Friday, July 22, 2011

Stop Shitting on Teachers

My guess is that she rated "highly effective."

I write about education often because it’s incredibly important to me.  Aside from the fact that I’m going to be working on getting my teaching license over the next couple of years, it’s important to me that American children not grow up to be complete dumbasses.

I read an article today about the negativity of the incentives that have shat themselves on to teachers in Washington D.C..  About a week ago or so, a couple hundred teachers were let go because they had “underperformed.”  This underperformance was based largely on kids’ standardized test scores, and apparently many of the teachers that were let go had been deemed “effective,” or “highly effective,” by the standards of the IMPACT program.

I thought about making a post about it when I read it, but I didn’t for whatever reason.  Then I read an article today on the Washington Post about this very thing, and the author posits that such tactics, giving bonuses to “good” teachers and firing “underperforming” teachers is a stupid way to make schools better.

I agree.

How many people want to teach?  How many people want to spend all day with kids who generally don’t give a shit about anything, let alone their own education?  Teaching is a difficult profession.  You spend 8 hours a day teaching someone else’s kid to be a productive and useful citizen, only to come home to more work.  You put in an ass ton of hours for little reward other than self-satisfaction.  If you’re a 1st year teacher, your pecuniary reward is $35,000 a year at a good public school district.

Now we want to make teaching some sort of competitive bullshit in which we measure a teacher’s performance by how well his or her kids do on standardized testing.  Are we seriously suggesting that we place their career in the hands of children?

It doesn’t matter how good of a teacher you are: if a student does not give a flying fuck about school then that student will not perform well.  “Well, it’s the teachers job to make him give a fuck!”  No it’s not.  Education is not a one-way street where the teacher is some servant that is supposed to make you want to make love to your social studies text book.  Yes, a teacher should make the lessons interesting and engaging, but a teacher cannot make a kid like it, or even give a shit enough to do well in it.

Knowing that teachers get shit on now as it is, why do we want to make the profession less appealing?  It’s no wonder that a bunch of teachers in D.C. got shit-canned, because it’s a district that has been underperforming for years.  Do we really think that it’s the teachers’ fault?  It’s an urban district, and many of the students in it come from low-income families.  No, poor people aren’t stupid because they’re poor, but poor kids have a lot more barriers to success.

The Washington Post author said that we should treat teachers more like professionals, and I agree with that completely.  The whole incentive thing—do well and you’ll receive extra rewards, you’re fired if you do “poorly”—is a great mentality for people in sales, but not in a professional career. 

Are doctors fired every time they lose a patient?  Are lawyers disbarred every time they lose a case?  The answer is no, because there are so many factors that are beyond their control.  A patient can die despite top notch treatment, and a jury can convict or acquit a defendant no matter how convincing a case.  Kids can suck giant asshole on their standardized testing no matter how good their teachers might be.

Yes, there are bad teachers.  We’ve all had at least one, but we didn’t measure their badness on how well we understood the material.  They can only do so much to help us get it, and at some point it’s on the kid to be able to understand.

This sort of reward/punishment mentality is going to have two negative effects: (1) It will make less people want to go into teaching, and (2) Teachers will be less willing to teach in urban districts where student performance is statistically lower.  Does that sound like a good outcome?


Harrison said...

You raise some valid points. I grew up in DC. The public schools are pretty horrible. I do agree that if you are given garbage for students you will most likely produce garbage for test results. While I do think teachers often get a bad lot in life on the other hand teacher's unions give almost 100% to Democrats and are interested only in protecting their own no matter what the results or consequences. I'm not sure how to end this practice but standardized test scores are one way, even if imperfect. Not so sure about mass firings, however.

Anonymous said...

im 110% with you on this. remember WoW? this is like RNG.... if you run the dungeon enough times.. you might get what you want. unless some jackass rolls need.

I have nothing good to add to this though... :(


Damien said...

Perhaps I am in a minority and old fashioned but I grew up with the notion that teachers, nurses and policemen were important and deserved respect. Teachers in particular because you basically hand over your children's future to them...

Jack Camwell said...

Unfortunately, Damien, that's not how it goes here in America. Not anymore anyway.

Harrison said...

Regarding salaries... DC Public school teachers make 67k to 81k. That is also including a 21.6% increase over 5 years. Plus, if their classes do well on the tests they get 20k to 30k more.

That's a far cry from you saying they make 25k per year. Some teachers could make as much as 140k per year.

I remember from when I lived in DC that it has almost the highest budget in the nation but is among the worst results.

Jack Camwell said...

Yeah you make that much after 20+ years. I know for a fact that first year teachers here in Columbus City Schools make $35,000/yr.

Jersey McJones said...

When my wife finished college and was looking where she wanted t oteach, she had two choices: stay with the Catholics in Jersey City and make a rather meager income, or head on to the public system and make a ton more. We lived in the NYC metro area, so she had plenty of options.

I told her to go where her heart desired.

She stuck with that poor little Catholic high school in JC. She was among their best teachers. Sadly, the school has sinced closed.

(Catholic districts in the NYC area, and around the country, have been consolidating for years, and this was a relatively small, poor, really old school. I think it was built in the 1920's!)

She did amazing work. All her fellow teachers did as well. Those kids received a fantastic education, putting them far ahead of their peers in the JC public system. It was a fun school.

I'm not bashing the public system here. I'm talking about the love of teaching and incorporating the Catholic appreciation for upward mobility instead of Protestant "training." For that purpose, The Catholic education system is fantastic.

Crazy ol' panultimately atheistic and liberal Jersey McJones can say for sure that the best school I ever attended was a Catholic school, and I attended many schools. When I transferred back to a public school, I was far ahead. They had a hard time placing me.

I think the Catholic method would be a great model for the nation - sans the endless prayers.


Anonymous said...

My problem with the educational system caused me to back out of teaching after a short tenure, in a local school district. Teaching H.S. students sucks. I decided that if I stayed I would end up beating the shit out of a few selected individuals - I should have directed that anger towards the district administrators who are nothing more than paper pushing jackasses who justify their existence by heaping politically correct bullshit on teachers. That of course does not even address the revisionist policies of the NEA who seem to have no problem with altering basic education with their own socio-political agendas.