Sunday, June 04, 2017

Stop Blaming Teachers For Student Issues Beyond Their Control.

Personally, I am sick and tired of being blamed for student academic issues, misbehavior, and their poor choice of friends that I have no control of.  Yet, under Barack Obama's misguided Race To The Top, all teachers must be evaluated on student growth factors using "junk Science".  In New York State, 50% of a teacher's evaluation is based upon the useless Value Added Method (VAM) which has been found to be invalid in a court case.

In fact, a most quoted study by the American Statistical Association found that a teacher's impact on a student ranges from as little as 1% for middle and high school students to 14% for early elementary school students who stay with one teacher during the school day.  Other studies show that schools make up approximately 20% of the growth of a child.  The remaining 80% of student growth is based upon social-economic factors that schools have no control of and include the following.

  • Family
  • Community
  • Peers
  • Role models
Yet, child advocates and their media and political allies ignore the non-school growth factors and concentrate on the schools, especially the teachers.  These same advocates tell schools to stop suspensions and arrests and instead, give out "warning cards" or restorative justice and dump these students right back into the classroom to disrupt academic learning and hurt the classroom's academic achievement, which of course, is then blamed on the teacher.

Ask school Deans about the problem students in their school and you find there is a common factor like that few have a father that is part of the family. Moreover, they have friends who are known troublemakers and may be part of a gang.  Finally, many of them have developmental issues and are usually placed in Special Education classes.  The child advocates will loudly proclaim that school discipline is "racist" because most suspensions and arrests are Black or Latino boys.  Duh, the New York City Public Schools have a majority of Black and Latino students and boys of all races are usually associated with more serious school incidents then the girls.

Yet, student social-economic factors and poverty are ignored simply because its too hard and complicated to cure.  Therefore, a convenient scapegoat is needed and since you cannot blame the dysfunctional family or a community who's male role models are hanging on the street corners, day or night, selling drugs, gambling, or  participating in other illegal activities, just blame it on the schools, especially the teachers for student academic problems!

We have a progressive Mayor and a union that is part of the problem by ignoring the social-economic factors that affect student growth and while I understand the Mayor's ideology that its better to place the blame on society's failure to improve the social-economic conditions of the City on Donald Trump and the schools, while ignoring the highest class sizes in the State, use of uncertified teachers, and pushing out veteran educators by the flawed 3020-a discipline process, our union gets no such pass.  Our union should be loudly and clearly pointing out the city's failure to correct the social-economic issues that plague far too many students and interfere with student academic achievement.  Yet, our union remains passively silent as the City and the DOE continues to blame teachers for student issues beyond their control.


Bronx ATR said...

I agree with everything you wrote. Unspoken rule, that was once was spoken, was branded into us - you must never blame the student or the parent. I remember one superintendent screaming that statement over and over at the top of lungs on a loud speaker in early 2002. The UFT rep then got up and said that that was the correct approach, we must look at what we are doing or not doing as the cause of student problems. I had this conversation with Niles recently and posted it - . I think the UFT should be in the forefront in publically acknowledging teachers are not the culprits for low achieving students. The UFT is afraid of offending everyone but the rank and file.

Anonymous said...

When I started out teaching in the South Bronx in the 1990's the unspoken word was if you kept an orderly/safe classroom and there were not a lot of fights admins would leave you the hell alone. That fact was true right up till Bloomberg came around and decided that the problems of NYC should be placed on teachers shoulders. Now we are all scapegoats for the ills of society that have been going on non-stop since the 1960's. As long as nuclear families are are broken, there will be wild kids in schools.

Anonymous said...

Where I work we have all immigrant students and they are incidentally all from undeveloped nations. While 10-20% of the kids are nice and want to learn, we have a huge number who are breathtakingly unsuited for life in a modern, Western country.

Imagine in the middle of a high school class students suddenly playing loud music on a cell phone and getting up and dancing, right in the middle of class! Imagine students chasing each other around the room out of nowhere, and ignoring the protestations of the teacher to stop! Imagine 95% of your students NEVER doing any homework, no matter how easy. Try to consider how vulgar and crass students are these days. My students cuss and curse in English and Spanish literally every other word.

They come to school (usually late) for the free lunch, to do their 'business' and to be entertained. They don't care about Western "white man's" knowledge. They want free stuff and a good time. How am I to blame. My admins tell us even that 'teacher-centered learning' is a no-no. We are supposed to now just make 'activity guides' (read: worksheets with bells and whistles) and let the students 'discover' their 'own' learning and 'construct' their 'own' knowledge. So how is their lack of discipline (from their upbringing and culture) and lack of motivation to self-teach my fault?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing such a wonderful piece! I nearly cried when reading it, I agree with you 100% and felt my own words and feeling channeled through your article!

I don't understand why we need to take the blame for everything! I feel so depressed over my job sometimes because of how we are treated.

If you take a student with a family that cares, some money, extracurricular activities, a computer, etc. they generally are successful. But that's not what I teach or see everyday! I have a student who has worn the same clothing since the first day in September! I have students who I spend hundreds of dollars to give snacks to everyday because they have no food. 13 years old who are gang members with tattoos. Parents who curse me out for contacting them at all. A school out of control, with kids blasting music in the halls, breaking windows, police in and out all day.

And then the media, the administration, and society wants to blame me if they don't make it!

I'm at the point where I can't do it anymore. I don't wanted to be treated like a saint, I just didn't want to be the scapegoat. I cared, I wanted to give and contribute to society, and make a living doing so. Instead, I'm a demeaned babysitter!

Pissedoffteacher said...

My niece kept her 14 year old home 3 days to care for her younger bros ther and tehntook her out of school to be her date at an award luncheon and then took her out twice more to attend events at little brother's school. No teacher can cope with this.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone else being forced to go to a restorative justice professional development over 5 days in June? If so does anyone have any details on what it actually is. No one is giving us any information at my school.

Anonymous said...

The UFT is a not do anything organization. They do nothing.

Anonymous said...

To 7:15 I had that training. It is basically new age feelings crap. Be prepared to sit in a big circle with a saw control freak who will tell you to tell all your dark secrets and traumatic events in public. They bill it as Native American talk therapy. I found it to be commie psycho babble.

Anonymous said...

Yes the restorative justice is another good idea in practice but in reality it's laughable

Anonymous said...

"So how is their lack of discipline (from their upbringing and culture) and lack of motivation to self-teach my fault?" It's not your fault, and they know it. Everyone knows it. I am serious, everyone deep down knows it. Your assistant principal knows it, your principal knows it, the UFT knows it, the superintendents know it, Farina knows it and the Mayor knows it. The kids even know it. Seriously, if "push came to shove" and all had to be honest, all I listed above would admit the teacher can only do so much. Yet there is still this bullshit system hanging over our heads just waiting to be dropped when we can't perform miracles. It's our profession's "Sword of Damocles".

I thought the link that Bronx ATR gave in his comment was good in revealing some of the basic roots to the problem. I'd give that a look if you haven't already. As for my own personal opinion on why the teacher always gets the blame, I'll offer it knowing not all will agree.

The envy of the time off we get, the pension, health benefits, the liberal politically correct society we have generally become not wanting to offend anyone, a paper tiger union that refuses to truly fight back, the general stereotype many have about teachers whether they be on the "geeky" looking side or the stereotype that the job isn't that demanding, the fact that as a society we cannot leave countless thousands of students behind - are we really going to have thousands upon thousands of students in this city and country turn 30 years of age and not make it past the 8th grade? Yet the truth is - YES - there are tens of thousands of 30 year olds in this country who should have never made it passed the 8th grade in a system teachers are in charge of educating. This city/country will never let that happen, so a system is created that everyone passes - certainly more than past decades and if any blame must be put out there, it's the teacher who is unfortunately on the low end of the power structure that is going to get it. Easier to blame the teacher than solve the countless issues that distract today's students from becoming motivated to learn.

The system here in the city is a "shit show". We all know that. Yes, there are outstanding schools, but the fact remains, a good chunk of the schools as I've said in the past must give the illusion of learning so that the reality of the disorder that is happening doesn't leak out and put people's jobs in jeopardy. Everyone participates in this "show" whether it be for a politician's visit, a QR or whatever the case may be. How many of us have prepped kids before a visit we knew was coming? All of us in some way.

The system has truly become "cut throat" with everyone above each other doing what they must to stay on the job and collect. Some know how to play the game without harming the individual below them while some lack any semblance of humanity and common sense - these are the individuals who will hurt teachers, and yes they are out there. Really, it's the luck of the draw as to who you work for and what building you travel to every morning.

Everyone knows it's not the teacher's fault! But the teacher gets the beat down because they are the lowly ones in the room with the superintendents, administrators, politicians, etc. Teachers are ultimately the one's in front of the classroom and the truth as we all know it is that it is so easy to blame us. Yeah, it's that simple and cliche - someone needs to take the blame - blame it on the "nerdy" teacher who works less than 200 days a year, has a pension and gets health benefits. It really is as simple as that in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the wrong policies are bringing us in the wrong direction.

Dude said...

"Teachers, it is all your fault, all of it. But, the students need a longer day and a longer school year". Lol