Teachers need to be accountable, but to whom?

On Thursday night, after working all day and attending a union round table discussion about education, I met up with an old college friend at the bar to catch up. He is a vice-president of a small financial services company, lives in an affluent community, and enjoys the finer things in life. After getting past the normal pleasantries and catching up with news about each others families, he asked me Why I was on his “side” off town. As I attempted to explain about the “education reform” movement in the state of Michigan and how it is affecting teachers, he asked “Shouldn’t it be about what parents and students want?”

This question rings true: Shouldn’t education reform be about what the community wants? Not what legislators desire. I agreed with him, since I have never had a parent complain about my instruction and the district where I work typically has strong parental support for what the schools are doing. Parents are always thanking the teachers for the job that they are doing working with their children. “I won’t want you job!’ and “You are a saint!” are comments often overheard at conference time.

“So why are we reforming schools?” Was the question he asked. I answer that it seems to be about accountability and money. Being from a sales background he agrees with these motives. Teachers should be accountable for sure but to what? Now teachers are accountable to their district, community and ultimately to their students. Reformers desire teachers to be accountable to a standardized test. Which is right?

From a business perspective the test is easier to measure and attach funding. Tests are part of a business model. Test producers also sell books, software and “canned programs” to schools. They can make it advantageous to schools to buy their products or use their online programs. In turn these companies can make millions off of educating our youth. Do these results show we have made a true difference using their measures? That can be debated. Many would argue the same or similar results would prevail if we stuck with what we have now.

Teachers should be accountable to their students. Students’ individual needs have to be addressed and accounted for on a daily basis. NO standardized test can measure all the “teaching” that goes on in the classroom. Communities and locally elected school boards have to monitor and decide if schools and teachers are doing what is necessary. Each community will be different, just like each child is different in the classroom. Society cannot us predetermined benchmarked norms to decided if a school is effective. That would be similar to measuring a parents effectiveness based on how the child meets development standards.

Society needs to stand up to the corporate take over of our education system. School boards are elected for a reason: to hire leaders that will create schools that meets the communities needs. We cannot let a publishing company mandate what every school district needs. It is funny that GOP leaders don’t want this to happen in health care (Obamacare) but support it with education!

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5 Comments

Filed under Community Based, Educational Reform, Observations and Opinions

5 responses to “Teachers need to be accountable, but to whom?

  1. Teacher’s cannot be held accountable. There are too many factors outside of our control. We can be RESPONSIBLE for doing what’s best (instructionally, pedagogically, developmentally, etc).

    • Well said, there are too many variables. Responsible is a better word in this case. Seems like teachers are being held accountable to the test too much lately. Used the same word to get my point across.

  2. Brother Ted

    Teachers have been hiding behind this same sophistry for a long time.

    We’re told that objective measures like student tests are unfair ways to evaluate teachers because they don’t account for variability in student aptitudes and encourage “teaching for the test.”

    Meanwhile, subjective measures like human evaluation are unfair ways to evaluate teachers because they might become political popularity contests and allow districts to fire their senior, higher paid teachers as a way to cut costs.

    Therefore, there’s simply no way to ever evaluate any teacher. Suck it taxpayers, looks like we all have jobs for life.

    Why are you finally starting to lose this argument? (Although admittedly, slowly.) Because most of the rest of us don’t have civil service jobs, and whether we are auto mechanics, web designers or office administrators we get evaluated every day. We know there are no 100% fair evaluation systems, and yet we’re glad when the person next to us, not doing their job, gets fired. We’re quite aware that too much “fairness” to you has meant no fairness to kids. We know that almost every public school, along with good teachers, also has teachers that should be shown the door tomorrow, but because of these policies are still there, taking a paycheck, with summers off, anticipating a pension, doing nothing for kids.

    You haven’t thought about how your message sounds to our ears. You live in an echo chamber.

    When your friend asked why states are reforming schools, perhaps you should have said it’s because a quarter of American kids aren’t finishing high school. You might have said that of the large industrialized countries in the world, we spend the most and do the worst. Or you could have pointed out that most charter schools have hundreds if not thousands of kids on waiting lists, proving that poor parents, not elite corporate billionaires, but poor parents are voting with their feet to escape broken public schools now.

    • Dear Brother Ted-

      First thank you for reading my post. Obviously you have strong opinions that are different from mine. Let me explain why I disagree with you, so you can stop thinking I live in an echo chamber.

      1. Yes, some teachers are bad just like some of every other profession. All professions have some that could be shown the door and that is the administrations job. But do we judge dentist by the number of patients that get cavities or doctors on the number of patients that get sick? We all teach habits. Habit of learning, habit of dental health, or personal health. Can lead the horse to water but can’t make them always drink. In my experience 95% or so of the teachers are doing what they feel is best for students every day.

      2. Charter schools from where I sit are pretty much a joke. They are governed by different rules and don’t have the same standards as traditional public schools. The press only highlights the best. Just like there are great Public schools. Many of my students have spent time in charters and their performance is below their peers. When students go to charters in the area I work they seem to always come back to the public school system.

      3. Parents speaking up needs to happen. I have attended every board meeting for 3 years in the district that I work and frequent the one where my children attend offen. The only time parents speak up it is when sports or transportation issues arise. Never have I heard a complaint based on academic vigor.

      4. Society is the bigger problem. Schools are just a reflection of society. Politicians seem to want us to teach everything from manners and values to hygene to typical academics. Schools are a reflection of our society. What has been proposed won’t work. Will only make it worse until we show value of education in society. We need good role models for our students that show the value of good behavior. A quarter of our students aren’t graduating because society says it is okay! not due to schools. They can make money working so why be in school. Poverty is the larger issue that needs to be addressed.

      5. I did not talk about principal observations in my writing but you mentioned it. I feel these work well, just like in any other business.

      Schools really aren’t broken and have implimented many changes over the last 3 years due to law changes. American Schools are on the decline internationally because other cultures value their teachers and education system. Here in America everyone want to attack them.

      Brother Ted Thanks for the comments I hope you find the time to go into a school and see what they are doing to improve childrens lives.

      • brotherted

        I appreciate the thoughtful tone of your rejoinder.

        Clearly, these debates could and have gone on endlessly with numerous permutations of your points followed by my points.

        For me it all comes down to this: If traditional public schools were doing their jobs as well as you say they are, they should have nothing to fear from school choice. Parents would never remove their kids in the first place. The few who did would come screaming back from the dysfunctional charter or private schools. Word would spread around town quickly about their disappointing underperformance.

        All evidence is the opposite. Charter enrollment continues to grow at a double-digit percentage every year — at that doesn’t even count the hundreds of thousands on waiting lists. The Indiana voucher program more than doubled enrollment this year, up 138%, and remember, that program is income-restricted to the poor and middle class. Your side is afraid to let poor & middle class parents make their own choices, not because they’ll pick your schools, but because they won’t. You know they won’t. So you seek to *force* those kids to stay in your schools whether they like it or not. “We’ll tell you what’s good for you,” you say them, “it’s us.”

        My side says let them decide. In the swirling myriad of education policy questions, this is something ordinary people get. And are getting increasingly.

        Your side misses a simple truism: Competition is healthy and improves service. Did the American auto industry improve after losing market share to the Japanese in the 1980′s? You may not think so, but most of us do. Did Dunkin’ Donuts become much better after Starbucks took off? You only need eyes to see it. Would the U.S. Post Office be better if Fedex and UPS were banned for “draining money” from the government institution? No. The Post Office never had package tracking until its competitors did it first; suddenly then the Post Office figured out how to do it after it started losing market share. The same is true in education, whether we’re talking colleges, pre-schools, or “Learn to Speak Spanish” CDs. Competition is good for the consumer of the service; the only thing it’s bad at is protecting jobs.

        Unless there’s competition, or perhaps leadership from a rare, charismatic person, failing public schools have little incentive to improve. They can fail for a generation and everyone still has guaranteed jobs for life. This is the reality of thousands of American public schools and millions of American kids.

        You refer to schools having “many changes” over the last three years — yes, changes that the establishment & unions fought nearly every step of the way, until passage because inevitable, and they then sometimes joined only to weaken the reforms as much as possible.

        Is culture a problem? Obviously. But the same cultural problems would exist whether public education stayed a protected government monopoly, or whether poor parents had school choice.

        You seem sincere, but you’re on the wrong side of history. Because again, poor parents are simply voting with their feet, and decreasingly can you block the door to prevent the jailbreak from dysfunctional public schools.

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