Letters to the Editor

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TEACHERS: Don’t base solutions on myths

Letter by Lucinda Wingard, Gig Harbor on Feb. 15, 2011 at 11:06 am with 12 Comments »
February 15, 2011 2:08 pm

Your editorial, “Seniority based teacher layoffs hurts schools, students” (2-13), is based solidly on four myths.

Myth 1: Everyone knows a bad teacher when they see one. There is a clear definition of bad teaching, and everyone knows what it is.

Myth 2: A good teacher can teach well no matter what the conditions.

Myth 3: We don’t have to worry about bad administrators. Administrators are more carefully hired than teachers, and they all know how to evaluate personnel dispassionately.

Myth 4: There’s no downside to firing experienced teachers, especially those in the later years of their professional life. After all, the younger, more energetic teachers are cheaper — a good buy for the taxpayer.

Questions reform-minded legislators must ask when considering the latest education bills, HB1699 and SB 5399, are these:

• Will “the best and brightest” college graduates choose a career where their status and income will be hostage to the vagaries of politics and competing ideologies?

• Will caring, nurturing young adults want to teach school where the odds of living in and serving their community for 25 years are shrinking fast?

• Will teachers ever be interested in “merit pay” when they have already seen other contractual promises — like class size, benefits, bonuses for national certification — disappear before their very eyes?

Leave a comment Comments → 12
  1. Fibonacci says:

    No can aruge that there are “bad” teachers with seniority, but just being young (and therefore cheaper) does not mean they are good. Many “bad” teachers qiut within the first five years.

    #2–CAN they teach? Yes, but how much better could they do with better conditions?

    I love #3. Of course administrators can’t possibly be bad (that is sarcasm by the way).

  2. Excellent letter that illustrates the difference between a person who can think rationally and those who cannot for whatever reason.

  3. bobcat1a says:

    This letter is much too rational to have an impact on the haters of public education. It doesn’t have enough facile solutions and demagoguery.

  4. cclngthr says:

    I’ll take each separately:

    Myth 1; bad teachers.
    Evaluations will show bad teachers which include data on teacher knowledge of subject matter being taught, teaching methods, ability to communicate the subject matter to students and management of people.

    Myth 2. Good teachers all conditions.
    A good teacher should be resourceful in how they present the material, even using raw materials when required. A curriculum is just a guide and may not always be applicable in communicating that skill to teachers.

    Myth 3. Bad administrators.
    Administrators don’t necessarily have the skills required to manage a school. Some have as little as 3 years teaching experience. An administrator should be considered a master teacher prior to becoming an administrator. This usually requires more than 3 years experience. A lot of administrators have hidden agendas and will use this to make changes that are not needed in the schools.

    Myth 4. Young teachers, cheaper by the dozen.
    Young teachers generally become good after 5 years teaching experience. Some may be worse than Myth 1. However, if they are on the top of their class and have a good work ethic, they may be just as good as a senior teacher.

    I do think schools can select the best and brightest teachers by selecting those based on where they fall in their class. Good grades as well as good internship evaluations will show how well they are in the classroom. However, what I think universities, and schools can do better is having students who are going through the teacher preparation sequence to be experienced working with children in the schools prior to acceptance in such program.

  5. Merit pay is oftentimes a myth. Both in Missouri and Idaho, where the state universities have no cost of living increase for faculty, merit pay is the only way raises can occur outside of the two promotions available for increase in rank to associate or full prof (each of those steps take 7 or so years to attain) – I have never experienced the state legislatures actually budgeting merit increases. It is an empty formality to each year apply for merit pay increases with all the required documentation when there is no money to fund them.

  6. letsworkitout says:

    I recently went to a conference titled “No Excuses University” where in the darkest of conditions (80+% free/reduced, 30+ languages spoken, inner city and all) they consistently have 90+% of the students passing all areas of their state test. This program has extended to hundred of other schools with the same results. It isn’t a curriculum, it isn’t a gimmick. It is taking what already happens in the schools and systematically improving it to exceptional ways.

  7. letsworkitout says:

    BTW, did anyone else have to create their account again?

  8. alindasue says:

    cclngthr,

    The problem with selecting new teachers is that some people are great students, lousy teachers. Being a great teacher requires many skills (patience not the least of them) and abilities that cannot always be reflected in a gradebook.

  9. alindasue says:

    cclngthr,

    The problem with selecting new teachers based on class ranking is that some people are great students, lousy teachers. Being a great teacher requires many skills (patience not the least of them) and abilities that cannot always be reflected in a gradebook.

    (Sorry, I forgot part of the sentence the first time.)

  10. PumainTacoma says:

    WHERE IS OUR ***CHRIS CHRISTIE*** NJ’s Governor takes on the unions and tells it like it is. Watch. This is classic.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkuTm-ON904&playnext=1&list=PLC2830715E4F43722

  11. Am I understanding correctly that teachers fear they could be ousted by more competent teachers? That’s how it is in the real world. If someone does a better job than me, they are going to take all my business. I’ve always felt job security makes people complacent.

  12. letsworkitout says:

    Ronnie, in the private sector it is who you know most of the time. This idea that the private sector is somehow ultra competitive is a farce. Yes, it is easier to get fired, but that doesn’t mean those who should be fired always get fired. There are still plenty of good ole boys clubs out there, especially in banking. So tell me, if an employee makes a few mistakes along the way are they really fired? Usually not. This ridiculous notion that slackers are in unions and non-slackers aren’t in unions is just…well illogical. There are a ton of slackers who are employed in the “private” sector. Union or not there are problems. Do people really think getting rid of all unions will really solve our societal problems? Heck no.

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