Today's Nashville Scene (adult site---) in "Back to School" highlights the stalemate that is the teacher qualification issue.
In this corner--Gov. Phil Bredesen:
"I am saying that there is great optimism and hope in our data that shows that no matter who you are or where you have come from, if a child is in front of an excellent teacher, and more importantly, a series of excellent teachers, he will make progress and perform well.... "This is something Willam Sanders has been saying for years. Frankly, I'd like to see teacher scores published for every parent and taxpayer to see. If I had a child in public schools---I'd want to know if they had an effective teacher or if, again, they'd been assigned to a poor performing teacher. Parents have access to more information about their child's pediatrician than they have of their teachers. They spend much more time with the later.
Of teachers who perform poorly in their first two years, two-thirds still aren’t doing good jobs five years later, according to the data. The reverse is true of good teachers. This means “...you can tell a lot from how someone does in the first year or two,” Bredesen explains in his speeches.
The governor also favors “tightening up the initial selection process” for teachers. He wants to change the curriculum in education colleges to “make them less of an academic discipline in a university and more of a professional school, like a law school or a medical school.”Why, why wouldn't their professional organization get behind this?
The the opposite corner--TEA Executive Director Al Mance
“Most teachers just don’t believe that test scores are an accurate reflection of their performance,” Mance says, directly disputing the governor’s assessment of the data. “There are many other things that go into effective teaching, and standardized tests tend to cause teachers to participate in fairly narrow behaviors. If you’re going to be evaluated on your student’s performance on a test, you’d be fairly unintelligent if you didn’t teach to the test. And we don’t want to encourage that. There are so many other things that boys and girls need to learn.”Likely most employees feel like their annual reviews don't accurately reflect their performance. It's just part of the territory.
The Department of Education has decided that these are the skills children need. They create a test. Teachers are hired to ensure the students learn those skills. So teaching to the test is not necessarily bad. We can all agree that there are many other things that boys and girls need to learn but if they don't have reading, writing and arithmetic down---we don't have the luxury of 'other things'.
So, lacking any logical arguments to put up against Gov. Bredesen's very reasonable suggestions the union throws down the old protectionist 'we're the professionals' card which means 'you don't have a right to speak on this issue'.
"Teaching is much more complex than laypersons understand.”To paraphrase a dear friend: "This job is too important to be left to the professionals."
Educating the vast majority of our children is not rocket science, my friend, as thousands and thousands of parents (and education professionals) know quite well. There is a whole industry, growing larger every day, that proves that with just a few tools and the right motivation, just about anyone can teach just about any child.
Stuck in failing schools and looking at a life of failure: thousands and thousands of our children.
Both the union and the governor are saying they’ll work together in the upcoming legislative session to improve classroom teaching, but at this point, there doesn’t seem to be much common ground.So who will be their champion and force these two sides together? House Education Chair Les Winningham (D-Huntsville)---no way. Senate Education Chair Jamie Woodson (R-Knoxville), not likely. She doesn't seem to be that sort of leader and if she was, it'll all have to go back to Winningham's committee and we're back to--no way. It's going to take parents and citizens to get involved in the process and demand accountability for the money spent and more importantly the lives wasted.