08 September 2016

Firing Bad Teachers or Creating Good Teachers

The Los Angeles Times ran an excellent Op-Ed article today by Karin Klein entitled, "Why firing bad teachers isn't nearly as important as creating good ones." I highly recommend reading this article.

I wish more of us understood how K-12 teaching is a most challenging profession. This is where the foundation is laid in students for their future careers and for our future society. It is also where learning and other behavioral disabilities in students are often first revealed. The critical professionals in this endeavor are not school administrators or politicians, but teachers. Yet, we overload such teachers with large classes, underpay them, do not provide them the resources they need to do the job, and then blame them when failures occur. And we wonder why there is a teacher shortage!

Some propose a business model to run schools. Yet, no successful business is run the way we run or propose to run schools. Furthermore, whatever the service or good provided by a business, the profit motive must be central. A business will die without eventually making a profit. In contrast, the student is the focus of education, not financial profit. So, while schools must be efficient and accountable with taxpayer's money, financial matters must serve the principle mission of schools: educating students. This means financial profit is not the goal.

In his classic book, The Administrative State (Transaction Publishers), political science and public administration scholar Dwight Waldo noted that the United States' culture is a business culture. This may explain why we hold education and educators in such low esteem. We respect business but belittle education. Solve that attitude and perspective problem, and we will then be able to find reasonable solutions to our education problems.

As a professor in higher education, I see the outcomes of the combined efforts of K-12 teachers in my students. I build on what these teachers and students have accomplished over the years. This is why I sincerely appreciate and value K-12 teachers.