"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Friday, October 24, 2014

How Not to Attract the Needed Talent to the Teaching Profession

The world just celebrated Teachers' Day on last October 5, recognizing the important role teachers play in our future.
Unfortunately, such critical message seems to have not reached everyone. Investing in teachers means equipping and preparing them so that they could perform their job well both inside and outside the classroom. This is the important message: We need to support our teachers. The world needs teachers, good and effective teachers yet some still focus on the other side of the story, the world needs to fire teachers if they are not performing well. Sadly, the cover page for the coming issue of Time magazine only highlights this wrong-headed notion:

 

There are several reasons why a fixation on the ability to fire teachers is problematic. First and foremost, equating the evaluation of a teacher's performance to how other professions are measured is incorrect. Learning outcomes or students' scores on standardized exams are influenced by several factors in addition to what a teacher does. Poverty, lack of resources, and a poor curriculum dictated from the top can all contribute immensely to poor learning results in schools. Oftentimes, these other factors are in fact much more significant in deciding how much a student learns in school. Second, an emphasis on firing teachers seems to imply that being hired and granted tenure, or job security, is a given. It is not. Both hiring and granting tenure are the appropriate places to ensure quality in teaching. For instance, the National Center for Education Statistics notes that in 2007, for every 200 public school teachers, three tenured teachers are fired while only one untenured teacher is dismissed. Clearly, there are more tenured teachers being fired than untenured ones. Of course, the current attrition rate among teachers is much higher which brings us to the third most important reason. Almost half of the teachers in the United States leave the profession within their first five years of teaching. Focusing on tenure as a problem is exactly the way how one would not be able to attract the needed talent to the teaching profession. 

This blog therefore joins the call of the American Federation of Teachers against the cover page of the Time magazine:

It is quite clear how misleading the cover page of Time is. This is indeed the last thing one needs while the country is trying hard to attract talent to the teaching profession. But one last point, Diane Ravitch also states on her blog a fourth reason:
"Since when do tech millionaires know anything about teaching children? Why should they determine the lives and careers of educators? Why don’t they volunteer to teach for a week and then share their new wisdom?"





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