I have survived the Bloomberg pogrom. Now its time to put me back into the classroom to help the students succeed.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
It's The Teacher's Fault
A student, lets call him "Kenny", comes from a high poverty family. His father has long ago left the family and he is being raised with his three siblings by a mother who relies on government support to feed and clothe her family, despite working full time. Unfortunately, her job is low wage and she struggles financially to keep her family together. Furthermore, she has little time or money to take her children on trips to expand their education. In the house, there are no books, or adults around at night to tell them stories at bedtime. Instead "Kenny" and his siblings entertain themselves watching television or hanging out with friends.
"Kenny" is having problems in school both academically and behaviorally. He reads at a grade level three grades below his peers and has an IEP for inappropriate behaviors which the school provides services for. However, despite the school giving "Kenny" free breakfast and lunch, he does not show up to take advantage of the free breakfast service. You see "Kenny" fails to wake up to get to school on time since he stays up to 3am playing video games or watch television since his mother works the overnight shift and has to wake up "Kenny" when she arrives home at 9:00am. Therefore, "Kenny" is habitually late and hungry as he enters school and has already missed his first three classes of the day. In class he has poor work habits, does not do his homework, tests poorly, and falls to sleep on occasion. Worse, he is extremely disruptive when awake and hassles the children next to him.
Does "Kenny" sound like some of your students? Of course he does. We all have a "Kenny" or two in our classes but in some schools, especially, in high poverty neighborhoods. These high poverty schools have quite a few "Kennys" in their classes. This makes teaching in the classroom of high poverty schools a challenge. Yet if you ask educational reform groups they claim that Kenny"s" academic difficulties is not the effects of poverty or family life butfrom "ineffective teachers". These education reformers, led by Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee claim that poverty is "no excuse" for poor academic performance as they are deliberately blind to the effects of poverty on academic achievement.
Unfortunately, the education reform movements has deep pockets (Bill Gates) and have the support of politicians on both sides of the aisle. Even President Obama, no friend of teachers, require a teacher evaluation system, complete with "junk science" as a condition to obtain federal dollars. Is it any wonder that teacher satisfaction with their profession is at an all time low? According to the latest data, the teacher job satisfaction rate has dropped an astounding 23% in the last five years. This drop in teacher satisfaction rates can be attributed to the rise in non-educators in top education positions. For example how many days has Arne Duncan taught in the classroom? The right answer is "zero days". The last four New York City Chancellors had to get waivers to do their job since they were not certified educators. Now hedge fund managers and politicians are the prime movers in opening up charter schools with high teacher turnover rates.
For the education reformers and the politicians that support them it is more convenient to scapegoat teachers and blame them for student academic shortfall than the high poverty family environment that is highly correlated to student achievement. In other words, it is the teacher's fault.