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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bad teachers or wrong priorities?

Paul Karrer, who teaches fifth-grade in Castroville, California, takes a look at our policymakers’ obsession with bad teachers. Who are they? How can they be found out and fired?

Here is one example of a bad teacher:

“The Low Score bad teacher — Education reformers want high-stakes testing to be a prime determinant in teacher evaluation. But if one looks under the tests, interesting facts pop up. Often, teachers who were Teacher of the Year find they are considered bad teachers in the following years. How can this be? Because class composition changes. Teaching assignments (grade-level) change. And unlike charter schools, which expel obstructive, destructive and obnoxious kiddos — those in the public realm must teach all the kids. Just one grade-A-whack-a-mole angry student can destroy a classroom. Many teachers have many more than one. Such a child’s presence is subtractive to the learning environment of others.”
There are more.

But who is behind this pursuit and does it make sense?

“My point in all this is to show that variables — normal life variables — impact classroom outcomes. When pregnant teachers, their compassionate spouses and ill teachers are labeled as bad teachers, something is very, very wrong.
“The profit-oriented talking heads of education reform want to monetize public education. Ed reformers would have us believe poverty, trauma, parental drug use, violence, incarceration and homelessness have no impact. Teachers are losing their profession. Kids are losing their teachers. And communities are losing the democratic concept of public schooling.
“In the end, it is the wealthy profiteers and captains of privatization who are pointing fingers at hard-pressed teachers who work in communities of failure. It is a much easier political fix to scream “fire” than it is to acknowledge the conditions of poverty. And it makes money for a few too.”