The relative decline of American education at the elementary- and high-school levels has long been a national embarrassment as well as a threat to the nation's future. Once upon a time, American students tested better than any other students in the world. Now, ranked against European schoolchildren, America does about as well as Lithuania, behind at least 10 other nations. Within the United States, the achievement gap between white students and poor and minority students stubbornly persists—and as the population of disadvantaged students grows, overall scores continue to sag.
Nuggets from the article and my take…
- “often the weakest teachers are relegated to teaching the neediest students, poor minority kids in inner-city schools”
- In Denver, we are no longer requiring schools to "accept involuntary transfers" and these schools also do not have to hire within the district. This is a small step, but a good one IMO.
- “In most states, after two or three years, teachers are given lifetime tenure.”
- This is the problem, tenure is interesting in that it gives us security, but enables mediocrity.
- “KIPP schools don't cherry-pick—they take anyone who will sign a contract to play by the rules, which require some parental involvement”
- You mean parental involvement can be measured? And these measurements show that scores and learning improves when community embraces education. What a concept. :)
- “Many more teachers are overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated. Maybe they'd get more respect if the truly bad teachers were let go.”
- There may be something to this, but it is tough to read all of this and then finally see some acknowledgement at the very end that there are tremendous teachers out there working hard.
This article spells out the ills facing our schools on a grand scale. I often hear my “non-teacher” friends talking about how easy our job is, or that we get summer’s off. I am not sure that the majority of people really understand just how secure our positions are. When the article mentioned the fact that it is nearly impossible to fire teachers that have tenure, they are right and there is something to that. On the other hand, teaching does require an upkeep of licensure and “professional learning” is a big part of that. I am not sure if there is a magic bullet or resolution, but I do wonder if our unions sometimes are our own worst enemy. Public employees need unions and I understand that, but I cringe when I see or hear about mediocre teachers or forced placement of sub standard teachers being moved around, as the article called it “the dance of the lemons."
Seems to me that creative solutions around effectiveness and motivation are keys to improving education; I am always interested to hear what others think about this and if they see tenure, unions, and transfers as a deterrent to improving our schools. I sense the landscape is changing; we are in the middle of a shift, so there are growing pains. Accountability is going up, does that mean that we will agree with all of the policies and plans that are outlined and executed, probably not, but it’s up to us as educators to become a part of these conversations and continue putting the learning first.
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