"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Monday, March 12, 2012

Shocking News -- Teacher Morale Lowest it's been in Decades

It's official. The job satisfaction of American teachers has dropped to the lowest point in decades. (Hint: A Nation at Risk was published in 1983.) According to the 2012 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, about a third of our public school teachers are considering a job change.

Does this surprise anyone who is familiar with what's been happening to public schools since A Nation at Risk?

Dennis Van Roekel, NEA President who has been buddying up to the public school killers in the US DOE,
described this finding as “shocking” and said it was clear evidence that ill-conceived economic policies are having devastating consequences on teachers and students across the country.
He's right, of course, but shocking? Only if you haven't been paying attention. I'm guessing that DVR's comment is more a political statement than actual shock. He knows full well that the corporate reformers and the religious right have been working to privatize public education for decades...the latter for conservative religious reasons, the former out of greed. They've joined together to kill the profession of teaching by removing collective bargaining and teachers' job security -- by taking away their professionalism and autonomy. They have made the job of teaching so stressful that only the most selfless, dedicated teachers, or the most self-destructive, would continue to beat their heads against the corporate wall day after day. They have targeted teachers...in Wisconsin, even after teachers agreed to the State's unreasonable demands...in New York, where public employees were attacked and when the smoke cleared only the teachers were the ones who paid the price...and in Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and elsewhere. Governors and legislators who get their instructions from the Walton Foundation, the Broad Foundation, Bill Gates or ALEC, focus their sights on public schools with increased funding to charters and private schools, while increased "accountability" and decreased funding go to public schools.

Yet it seems that only teachers are accountable. In NYC and Los Angeles, the daily newspapers have listed the teachers and their students' test scores. All the talk from Arne Duncan, the US DOE and President Obama about "not teaching to the test" is just so much hot air. Race to the Top forces states to require teaching to the test or lose funding. Teachers know that they must teach to the test of lose their jobs. The irony is that teachers are being held accountable for teaching what they are being forced to teach. Anthony Cody had this to say in March Madness Begins in Our Schools: It's Test Prep Time...
Sarah Puglisi asks a very potent question:
If a very bad curriculum is mandated script style and it produces poor state test results, say in the adoption of an awful math program and then the insistence of following it lock step, why would the teacher be slammed in value-added measuring in her evaluation when in fact she's following "orders"?
This uncovers the real trouble. While it is supposed to "hold teachers accountable" for results, this system actually DESTROYS genuine accountability, by taking responsibility and agency away from teachers. This system is bound to fail, but meanwhile, our students are being robbed.
Teachers are being forced to teach a certain way and then punished when it doesn't work. With no say in what or how to teach is it any wonder that teacher morale is low? Walt Gardner explains in Killing Teacher Morale Is Easy
Teachers (and their unions) have been made scapegoats for all the ills afflicting public schools. The unrelenting criticism makes them feel unappreciated. It's important to remember that teachers do not choose the profession for fame, fortune or power. They do so because they want to help young people reach their full potential.

It's hard to come away with anything encouraging from the MetLife Survey. I say that after careful consideration because the conditions that are responsible for teacher dissatisfaction today will only get worse in the years ahead. With approximately 2.2 million teachers expected to retire in the next decade, efforts to recruit top talent to the classroom will be a daunting challenge. This will be especially so because 200,000 or more new teachers in math and science alone will be needed. Who will want to make teaching in a public school a career?
(Let's see a show of hands -- Who decided to become a teacher because it was an easy way to get rich?)

Where is the accountability for those who are responsible for 22% of American children living in poverty? Where is the accountability for those who have drained the funding for public education (and, indeed, for the rest of the economy)? Where is the accountability for those who lie about the success of our students and the quality of our teachers?

Lily Eskelsen, NEA's Vice President, reports on the survey, too...
Survey findings reinforce what educators have been saying for years, NEA Vice-president Lily Eskelsen said. Positive working conditions enhance the quality of teaching and learning in all schools. Those conditions come when teachers are given resources, support and opportunities to collaborate and grow.

“We must work to address issues around job satisfaction and turnover rates in high needs schools,” Eskelsen said. “In what other profession are novices assigned the most challenging work, often without adequate resources and support, and expected to flourish?

She added that to have effective teachers in every classroom, there must be adequate induction, mentoring, teacher teams, and professional development.
Yes, teacher morale is lower than it's been in decades.
  • if you had no job security
  • if your job evaluations depended on factors beyond your control
  • if you were demonized daily by the media and politicians
  • if your professional expertise was ignored because you weren't a billionaire
  • if your private personnel information (valid or invalid) were published in the newspaper
  • and if you still had to put in your 50 hours a week just to keep your head above water...
...how would you feel?

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