Thursday, January 30, 2014

No Bad Apples

Lately, in the education forums I frequent, a collection of people who are not educators keep making the same assertions that we hear from the so-called reformers. Unfortunately that’s all the public hears these days, about how the bad teachers are bringing down the educational standings of our nation’s youth, how these bad teachers can’t be fired, and why these bad teachers need to be gotten rid of by giving the good ones performance pay or by ranking teachers by test scores and firing the lowest 10%. Union-busting corporations pay for giant billboards in cities and claim that the union teachers are thugs who can’t think for themselves. Not true. In fact, teachers all over the country are getting riled up enough to do some fighting back.

Seattle teachers refused to give one more standardized test. Chicago teachers struck and parents supported them, Philly teachers, parents and students have marched on the School Board building several time to protest school closing and draconian budget cuts, principals, teachers and parents on Long Island have declared they’ve had enough of testing  and ill-conceived teacher evaluations, NY school superintendents have sent letters of protest to the NY State Chancellor decrying the adoption and implementation of the Common Core Standards and attached tests. Diane Ravitch wrote a book explaining that the education crisis is manufactured by corporate interests, and it is a best-seller. We are speaking. Is anyone listening?

In my 37 years of teaching, I have come across six bad teachers.


In 37 years.

That’s 6 out of 100+ teachers I have worked with. Less than 6%. Let’s do the math, shall we? That means 94% of the people I have worked with were NOT bad teachers. But the public continues to treat us in the 94% like those 6%. We are not just babysitters. We are not the bottom of the barrel students in college or high school. Indeed, I graduated 10th in a class of 600 from high school and with a 3.5 GPA from Beaver College, now Arcadia University. Teachers come early and stay late, tutor kids at their lunchtime, buy supplies that the school doesn’t provide, provide snacks and treats fr the class, keeps them safe from harm, protects them from people with guns, lays on top of them during tornados, comforts them when a snowstorm makes them shelter in place. It’s not he teachers that are the problem in this supposed education crisis.

Research shows that a teacher only had from 10 to 30% influence on how successful a child is in school. The other 70 to 90% come from parents, environment, and physical and mental health.

On his website, It Takes a Village to Teach a Child, Robert Bacal, explains why it’s generally not the teacher’s fault that the standardized test scores are low. He says, “The studies suggest the answer lies, not with teacher pay, not with the quality of teachers (although that's certainly part of it), but with a much broader, and problematic issue. National culture, the beliefs, and values of the country.
The countries that fare better than the USA on these metrics simply have cultures that value education more highly. They also tend to have cultures that tend to be less individualistic and value the welfare of the ‘group’ whether it be family, neighborhood, organization, and much less on individual accomplishment, and ‘standing out’. In countries that fare better, teachers are more respected and held in higher esteem.”

You can read more of his writings on this subject by clicking on this link.

John Tapscott, an independent Education Management Professional, says:

In my 45 years of teaching I have worked with hundreds of dedicated professionals and as far as measuring them against each other I am at a loss. This is because each teacher is different. Each has a different set of skills, a different bank of knowledge, a different set of beliefs and something different and unique to contribute to the lives of the students they teach. 
The work of a teacher is not his or her work alone. It’s a contribution, together with that of their colleagues into the knowledge, skills, beliefs and attitudes of the next generation. I think at least 50 teachers contributed to my education over the years. 
The reason why it appears that more teachers are failing to meet expectations is that expectations have increased to the point where it is impossible for all teachers to meet all expectations all the time.

Thank goodness things seem to be turning around and the students and parents voices are being heard in support of teachers and in defiance of testing. I hope that the young people continue to examine what they need to succeed. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with tests, but whether each student can reach his or her potential in life. Take a look at what this young man has to say about education today. It takes a village to nurture those apples.

Still learning!

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