Sunday, May 15, 2011

What the school reform debate misses about teachers

Here's Klein with an op ed in the Washington Post on "What the School Reform Debate Misses About Teachers":

Teaching is incredibly hard, especially when dealing with children in high-poverty communities who come to school with enormous challenges. Many teachers work long hours, staying at school past 6 p.m., and then working at home grading papers and preparing lessons. Some teachers get outstanding results, even with our most challenged students. These are America's heroes, and they should be recognized as such. Sadly, they aren't.

On the other hand, there are also many teachers who work by the clock - they show up a minute before 8:30 and leave a minute after 3; when in school, they do the barest minimum. They get dreadful results with students and, if you spend time in their classrooms, as I have over the past eight years, it's painfully obvious that they belong in another line of work.

The problem is that our discussion too often fails to distinguish between these very different types of teachers, treating them all the same. This "group-think" not only pollutes the current public debate - either you're for or against teachers - it is also killing our opportunity to fix our schools. Any reform worth its name must start by recognizing that teachers are our most important educational asset. That's why we need to treat teaching as a profession, by supporting excellence, striving for constant improvement and ridding the system of poor performers.

Alas, we do none of this. Whether you are good or bad, work hard or don't, teach in a shortage area (such as math) or work in a highly challenged school, you get treated precisely the same: You have life tenure and generous lifetime health and pension benefits, and you get paid more money next year simply because of seniority.


What the school reform debate misses about teachers

By Joel Klein

Sunday, March 13, 2011

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