As this year’s Teacher Appreciation Week ends, Americans might want to think about a country without real teachers.
In the future, technology may control and monitor children. Their data will continue to be sought after by companies. Teaching will increasingly be about profitmaking, and tutors or fast-track trained Teach for America types will supervise classrooms where they exist as cyber charters.
This country hasn’t supported its teachers for years. Schools have let go of them with little outcry. Many school librarians, music and art teachers have lost their jobs.
Even now, despite all the teacher shortage talk, many excellent teachers around the country were pink-slipped last year due to budget cuts.
Teachers have, over the years, lost their jobs when their schools closed due to poor test scores and reopened as charter schools.
Teachers are also driven out. They’re tired of crumbling buildings, school shootings, those who aren’t teachers telling them how and what to teach, and being blamed for the pandemic and their efforts to improve student equity.
Here are a few myths.
“Teachers failed during the pandemic.”
At the start of the pandemic corporate reformers praised the use of technology and seemed to miscalculate, believing that parents would love their children at home working online. But that notion failed.
Now that Covid is in our rearview mirrors (mostly), it’s easy to blame teachers because students are a few points down on their NAEP tests.
Drs. Tom Kane and Sean Reardon, economists who work on education issues, wrote in The New York Times, Parents Don’t Understand How Far Behind in School Their Kids Are.
Their information was collected by researchers from Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins and the company NWEA.
The NWEA sells assessments and became a constant critic of schools and children falling behind during the pandemic.
NWEA is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who aren’t fans of public schools, and who support a variety of nonprofits and programs that repeatedly imply that teachers fail. They also backed Common Core State Standards.
Mr. Gates has stated that master’s degrees and teaching experience make no difference, in other words teachers should not return to school to learn how to be better at what they do.
Many crisis titles like this have been in the media to scare parents. Here’s the solution given by Kane and Reardon:
Communities must find other ways to add learning opportunities outside the typical school calendar. Most educational software — like Zearn and Khan Academy — makes it possible to track students’ use and progress. Schools could incentivize organizations working with students after school, on weekends or during school vacation weeks to include time for students to learn online and then reimburse them based on students’ progress. Some districts are even paying tutoring providers based on student outcomes.
“Anyone can teach, and Colleges of Education aren’t necessary.”
There’s much tutor talk, but tutors aren’t teachers. The likelihood that students will have experts with subject knowledge or teachers who understand child development and how to teach will dim when professional education schools disappear.
Teacher education schools can improve, and chances are some are better than others, but ending the schools that make teachers is a bad omen. Still, negative voices seem to prevail.
One of the worst statements involved Larry Arnn, president of the conservative institution Hillsdale College, which runs charter schools, who disparaged teachers when he met with Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, saying anybody can do it, and that he had no confidence in colleges of education.
He said, “They are the dumbest part of every college” and “teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country.”
“Schools don’t need teachers with teacher certification.”
Like education schools to make credible teachers, teacher certification has always been to reassure parents that their students were getting teachers who studied what they taught. Teacher certification used to be critical to hiring.
Principals used to struggle, for example, to find certified special ed. teachers. Teachers had to present proof of their degrees and experience. If they didn’t have it, they had to take courses to get it.
Last year Truthout described how ALEC was driving alternative credentialing, another way of saying teachers won’t need to get the instruction necessary to be good teachers.
There’s some pushback. The report studies Arizona and quotes Arizona State University education psychologist and former president of the American Educational Research Association, David Berliner:
With Arizona trying to get education monies to parents directly to pay for schooling — including homeschooling — you see more evidence that the state doesn’t care who teaches its kids. Charters and private schools for years have not needed certified folks running schools or teaching kids — as long as the voucher for the kids shows up. Combined with its new law creating a universal voucher system, Arizona may now be the most radical state in terms of education policy.
Anti-CRT activist Christopher Rufo claims teachers don’t need to hold education degrees greater than a bachelor’s degree, connects teachers to left-wing ideology.
“Teaching is a calling, and teachers don’t need much pay.”
Teachers are often referred to as missionaries, a point recently echoed by New York City’s mayor Eric Adams. Adams said on Twitter: Teaching is a calling. You don’t do it for the money, you do it because you believe in the kids that come into your classrooms.
The fact that it has also always been predominantly a female job means that teachers have had to struggle to obtain decent pay.
Also, in 1990, Teach for America heralded a new temporary, cheaper way to make teachers with five weeks of training and it has been downhill for the teaching profession ever since. It’s not that some of these students aren’t well-meaning or that they might continue after their 2 or 3-year stint in the classroom, to learn to be a real teacher. It’s the power grab they’ve used to proclaim they are education experts arrogantly.
TFA opened the door to other nonprofits, like Teach Plus, and alternative teacher residency programs.
But if America wants students with promising futures, they need to invest in teachers and university schools where they can learn to be professionals who stay teaching for a long-term career.
“Schools are better when they revolve around the marketplace.”
Public schools are now called an industry and schools, taxpayer dollars, make money for various businesses, not the public school or the teacher.
Advanced Placement which involves privatizing high school instruction is a good example. Teachers used to control the curriculum. They taught subjects according to plans and programs they chose. Now they follow the College Board’s rules for AP and testing.
There are many online programs that have reduced what real teachers have done in the past to plan and prepare students, but there’s no assurance that students will learn well.
There has been little evidence that the above noted privatized programs work. Most have been around for years.
But the push for school privatization marches on. When the last real teacher says goodbye, it will be a huge loss. Only then, will many Americans finally realize how much they really did appreciate their teachers.
Kane, T. and Reardon, S. (2023, May 11). Parents Don’t Understand How Far Behind in School Their Kids Are. The New York Times, Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/05/11/opinion/pandemic-learning-losses-steep-but-not-permanent.html.