story a few years back about a presentation by a businessman on how schools should be run. After listening to the presentation, a veteran teacher raised her hand and asked, “Sir, when you are making your product and the raw materials are not up to standards, what do you do?” He replied he got rid of the poor material and began again. The teacher then pointed out, “We are not able to do that since our “raw material” are the students!” rn We need to start pushing back that parents own the problem as well. When parents and teachers work as a team, realizing that not all learning is fun, that some tasks require practice outside of school hours (reading and math facts), and that the job of teachers is to teach and support students, parents to reenforce that an education is important and support their children, but it is up to the students to do their best to learn, then we will see a change in the direction of education.

  • I you are ever successful in convincing these pig-headed, irresponsible, captains of industry and politicians that learning actually requires student participation and effort, let me know how you accomplished that feat.rnrnThe saying goes. “If you can’t dazzle them with your brilliance, then baffle them with bull-pucky.” The public is easily baffled.

  • Jerry Doctor

    Wessnerd,rnrnIt would certainly have to be a long talk. You could explain why a bunch of ignorant people that think dinosaurs co-existed with humans justifies others pushing a political agenda. By whose standards are teachers incompetent? I’ll concede it certainly isn’t yours. Teacher unions should ensure that due process is followed, not fight to keep them on the payroll even if it means assigning them to “the rubber room” where at least they can’t harm kids.rnrnDid you really justify retaining pedophiles because of the behavior of some Catholic priests? I would have bet you think we are better than the church. Why would you advocate following their lead?rnrnThe majority of your faculty is moderate? Not surprising. Here in Nebraska it wouldn’t be surprising if the majority were Republican. But what has that done to keep 90 per cent of the union’s money from being used to support candidates those teachers oppose? (By the way, if you think the liberalism of Thomas Jefferson has anything to do with today’s progressivism I would question the competence of your history teachers. I suggest you read his writings.)rnrnWhen there isn’t a single study that shows a program to have a long term positive effect on students I believe the correct response is not to push more kids into it. And yes, I am talking about Head Start. Now before you accuse me of not caring about disadvantaged children I want to make it clear I believe we do need to help them. But this doesn’t help! And by the way, throwing money into nonproductive programs might have something to do with your lack of supplies.rnrnDo I consider tax money spent on roads I don’t use wasted? I think that depends on who does use then. (e.g., “the bridge to nowhere”)rnrnI had to chuckle at your statement that parents are competent to have a voice in the education of their children only to immediately explain why they don’t know what they are talking about.rnrnYep, a very long talk.

  • Frank John

    I am with Alice. I have the Letter to prove I hurt the students feelings when I told him not to watch pornography in computer class

  • Grace

    So called right to work laws allow school districts to “non-renew” a first year teacher in a particular district for “any reason” despite NM school llaw describing how and why teachers are non-renewed. I was injured on my job and filed a workers comp claim. I was non-renewed and given the reason, I was allegedly “hard to get along with.” The EEOC in Albuquerque would not take my claim, and refused to even give me a piece of paper to say I had been in the office and tried to protect my job. I have been an NEA member since 1996, but have been let down at every contentious turn. If I were really a worthless teacher, why do my students like me and score so well on the abominations we are calling tests? I am now censored from talking about close reading with teachers because another teacher doesn’t like it. This is my job. What happened, Amerika?

  • Think of “history.” When cuneiform was developed in Mesopotamia, boys were trained as scribes. We’re dealing with a history not unlike that of “women’s liberation.” In fact, in our own colonial era, girls went to “Dame Schools,” being taught basic literacy and deportment in a sort of home-schooling situation. Women almost totally staffed elementary school for decades, and only began to be administrators during WWII when the men were “off to war.” As long as the 3-R’s were basic curriculum, educated people passed on what they knew to a new generation. Anyone could teach that material. “Cover the textbook.” rnThomas Jefferson had his system/theory of educating all in grades 1-3, and the top ten percent went on to grades 4-6, and then the top ten percent went on…etc. He said, “Ignorant and free, cannot be.” But he didn’t feel everyone needed a university education. We have raised our educational standards, but our inborn or absorbed cultural values are like trying to get rid of segregation. It stays in the “genes” of some regions of the country more than others, and racism is still not completely eradicated. rnI can’t help but remember, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” And I also feel that attitudes remain where people feel qualified to criticize and demean teachers, even to being able to tell them what to do, simply because they’ve been through the school system themselves. This is an attitude we are fighting, and some years it’s worse than others, and then progress is made for a while. When will it end?

  • meloraz

    Those of us who went from business to teaching will tell you that business models don’t work In schools. A school is more like a hospital. Some kids are healthy, some need more time to get healthy, and some need urgent triage care. Some of that care is long care, some is not. Everyone has different needs.

  • Darwin

    RE school as a business (Martha Knox)rnI like your analogy. Most often I have heard the business applied with teachers as the employees, which makes students (especially graduates) our product. But if a business is going to make a quality product, they are discriminating about the raw materials they use. No one tries to make a filet mignon with racoons they find on the road. OK, that may be a bit extreme, but it makes the point. Private schools and charter schools will always outperform public schools because they have application and screening processes for admission. They can also expel students with less due process than public schools.rn How many businesses have you seen with a sign that says “we reserve the right to refuse service” for some reason or another? Schools can not do that.rn No matter how you slice it, schools are not businesses. But that is how superintendents and boards overwhelmingly view them. But we are a service organization. We serve the community, the whole community and not selected parts. rn I have come up with one business model that might be applicable. We provide a value-added service and therefore we contribute greatly to the economy. Consider a business that needs to hire three workers. Only three people apply. One has a (public) high school diploma, a second went to private school but had to drop out after second grade, and the third never went to school, not even home school. Which worker will have the most value for the employer?

  • Suzette

    First and foremost, thanks to all the teachers, present & retired, who have posted replies in support of each other, as those who should support us, don’t, and never will. As so many aptly stated, someone has to be blamed, and afterall, we are in fact easy targets.rnIn my meager 8 years of teaching in the NYC public school system, all in an high needs school, it’s been “rough & tough.” Thus, to all the blamers and attackers of teachers, and especially those on a power trip making decisions about a profession that you know nothing of, tell me this, which BUSINESS do you know of that requires all employees (teachers)to be a teacher, counselor, nurse, social worker, peace officer, boot camp officer, police officer, psychologist, cheer leader, party planner, oh, and a parent to tens of kids not our own,etc. etc. WHICH BUSINESS DOES THAT? We are all of these and more to our students, AND, on a daily basis. Any idea how exhausting, frustrating and, angering, these “requirements” are? Oh, and which BUSINESS MODEL are we, or rather,’m have adopted again – that exemplifies the criteria set out above? Pleased let us all know.

  • Valerie

    Each grade at my school was given a new writing curriculum to use this year,without proper training. Each grade was only given one curriculum kit to share between 4 teachers. Copyright laws? How am I supposed to teach using this curriculum if I don’t have access to it? So three teachers at each grade level are making copies of the entire curriculum. That is what we were told to do, but it is unlawful. Then, this research based writing curriculum should be taught for an hour each day. We only have 35 minutes in our schedule to teach writing. So how can I effectively teach this new curriculum when I’m not given the proper amount of time? And finally, the teachers at my school are being rated this year (their SLO) on student improvement in writing. So the school system thinks its okay to rate a teacher’s effectiveness, yet they don’t provide the proper training, or resources, or the amount of time needed to implement the curriculum that is expected of us. How demented is that?

  • a science teacher

    I have not been a teacher for very long, but I have been one for long enough to know that teachers are not just professionals; we are required to aspire to the HIGHEST STANDARD of professionalism possible, because parents are expecting us to raise their children for at least half of every work day. So first, we must be professional about being evaluated by everyone; the public, the parents, the news, the politicians, our supervisors, and our peers. I think that we can be professional enough to accept blame to the extent that blame is due, instead of immediately pointing fingers. We are a pivotal component in a system, albeit, a flawed system, that is designed to produce working, thinking minds. I know that not all of the blame lies with the teachers, but I am also sure that some of the blame does lie with the teachers. Let us accept that, no matter how new or experienced we are, we can always manage our classrooms better, cut the fat out of our lessons in order to teach more “nourishing” content, and be more approachable.rnrnThat being said, we are not the ONLY part of the system. The students, our product, must also work hard, the parents must give sufficient aid and motivation to help, administration must be willing to fund, supply, and pay teachers, counselors must be able to guide the students to where the students are most likely to succeed, and politicians must come up with a better assessment system. If you group those into three systems, it is administration, home, and teachers. Consider a three- legged stool. If you saw off one leg, it will tip over; all components must exist. But if you make one leg longer than the other two (putting all of the responsibility and blame on teachers, or parents, or administrators), then it will fall over. The stool works best when all three work together. Let us put our differences aside and become friends with both the home branch of the system and the administrative part, to make the stool of school stand upright once again (for the very first time).

  • Retired Math Teacher

    I cannot understand why public school students have to take so many tests while private school students are off the hook. We know that poor children and English language learners make the lowest scores, so it would make sense to improve the opportunities offered to these groups of children.rnrnUsing student scores to evaluate teachers won’t improve schools.rnI have read that half of public school students live in poverty and that poverty is a cause of stress in children. That’s where we need to improve.

  • Jeanne

    I have been teaching for thirteen years now and have a Master’s degree. I have worked in a “failing school” as well as a highly effective school. I go to work at 7am and don’t leave until 4:45 each day. I grade papers every night from 7:30 until 9:00. On weekends, I go into work from 9:00 until about 7:00 on Saturday and then return for a couple of hours on Sunday. I am not alone in the school many of my colleagues are there the same amount of time as me. You can go by any of the schools in my town and find several teachers working weekends and late into the night. I have worked with over 30 different teachers in three different buildings. I have known tenured teacher who have been fired because they were horrible so the fact that you can’t fire tenured teachers seems like a myth to me.rnWhen I worked in the failing school, I saw a lot of parents who did want the best for their children and did work with them. I also saw a lot of parents who would say “I didn’t like school and neither does he/she.” I also had a child tell me he was not going to do his state required test because he was going to get a welfare check when he grew up so his education didn’t matter. There is your education problem. Why work if you can get “free money”. If we could get rid of the welfare system (which we can’t) then education would become important again.

  • Tom Staszewski

    Teacher Advocate Defends School Teachers and offers tips to inspire today’s
    teachers!

    Handbook dedicated to helping teachers succeed and stick with it throughout the
    entire school year! Total Teaching…Your Passion Makes it Hapen!

    Tom Staszewski
    tomstasz@neo.rr.com
    814-452-0020

    In this era of policy change and educational reform at the K-12 level, suddenly
    “everybody” has become an expert on our school systems. In my opinion, there is
    a great amount of unjustified criticism that is unfairly being leveled against
    our schools and our teachers. Most of the criticism is unfounded, baseless,
    undeserved and distorted. Many critics of our school systems have never set foot
    in a classroom to see what’s going on —other than their own experience as a
    former student—and their criticism is erroneous and counterproductive. If they
    (critics) would take the time to better understand just how hard the teaching
    profession really is, they would change their criticism to face the reality of
    today’s schools and society at large. I believe that most critics would find it
    difficult to even make it through even one day in the life of a typical teacher.
    The essence behind the book is that today’s teachers are under a lot of pressure
    and scrutiny and there is a need for more support, recognition and appreciation
    for the good that they are providing for society. So the point of my book is to
    inform the uninformed about how difficult it is to teach in many of today’s
    schools. And to provide recognition to educators and to thank teachers for the
    positive difference they are making in society. I’ve always said that our
    schools are a reflection of society and society at large has changed and
    undergone a dramatic shift from previous generations. The book also focuses on
    the success stories and “what’s right” with our schools rather than “what’s
    wrong” with our schools. Unlike previous generations…in many homes today,
    whether it be a single parent household or with both parents home…many parents
    send their kids to school unfed, unprepared and with little or no basic skills
    and often with no social skills, etc.

    In my previous work as a motivational speaker and professional development
    trainer, I have personally worked with thousands and thousands of teachers
    statewide and nationwide and I have found them to be hard-working, dedicated,
    industrious and committed to the success of their students. It’s about time that
    someone has taken a stand to recognize and acknowledge the value to society that
    teachers are providing and to thank them for their dedication.

    What is the theme of the book?

    In addition to thanking and recognizing the good that teachers provide to
    society, the book is also a handbook that can be used by the teacher as a means
    of providing coping skills and methods to succeed in the classroom with the
    trials and tribulations of teaching. It provides a means of offering tips,
    strategies and techniques to make it through the day and to have a successful
    school year. In many respects it is a personal growth and development type
    handbook.

    From the first-year teacher to the most experienced veteran, this book provides
    an inspiring message that yes, indeed…teaching is the most noble profession. It
    serves as an acknowledgement of the importance of teachers and recognizes that
    “teaching is the profession that has created all other professions.” This book
    provides real-life tools, tips and strategies to have a successful school year
    and to persevere beyond all of the challenges associated with the profession.
    Filled with insightful and meaningful stories and examples, it will provide a
    pep talk to help teachers stay focused. Readers are able to maintain the passion
    that brought them into the profession and to develop a plan to be the best that
    they can be.

    Author Tom Staszewski, Total Teaching: Your Passion Makes It Happen. Lanham,
    Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.

    Copies are available through the publisher Rowman and Littlefield and also at
    amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com or from Rowman & Littlefield Education Phone:
    (301) 459-3366, http://www.rowmaneducation.com Customer Service, Toll free:
    (800) 462-6420, custserv@rowman

  • That kind of technique may be helpful for all. Sometimes, it is really important that teachers should undergo on some seminars even if they are already good enough in teaching. This can help them to learn new things that they might use on their work and can be able to fit their teaching styles to all of their students.