Post # 1
I just read an opinion article about how to fix American schools (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/18/opinion/nocera-how-to-fix-the-schools.html?_r=1).
One of the arguments is to improve teacher education to focus more on pedagogy and to generally increase the amount that teachers learn while in school. Another argument is to treat teachers like professionals.
…so the current teachers aren’t properly prepared to be educators, but they should be treated as professionals…
Now, I am a teacher. The school I attended to become a teacher is excellent, and the program I followed was highly theoretical. At first, that was a problem because I literally had NO instruction on classroom management. However, now that I have been teaching for years, I draw regularly on the theory I learned to inform my teaching practice, and all the other stuff has come through trial, error, and personal research. I am currently taking classes to obtain my special education certification, and though I have taken a total of seven classes, I have not learned anything new. The difference between the two programs is SO different…one was valuable; the other is a waste of money but for the fact that without it I can’t get certified to teach special education.
So anyway…can we improve our schools? Do you believe in public education?
Post # 3
Interesting question. Honestly, I have a hard time seeing a world where government can “fix” the state of education. All the education reform that has been proposed and/or implimented so far seems to be made from “on high”, i.e. it sounds great, but, in practice, it just doesn’t work. It’s hard, because the people making decisions seem to be so out of touch with what’s actually happening. I also tend to disagree that teacher education is at fault here. Yes, I have attended several teaching courses that seem to cater to the lowest common denominator. However, as you mentioned, a lot of the learning will come with application of the principles that have been taught. I don’t really know how to reconcile this problem (how can you really make the curriculum “better” without pairing it with experience?). Continuing education seems like a viable solution, but I haven’t seen the impact of it (I am from Ohio, where you continuing education & an eventual MA is required to teach). Finally, I’m honestly not sure that teacher performance is our biggest problem. Teachers & parents need to work hand in hand and I think that the “at home life” of Americans and the “us versus them” mentality is probably what differs here in America more than teacher competency.
All that said, I do disagree with some teaching methods that I see being used, and I don’t think they are necessarily helping the problem. I’m not so sure that this is the BIGGEST problem, though.
(Disclaimer: I’m not a teacher, I was a French/Classical languages major who took many education courses, and sat in on many high school classes while in college. I am now a Master’s student in French education, so I’m happy to be corrected on any of the above points, this is simply my perception based on my experiences in school & with friends/family members who are teachers 🙂 )
Post # 4
Do you want to teach French? I think that’s awesome!
I don’t think the government necessarily has to be the one to fix the problems…but since public education is essentially government, it makes sense that it would be.
Teacher education programs should focus on pedagogy, theory, and a lot of practical experience. Teachers should learn inquiry and ways to reflect on their practices so they can constantly strive to learn better methods of teaching. NYU, I believe, has students in the classroom for FOUR YEARS before they graduate. Student teachers’ experiences vary GREATLY from school to school (meaning those they are placed in), too. I did student teaching in three separate schools, and in only one of those schools was I required to do anything remotely connected to actual teaching.
I absolutely agree that teachers and parents should work together, but I don’t think teachers can rely on that partnership. That’s not fair to the kids.
Post # 5
@peachacid: I agree that it doesn’t have to be government, but they do have the most power in the situation. I just wish legislators didn’t seem so out of touch about education.
I don’t think teacher’s can rely on the partnership, either. I was just annoyed when the article mentions one difference between the US & these other countries with better public education, and ignore other things. I know several Asian parents, and they are VERY insistent that their children do well in school. They really push them to succeed academically. I hope no one is offended, as I am not trying to stereotype, but only to point out a cultural difference, and another possible reason that their schools may function differently than ours. There are many variables other than teacher education.
Do you agree, then, that teacher education is the issue in the US? I have never really seen it that way, but I suppose I may change my view as I continue my education. My hope is to eventually get a PhD & to teach college level, though I’ll probably spend some time in high school/middle school teaching French or Latin. I’m nervous that I’ll despise all the bureaucracy, though lol.
Post # 6
I love a lot of what Marc Tucker says in this article. It reminds me of this cartoon (one of my favorites)
There are so many things wrong with our educational system, I don’t know where to begin. I think the essential problem is that our teachers are undervalued, as Marc Tucker says. There is an adversarial approach in dealing with teachers from the top (the administration) to the bottom (the parents). It’s unrealistic to think that students wouldn’t take note of this dynamic and use it to their advantage. It’s difficult to demand accountablity for students when the teachers aren’t respected and given the support they need. I also believe that our reliance on standardized testing to distinguish those with the potential for sucess, from those who deem as unintelligent (failures, as it were), is misleading and ineffective. I’ve heard of a style (I don’t know much information on the subject) where the teaching is flipped in a sense. Learning the lessons happens at home through the technology available (computers and such) and the actual practice (homework) takes place in the classroom. Again, I don’t know much about this new system being presented, but I do think it could potentially be highly effective when we take into account how many tend to learn, which is through practice. This way you have the teacher present during the application of what was learned during the lesson at home. The cons: Accountablity at home. How do we make sure the students learn the lesson at home? Many parents would be no help in the matter. Another con is that this new system can be intimidating to teachers, especially older ones who are set in their ways. I don’t have an answer for any of this nor am I very knowledgable on the subject, but I hope to believe that we can reform education, protect the teachers, and benefit the students.
Post # 7
@peachacid: “One of the arguments is to improve teacher education to focus more on pedagogy and to generally increase the amount that teachers learn while in school. Another argument is to treat teachers like professionals.”
This is the way I see it:
I don’t know how much pedagogy teachers learn, so I can’t say anything about that, but from having been the product of a broken inner-city school district up to a certain age as well as having friends who are teachers, I do believe in what Nocera calls “a mastery of the subject matter” being important. My impression from friends who have gone into teaching is that they are taught a lot of pedagogy and don’t necessarily master the subject material that they’re teaching. You can’t teach something without mastering the material. Plus, when I was growing up, in the inner cities where they didn’t have enough teachers, teachers didn’t necessarily need to be certified in the subject matter they were teaching when there was a lack of professionals to fill that spot. That is a complete disservice to our children. So yeah, I do agree with that.
I guess all I have to say about the second point you bring up is that teachers need to be treated like professionals in order to improve the status that the teaching profession has, so we can attract our brightest to become teachers. Plus, they’re educating our future generations, so yes they should be treated like professionals. They are professionals. I don’t think it’s contradictory because I think he’s talking about good/qualified teachers. Good teachers should be one of the most highly respected professionals, along with the healthcare professionals who cure diseases and save lives every day. It’s unfortunate that in this country neither is respected at the level it should be, from what I’ve seen.
Post # 8
Or, we could just pay them more andtheme them that their time and money is worth it. We can make it easier for them to do continuing education so what they may miss they can fill in. By paying them more, it becomes a profession. Look at medicine and the fact that we don’t have enoughprimary care because they don’t get paid enough. Or the fact a teacher told my sister she was too smart to be a teacher, and it’s cheaper for her to be a sahm instead of in the classroom.
Post # 9
I’m not a teacher, so my thoughts are based on my public school K-12 education.
(1) Pay teachers more. In the district where I went to school, the teachers could not afford to even live in any of the towns. They were forced into long commutes to get to an actual affordable neighborhood.
(2) Give money for supplies. I can’t remember how many times teachers sent home letters begging for supplies, or even tissues, for the classroom. My schools had a limit of how many photocopies a teacher could make per year. It made things really interesting towards the end of the year whenever everything (literally, everything) was done on an overhead projector.
(3) Accountability. Teachers, for the most part, know what they’re doing. But there are some who really, really have slipped and need to be held accountable for their poor education quality, rather than hiding under the shroud of “tenure” or “professional status.” If your students routinely are missing the same thing, it might be an issue with teaching style, not with the students.
(4) Encourage, and reward, advanced education and specialized training. A Master’s Degree, PhD, or CAGS certifications should set you forward and make you a more attractive teacher to retain, and should be rewarded as such. After undertaking such expensive programs, it’s also very important to reiterate their importance, rather than overburdening underpaid teachers with more student loans. Even a tuition reimbursement/matching type program could be really effective here.
(5) Respect the job teachers do. Teachers aren’t babysitters. Parents need to recognize that educating full classes is not an easy job, and they aren’t there just to keep the kids busy for a day (more aimed towards elementary school-aged kids)
Post # 10
@peachacid: This article is interesting. I’m also a teacher but I live and work in Korea.
America spends the highest amount of money per student, yet our education does not reflect this. I’m a fan of education vouchers. Instead of the government deciding what schools the kids go to and how the money is spent, parents get a “tuition voucher” from the government to pay tuition at a private school. Private schools have long been more effective, producing better educated students. This way, the government doesn’t have to spend any more money, and the kids will get a good education.
Post # 11
@abbie017: Let me preface this by saying I hate Chris Christie. However, I found it very interesting that he offered this deal to the teachers’ union in NJ. He would pay the accomplished, well-reviewed teachers more, if he could fire the bad teachers who are protected by the programs you mentioned. The teachers’ union said no.
I understand that they want to protect themselves, but it seems really sad to me that they’re looking out for the bad teachers first, instead of the students.
Post # 12
@AlwaysSunny: Teachers who are against merit pay are not against it because they are ‘protecting’ bad teachers, but because there is no system in place to fairly evaluate a ‘good’ teacher from a ‘bad’ teacher.
Many states, including NY, are now using state test scores as part of the evaluation, which is very scary. I work in a pretty middle class district, however, 2 of the schools are in significantly lower income areas. One of the schools in particular struggles with state test scores from year to year- is that because the teachers are ‘bad’, or are there other factors in play- like homelife and socio-economic issues? Unfortunately, there is no accounting for those factors in a student’s performance.
Last year I had a class of students of which half of them had scored poorly on the state tests the year before, while another teacher had a class where maybe a quarter of them came in below standard. What were the chances that my end of the year test scores would be as good as the teacher who had a class that started out at a higher level? One more point about test scores is that some years my test scores are awesome, while other years they are average- is that because I’m a bad teacher some years and a great teacher another year? No.
@peachacid: This is a great thread! I wish we had the answers! In short, I think one of the most important factors is better teacher preparation. You mentioned NYU having students in the classroom for 4 years before they graduate and I think that is rare. I’ve read about schools in Norway (or maybe it was Finland??) where teachers are in mentor schools before they are in a classroom on their own. I think that could make a big difference.
I also think that teacher accountability is very important, but not using one test at the end of the year as the measure of a teacher’s performance. I know teachers get nervous about being oberved, but I think administrators should be visiting classrooms more often to know what is going on in the rooms. Now, I don’t think these observations need to be written up as formal observations each time, but you can see a lot through an informal visit to a classroom. Unfortunately, I know administrators are now completely overwhelmed with paperwork because of new government regulations, making this less likely to happen.
And my final point….our country’s respect for the importance of education needs to change. Too many people just don’t value education, leading to a lack of support and a child who is not motivated to make school a priority. How in the world do we change this?
Post # 13
I strongly support public education. I don’t pretend to have the answers for how to improve struggling schools; I’m not an expert. But neither are many of the people who are designing education “reform.”
What infuriates me is how teachers have become such a political scapegoat. I don’t understand it. The idea that public school teachers are somehow living high on the hog, indifferent or hostile to their students, flies in the face of the reality of teachers buying supplies out of their own money, taking jobs that pay less than they could earn in other professions, and putting up with all kinds of insults from parents, kids, and politicians. Yes, there are bad teachers, of course. Just like there are bad lawyers, doctors, secretaries, marketing executives, plumbers, take your pick. Every single job in the world has people who are lazy or incompetent. But we don’t blame their failings on the entire profession.
My bias: I went to one of those “awful” public high schools. I entered with a freshman class of about 750; I graduated in a class of 400. My school had a day care affiliated with it – for the STUDENTS. But those problems were not the fault of the teachers. Sure, I had some lousy ones! But I also had some incredibly dedicated, effective teachers. Despite having little native talent for math, I scored a 5 on the BC-level AP calculus exam, because I had such an amazing teacher. I had similarly great English, history, physics, and theater teachers. I was lucky enough to attend an Ivy-league college, and I was not at any disadvantage compared to my friends who’d attended expensive, prestigous private schools.
The problems my school had were a result of poverty and the legacy of Jim Crow. Plain and simple. And it’s insane to expect teachers to somehow fix that.
Post # 14
Post # 15
@AlwaysSunny: The problem with vouchers is that the amount of money that would go to each one would not cover the tuition at a private school…it would cover tuition at a Catholic or other religious school. That flies in the face of separation of church and state. Further, private schools have no obligation to enroll, teach, and provide for students with disabilities (ranging from learning differences to physical disabilites to severe disabilities). So, students go to Catholic schools and the public schools are left full of “undesirable” students (behavior problems, kids with learning problems, kids with disabilities). The schools will have even less money than they did because the vouchers take money from the schools.
Vouchers would only serve to dismantle public education. Our goal should be to IMPROVE and FIX schools.
Post # 16
I’m currently getting my BS in Early Childhood Education from the top school in the state. We focus on a lot of the same things as you, peachacid – pedagogy, reflective teaching, authentic assessment, etc. It’s some really great stuff. We have a few hundred hours in the classroom before we ever student teach. Most of our classes have a 15-20 hour field experience requirement. The semester before we student teach, we TOSS, which is 10 weeks of instruction and 5 weeks in the classroom.
A major problem we’re facing in the US is (aside from the previously mentioned political scapegoat post), it’s politicians and lawyers and businessmen who are trying to fix the system. Where are the teachers? People who have been in the classroom are the only ones who can understand what truly goes on in there. They are the ones who need to be fixing it.
What do you ladies think of Common Core? It’s a big topic in my classes right now since it’s being implemented soon. They started in Georgia this school year, and the new testing system will come in 2014, my first year teaching.