Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.


Don't Criticize Unless You Have a Solution

The position espoused by this editorial (key quote follows) has one key flaw: where, exactly, are these highly trained teachers going to come from? I completely agree that we need better teachers in our urban schools. I absolutely believe that the right teacher can make a ton of difference. Being a high school media specialist gave me an unusual perspective. Often I saw the same groups of students come in with to do their work with different teachers. With one teacher a class could be absolute hellions and with the next well behaved and hard working. The same students, just different teachers. With a different relationship, a different set of expectations, and a different level of performance and learning taking place. So, yeah, obviously we need better teachers. But where are they?

On average, I'd estimate that 10% of our certified positions remained vacant each year I was there, filled by long-term subs. And many of the trained, certified, "qualified" teachers we did have weren't exactly shining examples of excellence in their profession. But that's all we could get. So if we can't even come up with enough marginally qualified teachers now, how are we supposed to come up with all these "highly qualified" teachers in the future?

Because it's not the most appealing job in the world. Teaching itself is difficult. Being a good teacher takes much more work. And teaching in poor, urban schools is the hardest thing yet. Not just anyone is going to be capable and few of those are going to be interested in doing so. I wasn't great, but was better than many with values that move me to do the work. Even so, I was feeling burned out enough after four years that I decided to take a break from it before I became a part of the problem. So to draw these people you have to provide some pretty good incentives and the support to make it work.

Where are these incentives and support going to come from? That's something the law doesn't ever address. It says to wave a magic wand and create new demands, get rid of all your problem teachers, but provides no finances to do anything different.

. . . It’s impossible to brand No Child Left Behind as a failure, because its agenda has never been carried out. The law was supposed to remake schools that serve poor and minority students by breaking with the age-old practice of staffing those schools with poorly trained and poorly educated teachers. States were supposed to provide students with highly qualified teachers in all core courses by the beginning of the current academic year. That didn’t happen.

The country would be much further down the road toward complying with No Child Left Behind if the Department of Education had given the states clear direction and the technical assistance they needed. Instead, the department simply ignored the provision until recently and allowed states to behave as though the teacher quality problem did not exist. Thanks to this approach, the country must now start from scratch on what is far and away the most crucial provision of the law.

Getting up to speed will not be easy. Most states lack even the most basic systems for overseeing teacher training and the teacher assignment process. Worse still, the practice of dumping poorly qualified teachers into the schools that serve the poorest, neediest children has become second nature in many places.

The battle for teacher quality is just getting under way. The country can either win that battle or watch its fortunes fade as the national work force becomes less and less competitive. Given what’s at stake, the teacher quality provision of No Child Left Behind deserves to be at the very top of the list when Congress revisits the law.


At 12/09/2006 8:36 PM, Blogger The Girl in Black said...

You have entirely too much free time today!

: P

At 12/09/2006 11:14 PM, Blogger Degolar said...

I tend to do things in spurts. I'd been reading and collecting for a couple of days and threw them all up over lunch today. Sorry for dominating all of your blog surfing time.

At 12/11/2006 3:11 AM, Blogger The Girl in Black said...

Talk of domination will only lead us down a path not suitable for your other readers.

; )

Not complaining about all the reading, just teasing you. My mockery comes from envy... as I have woefully been neglecting my readers. Another conversation that would only scare or bore your other readers.


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