A few things happened in the last couple of days that have a impact not only on teachers, but on workers’ rights, and women’s rights. And, the future of education in this country.
A lawsuit was brought in California to stop tenure to ensure that all “bad teachers” are fired. This suit was bought by nine students, but funded by http://studentsmatter.org/ lead by Dave Welch, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Interestingly enough, one of the “grossly ineffective” teachers named was recently named “Teacher of the Year”. More links and information can be found here. http://dianeravitch.net/2014/06/11/were-the-vergara-trial-teachers-grossly-ineffective-no/
Then today, USA Today published an ad encouraging states to sue to eliminate tenure for teachers. Now, keep in mind that almost every government job is unionized and that it is very difficult to fire a union employee. But, no one is saying to sue to have policemen or firemen be at will employees. Tenure makes it difficult to fire teachers, and there is due process, but it is not impossible. Is there room for changes? Sure. But, who is to decide who exactly these bad teachers are?
Is it the teachers who teach the neediest of special needs students who no matter what a teacher can do for them will never score better then a “1” on a state assessment? Is it the teacher who has a class for students made up of six different languages and so the students struggle on ELA assessments? Is it the teacher in a Chicago school who has a student that cannot concentrate because a brother was killed in the 19th gang related murder this year? Is the final determinant of what makes a bad teacher Pearson/PARCC exams that are kept under gag order so that the public cannot see them?
To be honest, for quite some time I questioned teachers having a union because they are professionals, and should be accountable as professionals. But, doctors who work at NYC hospitals have a union. http://doctorscouncil.com/. After a while, I modified my position, thinking that teachers who are willing to work in urban areas should have union protection, but maybe not suburbs, because, well do they really need them? And, when teachers in Wisconsin went on strike to protest Scott Walker’s policies, I thought they were ridiculous, striking at a time when the economy was falling about and unemployment the highest it had been in decades.
But when hedge fund managers, (remember who caused the economy to collapse) are complaining that teachers “make too much money”, well, now I understand why teachers need union protection and due process.
Not only that, but keep in mind that the teaching profession is mostly women, over 75% of primary school teachers and over 50% of middle school and high school teachers. How can there be a wholesale attack on a profession dominated by women, and no female politicians speaking up about it?
Do we really want our school districts to become a revolving door for teachers, or worse, Teach for America 2 year contractors? Or do we want experienced, dedicated teachers who remain part of our school communities? Schools with a good mix of experience and new teachers to share experience and new ideas? Or a pool of newbies every couple of years with no depth of experience?
Finally, do you really think it is an easy job to manage and teach a room full of six year olds or teenagers for six hours a day?