I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Real Legacy of "Reform"

In the not too distant future, we will look back at this assault on teachers and say, "What in the world were we thinking?":
Not long ago I spoke at an “open house” for high school students who wanted to meet college professors and learn more about different career opportunities. 
When relatively few students or their parents showed interest in elementary education, a father remarked that he understood the rejection of teaching as a profession and that he, too, was trying to convince his exceptionally bright daughter to think instead of a business career. 
“Who in the world would want to be a teacher these days?” he asked. “All they get is poor treatment and constant blame when they can’t do magic and instantly bring kids up to grade level.” 
He might be onto something, and I worry that if we continue placing so much blame on teachers for what is often beyond their control, we run the risk of turning off many of our best young people from careers in education. 
And this we simply cannot afford to do. 
It seems many lawmakers with no classroom experience, in state after state, are ratcheting up the rhetoric against teachers. There are calls by some to cut teaching positions, freeze or slash teacher salaries and eliminate tenure. But is it just to place the bulk of responsibility for student performance squarely on teachers’ shoulders when policy makers, politicians, teacher educators, parents, administrators, the public and students themselves all play a role? [emphasis mine]
So here's what I'm pretty sure is going to happen:

Over the next few years, young people are going to decide that as much as they might have liked teaching, they just can't afford to do it. Sure, the pay was always low, but a few years ago at least there were decent benefits and a modest but stable pension.

And there was some small level of respect. You didn't get your name published in the paper if your kids' test scores weren't great. You didn't have governors swaggering around phony town halls calling you "greedy." People knew what you were doing was important. They had the manners to acknowledge that you may not have been making a lot of money, but you were making a difference.

Well, those days are over, and there's little incentive for anyone to enter the teacher profession - mostly because it's no longer a profession. In a profession, you have a say over your work, and get deference to your authority once you've earned it. That's not teaching in America any more.

So in 15, maybe 10, possibly 5 years, it's all going to go to hell. And then we're all going to turn to you:

Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Barack Obama, the entire Republican party, Chris Christie, Rick Scott, Scott Walker, Dannel Malloy, Rick Snyder, Bobby Jindal, Cory Booker, Mike Bloomberg, Rahmbo, Koch brothers, Waltons, Chris Cerf, Joel Klein, Rupert Murdoch, Mike Milken, Eli Broad, Whitney Tilson, David Tepper, Eric Hanushek, LA Times, and so many others that I could name...

... and ask you why the hell you destroyed the teaching profession.

You'd better damn well have a good answer.


Tom Hoffman said...

I would say the change is dependent on the job market recovering, and that could take a looooong time.

Just imagine though if we'd ever have an actual boom again.

Commuting Teacher said...

No, I disagree Duke. Money will do as it will. I will instead ask my neighbors, my colleagues, and other parents why they sat back and allowed this to happen. As a man once said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." This is where we now stand. There are a number doing what they can, like you, Darcie, and Ravitch, but their voices are kept in the distance. The big moneyed reformy types are financing their bullhorns and it's way too easy to listen to them instead of looking for the truth. How sad and frustrating.

Susan said...
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Susan said...

The fact is there is NO evidence at all the supply of teachers is drying up or will anytime soon. That's why these "reformers" are cocky in their dismantling of public education. Colleges and universities are STILL graduating tens of thousands of teachers on top of all of the teachers laid off or illegally fired trying to find work in this sinking job market. If the market for fully credentialed teachers dries up, the standards will be lowered so that any college grad with a few weeks of training like TFAs will be hired. If somehow THAT dries up, then high school grads. If THAT dries up, just turn all schools into online schools and have "teachers" from India or China making pennies a day "teach" them.

jcg said...

Susan, standards for teacher credentialing were secretly dumbed down by the 2010 Democratic congress, corporate lobbyists, and the blessing of Arne. Congress slipped in a provision permitting untrained teachers to be considered highly qualified by NCLB standards with NO practice teaching. Does anyone doubt this change is in TfA's and edu-profiteers financial interest?

You are exactly right that teaching, if left up to the US Chamber of Commerce, will become a service profession for all, but the wealthy. They'll pluck the best prepared for their kids.

If you think those new teachers evals are in place to improve practice, think again. Teacher evaluations mandated by RttT and peddled by the likes of Michael Milken & Bill Bennett are designed for that purpose- stack ranking and firing. Churning teachers, low salaries, blind obedience to the masters through fear. http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2012/07/microsoft-downfall-emails-steve-ballmer

This cannibal culture is thriving in TN, TX, FL, GA, to online, for profit teacher fast track certification mills. TN teacher evaluation metric is a 1 to 5 likert scale. Only 15% of teachers will make a score of 4, necessary for tenure.
Untrained teachers and churn in the teaching ranks has serious repercussions on our entire educational system. Yet, Arne & Gates, et al., run around claiming teachers are critical to our future and security, yet they mandate dumb, destructive, reductive, policies.

jcg said...

Edit: Untrained teachers and churn in the teaching ranks HAVE serious repercussions on our entire educational system. Yet, Arne & Gates, et al., run around claiming teachers are critical to our future and security, yet they mandate dumb, destructive, reductive, policies

Susan said...

I know it's going on now, but it will be the standard in just a few years. "Teachers" will be no more highly paid than day care teachers. Yet people will still flock to this occupation, not just because of some wrongheaded idea they want to "make a difference" in somebody's life but also because there are no other job alternatives.

None of these reforms are designed to improve public education but to destroy it. All in the name of ideology. BOTH political parties are held hostage to neoliberalism.