About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

No child left behind, but the teaching profession trashed

Imagine being an oncologist or hospice healthcare provider and being told that you will be evaluated on how many patients die. If many die, you will be fired.

What does this have to do with education? Well, according to NPR, the president wants to extend no child left behind legislation and to include a provision for states to develop ways to evaluate teachers.

Let's begin with the NCLB. This was legislation that, while good intentioned, changed our educational system from one of creativity, innovation, and critical thinking to one of testing and numbers. As long as your children "pass the test", they have been educated. Likewise, students that can't pass the test are not educated. As a college professor, I can't tell you how many of my students have high SAT scores, test well, and yet flounder in my class. My teaching style is strong on analysis (many have not been taught how to analyze, come to their own conclusions, support their analysis, and--where they really fail--convince others of their ideas). In fact, some of my brightest students have entered college using an alternative method (starting non-matriculated, excelling in their profession and then going back to college, or community college first) when they did not "test" well.

In 1968, France was finally pushed to move from an educational system that tested from the cradle as it was found to be ineffective and unfair. It put too much stress on young children and made education elitist so that those with the means would rise to the top. How many innovations do you think came out of France in the 1960's. How many innovations came out of the US from the educational system many felt was too "touchy/feely" (think of the high tech industry and when those innovators were educated in the 1960's, 70's and early 80's)?

If NCLB is passed, however, (which will be the only way states can get federal dollars for education), the new provision for teacher evaluation will go into place. Which leads me to wonder where politicians have been for the last century. Have you never heard of teaching licenses? How is this different than a doctor's license? If a teacher has been found guilty of an impropriety, their license is taken away!!!!!!!!!!!! So why must we now put an additional "benchmark" on teachers? Children are people, just like patients are people. Some people die because they are sick and no medicine will help them. This does not mean that healthcare providers aren't trying to make them well. Likewise, some students will not achieve the lofty learning goals especially when a child may not have hit the maturity to reach those goals or they are dealing with issues such as malnutrition, poor healthcare, and lack of housing. This does not mean they will not make progress, just that they won't achieve the "benchmarks" outlined by politicians that know nothing about child development (or poverty or homelessness for the most part).

On the surface, this evaluation sounds good (again, why do we need it when we have licenses). However, in NY state, the teacher's union, administrators, and general public negotiated a formula in which test scores were included but did not amount to a major percentage. The board of regents, which overseas educational policy in NY, totally ignored this and set their own policy putting a substantial weight on test scores.

So why would I want to be teacher in NY state? Teachers in NY state make less than stockbrokers, nurses, lawyers, engineers, and many entertainers, yet they are responsible for raising our children, many times from before age 5 and after age 16, the required legal age for children to attend school in the US. They currently are required to have 2 masters in order to teach high school (one in their subject area and one in education) along with 200 hours every two years in additional training. They are not allowed by law to strike so many times they are forced to work without a contract. They are, in essence, powerless. And yet, when there is a raise in taxes, the teacher's union is blamed for the cost of education. How can that be? Isn't it possible that it is the unfunded mandates that push up the price of education?

It is time that we start looking at our society and stop trashing the profession of education. We have mechanisms in place (licensing requirements) that should be enforced for teachers that are not working. I don't always agree with my daughter's teachers, and I need to negotiate/speak to them to understand the situation. There does not need to be law for that. Please repeal NCLB and stop "evaluating" teachers who are evaluated on a daily basis by administrators, colleagues, parents, and students.

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