If they're really interested in improving public education (they relly aren't BTW) then they're asking all the wrong questions.
The problem isn't the teachers.
Every year floods of energetic young teachers graduate and take teaching jobs, then they run smack dab into "The System". Over time, the system then proceeds to beat all of the enthusiasm out of those young teachers, turning them into robotic, curriculum spewing, assessment slaves, slaves to the accountability systems put in place by seemingly well meaning politicians.
My perspective? My wife taught in public education for 20 years, and I watched what happened to her and suffered through her nightly diatribes, and observed the same things happening with all of her teacher friends.
Ask any experienced public school teacher what she wants and the answer will be the same - autonomy. The autonomy to teach her own way and at the pace she diagnoses for her students. The autonomy to vary from the curriculum at times, in the interest of pursuing topics that her students express interest in.
But such autonomy isn't allowed in public education today. Thanks largely to NCLB, it's now all about the test and nothing but the test. Teachers are given strict curriculums from which they are not allowed to vary, along with pacing guides that define for them the specific content that they will be teaching every day of the school year. Then the teachers are measured based on how well her students (who don't want to be there in the first place) performed on the government developed test.
The problems with this system, from the teacher perspective, are almost too numerous to mention. Two big ones:
- There is rarely any adjustment in how the teacher is measured that take into account student characteristics linked to low achievement, such as poverty, or poor attendance.
- The curriculum and pacing, as I said, is forced from above. Usually teachers are not even allowed to remediate when they know that it's needed.
Good teachers, intelligent, caring adults who want to help kids - once they come to understand that this is the system and that there is no changing it and that it is getting worse (thanks to the continued political meddling) - these individuals either resign themselves to the system (lacking all enthusiasm for teaching), or they escape it.
That's why the public schools can't keep quality teachers. It's not the pay, it's that those with intelligence who are not going to put up with the nonsense leave the profession.
It's not the pay, it's autonomy. It's giving teachers the FREEDOM to teach.
Suggest to your friend that she ask THAT of the politicians putting on this show, and let us all know the reaction.
My prediction? Blank stares, followed by a list of reasons why autonomy simply can't be allowed.
I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be. Albert Einstein
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