The Right War, the Wrong Battle

The United States Public Education System needs work.

This is not a secret, or even an opinion. It’s a complete fact. There are major problems with the public system that is in place from curriculum, to policy, to standards…the whole thing needs an overhaul.

For years politicians have been slapping bandaids on the problems hoping that it will hobble along enough until it falls into the hands of the next poor schmuck who needs to “deal” with it.

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Michelle Rhee

Some people have taken up the cause with the passion that they truly do want to make things better for students and, in turn, the future of the United States.

I believe Michelle Rhee is one of these people.

Now hold on a minute with your torches and pitchforks. Yes, she fired somewhere around a grazillion teachers. Yes, she is in favor of vouchers. Yes, she SEEMS to be pure evil, but I really do think that she started on this path because she wants to improve schools.

I think SHE thinks this is the way to do it.

I also think she is wrong.

Of course I think we have problems with some teachers. There are bad teachers who are still holding onto their jobs. It isn’t good for students, parents, or the excellent teachers who end up lumped in the same category.

We do need effective evaluation systems, but it seems like politicians and administrators are going for a quick fix instead of a real solution. Basing teacher evaluations solely on test scores is arbitrary and doesn’t look at the progress teachers make with students.

For instance, I teach eleventh grade English, but I get students in my class who are at sixth grade reading level, sometimes lower, often times higher. Basing my teacher evaluation only on whether every student passes the same test is ridiculous. What if the student with a sixth grade reading level does NOT pass the test, but in the course of being in my class, moves up to a tenth grade reading level. Should I lose my job?

People like Rhee would say so.

The problem with this theory–one of many problems–is that it seems to support, even encourage, teaching to the test instead of finding best practice strategies for actually educating and teaching students HOW to learn and grow.

What it boils down to is that politicians want to be right, and they want to be the one whose “right answer” fixes something…or seemingly fixes it. So instead of admitting that the system we have is broken all over the place, they dive in an vilify teachers. They make teachers look like selfish ‘union thugs‘ so they can be sacrificed to further their own political agendas.

When teachers have to actually put student needs on the back burner to stand up for their own fair pay and compensation, political types like Rhee burn them at the stake.

If everyone would sit down and talk together–politicians with middle school math teachers, administrators with kindergarten teachers–I think they would see they all want the same thing:  the best for America’s children.

We do need to fight for better public education, but we have to see that the battle is not AGAINST all teachers. Nor is it for the unions to fight  FOR all teachers. Most teachers are doing an amazing job and want to do the best they can for their students. So why not recognize those great teachers and learn from them? And retrain or terminate the ineffective teachers?

Let the great teachers lead the education reform in this country instead of quietly doing their amazing work for fear that they will be sacrificed in the political war on teachers.