There are teacher shortages in many places, even before Covid, and some administrators and Legislators are mystified as to why. Some of it is money and while an argument is often made that teachers are paid a reasonable salary when time off, benefits and retirement advantages are included in the calculation, closer scrutiny deflates these arguments (retirement benefits – defined benefit plans in particular – are a government problem, not only a teacher issue). I think teachers should be paid more than a good welder, and good welders earn every dollar they make.

If paid more, will more people choose the teaching profession? Perhaps, but money is not the only problem. Once upon a time, students were expected to perform. If a student didn’t do the work, a failing grade was assigned. If the pattern repeated, parents were called to conference to clarify and express the teacher’s observation: Little Johnnie is day dreaming and needs to buckle down. The family went home and Little Johnnie’s life became less fun for the next many weeks and more attention was paid to his performance. In some cases. In others, nothing changed.

In all scenarios, the teacher was never wrong.

Sometimes teachers are wrong, draconian, mean, cruel and in general horrible people – and teachers, but most of the time it was the student being a kid. Now, if the student is having problem, the teacher may try to let the parents and administrators know an issue exists, but only if the teacher is truly conscientious. First, the teacher draws scrutiny to its own teaching style and content. Is the teacher doing an adequate job teaching the material? In some cases, and I have seen it, the teacher is requested to justify why a particular lesson is being taught. The ones I have witnessed are core curriculum classes, not ideological. It was simply deflection.

The parents can request special dispensation (e.g. Individualized Education Plan – IEP or other action) for their child and while this varies from state to state and district to district, the end result is a teacher gets more work in an effort to help Little Johnnie. So, let’s review. Teacher identifies a problem and brings it to parents and administrators’ attention. To reward this action, both administrator and parent assign teacher more work. Little Johnnie is enabled, is not required to work harder, study longer, or persevere to succeed.

Who thought this was good policy?

In addition to teachers no longer being supported, there is distinct pressure to pass students. Metrics, just as in the business world, drive education. Pass rates equal success and if students pass, the district looks good. This is a macro assessment, individuals are irrelevant. Teach to the test. If needed, give them the test questions the day before, just make sure they pass. If a problem is identified, see previous paragraph. Imagine telling an employee that if they identify a problem, they will be given more work. Fewer and fewer problems will be identified. Problem solved, except quality and efficiency suffer. Similar to not making arrests for criminal behavior. If arrests are down, crime must also be down. 

In the interim, the U.S. continues to fall in world ranking for education. Gee, wonder why?

Categorized as Policy

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.