Saturday, September 24, 2011
How Does One Define A "Quality Teacher"? To The Various Groups It Means Many Different Things.
Everybody wants a "quality teacher" in the classroom. It doesn't matter if you are a traditional educator or an education reformer, a "quality teacher" is an important element for successful student academic achievement. The problem lies with the definition of what is a "quality teacher"?
Most people in education believe that a "quality teacher" is a teacher that rises student academic achievement and is a dependable and reliable presence in the classroom. However, beyond these general elements there is a wide difference of opinion on the specifics of what is a "quality teacher"?
Pseudo Education Reform:
It is easy to discount this group. The Bloomberg/Klein/Walcott political rhetoric that the "best teachers" are the young and cheap teachers, many of them recruited from alternate teaching programs like the "Teaching Fellows" or "Teach For America" who seem to disappear from teaching a few years down the road (E4E leadership are a prime example). For these politicians it is simply "education on the cheap" and a temporary, replaceable teaching staff means low salaries and no vesting rights for pensions and retiree health benefits. I am sure you all remember Mayor Bloomberg's press conference where he called experienced teachers irrelevant. These pseudo education reformers are simply people who want to reduce public education expenditures by encouraging Charter schools, reducing funding to public schools, and eliminating union protections.
For many education reformers the "quality teacher" is by far the most important factor in student learning. These same education reformers ignore class sizes, social-economic issues, Administrative competence, and lack of school resources as factors in student academic achievement. Furthermore, these education reformers blame teacher unions for many of the problems in schools. For example, they claim that teachers have "tenure for life", knowing full well that teachers accused of incompetence or misconduct can be terminated at an Administrative hearing in front of an impartial Arbitrator where the school board can present their case against the teacher. To most of us this is called "due process". Furthermore, the education reformers claim that teachers get automatic tenure. Again, this is a lie. Tenure can only be granted by an Administrator after three years of satisfactory service. Tenure can be denied or a teacher's probation can be extended until the Principal is satisfied that the teacher deserves tenure. Therefore, tenure is awarded not automatic and tenured teachers can still be terminated if the school district presents sufficient evidence to prove teacher incompetence or misconduct. Many education reformers support Charter schools and vouchers and believe that technology is a way to improve student academic achievement. Some of these reformers even believe that technology can replace teachers and support online learning as a way to improve student learning. In New York City $50 million dollars are being wasted in the izone program where almost all student learning is done online with little or no teacher interaction and at best has been received mixed reviews by schools who are part of the program. In fact, in Minnesota there are more dropouts in these online learning schools than regular public schools.To the education reformers a "quality teacher" is a teacher that raises student scores on standardized tests (test prep), and are always available day and night for student needs. Moreover, a "quality teacher" is a teacher willing to take over many non-teaching duties, without added compensation and does not hide behind the union contract. That is why the education reformers love Charter schools since teachers must do additional duties besides teaching, work an extended day and year, and have little "due process" in hiring/firing decisions. Of course the education reformers ignore the high teacher turnover and burnout that comes with their definition of a "quality teacher".
The vast majority of educators who came from the classroom understand that education can be improved by slowly and carefully incorporating new ideas and testing them in the classroom. For example technology can aid teaching by supporting a lesson rather than replacing the lesson with its own. For the traditional educator a "quality teacher" is a teacher that not only know the curriculum but can go deeper into what each lesson means to student learning. Further, the "quality teacher" has the ability to tailor his or her lesson to best help the students in maximizing their academic improvement. In other words, "let teachers teach" A "quality teacher" can enhance the curriculum by telling his or her students a story that shows how a lesson comes alive and why it is important to understand the significance of the subject taught to the student. A "quality teacher" has the ability to place the student into the lesson taught and actually experience the academic significance in the real world. An example is to teach lower grades the significance of Math by using money to buy food to eat, buy toys, and save. For many traditional educators, a "quality teacher" is a teacher that can successfully impart knowledge, cares for the students, and can handle classroom management issues to maximize student academic achievement. Additionally, manageable class sizes, adequate resources, and Administrative support are all an integral part of being a "quality teacher".
The bottom line is a "quality teacher" is a one of the many important elements of student academic achievement. However, the definition of a "quality teacher" is very different for the different groups who dominate education policy and that is the major problem in shaping a truly effective education policy.