Getting Involved: Fixing the Ineffective Classroom

18 May

Heavy Duty.

Baaaaaaaad teachers. The media’s all about it. And as parents, educators, and college students, so are we. There’s much talk about tenure, unions, and how to get the bad teachers out. Michelle Rhee’s firing of roughly 1,000 teachers during her 3 & 1/2 year tenure in D.C. wasn’t exactly popular, further proving how important it is to have strong, research based criteria in determining what constitutes a bad teacher and the legitimacy behind the firing.

There is no doubt that some teachers need to change their tactics or retire from the classroom. Teachers are frustrated with the poor performance of colleagues; after all, who likes to bust ass at her job, performing at a high standard while her co-worker sits in the next cubicle and twiddles her thumbs, receiving the same pay and benefits? While this is frustrating in any position, the good teachers have it especially rough; because teaching is a public profession, teachers are particularly subject to the media and public opinion, and as a current general consensus, there’s not much love for America’s teachers.When in a profession, there is a tendency to lump all members of a profession together. Lawyers are sharks. Politicians lie. Doctors are arrogant. Teachers are lazy, overpaid, and over-protected.

However, participating in mindless teacher-bashing and focusing on pay and benefits isn’t going to help improve the quality of education; focusing on the quality of teachers and keeping the good ones in and helping or phasing the bad ones out, will.

So let’s think about this issue. What exactly makes a bad teacher “bad?” How can we determine who these “bad” teachers are, and how do we go about making them better or getting them out of the schools?

The NEA (National Education Association) has recently suggested using standardized tests to weed out teacher quality. This idea is okay, as long as standardized tests are used appropriately – as a tool to measure individual student progress and growth. However, more importantly, the NEA document calls for indicators of teacher practice (lesson plans, classroom observations), indicators of teacher learning and growth (collaboration with colleagues, meaningful communication with parents, evidence of reflective practice), and indicators of student learning and growth (teacher created assessments, student work, etc).

To implement this plan, we would need localized, trained, evaluative teams that are in teachers’ classrooms far more than once or twice a year. Teachers should be required to provide a yearly, re-vamped mission statement on how they educate, how student performance is improved, and evidence of this practice. Teachers should be able to talk extensively about their philosophy of education; they should be passionate not only about their subject, but also about their personalized teaching strategy. Evaluative teams with extensive backgrounds in education should provide meaningful, comprehensive feedback on whether a teacher’s strategy is effective and how to better the classroom environment. Teaching cannot be static.

Part of recent education reforms include changing laws on tenure. Rather than the current “first hired, first fired” rule, teachers would be retained or fired based upon teacher effectiveness. The idea that seniority equates with effectiveness is evolving. I think this is terrific as long as teacher evaluation systems are clear, direct, and fair. After all, we wouldn’t want schools firing effective tenured teachers to save a buck, would we? (i.e. FIGHT THE BUSINESS MODEL IN EDUCATION!).

So parents, educators, students, citizens – start asking your local districts what they are doing to evaluate teachers. Become part of the collaboration that determines what makes for an effective teacher; get your voice out into your community before the government determines these evaluations for you. You want the best for your child? GET INVOLVED.


2 Responses to “Getting Involved: Fixing the Ineffective Classroom”

  1. Learn to read with phonics June 1, 2011 at 7:47 pm #

    Principals should be fully capable of evaluating their teachers, but they are hobbled by union contracts. It is not possible for some top-down management scheme originating at the federal level to do any better. At most, it would tie teachers hands and waste their valuable time with red tape. The bad teachers probably would love the red tape, as it would make them feel validated, but good teachers know how to teach and don’t need anyone getting in their way.

    • Jaime VanEnkevort June 26, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

      I agree with you regarding the federal top-down management – I do not want to see more government involvement in education. The writing was ambiguous – I’d like to see the ideas NEA has proposed implemented at a local level. Union contracts and tenure do present major hurdles, two aspects of education I believe need to change. However, if administration has an archive of evaluations on every teacher, the teaching quality should be transparent, and perhaps this is a step to fighting undue protection from the unions.

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