“Take a stand for teachers!” is the slogan of World Teachers’ Day 2012 (5 October) which UNESCO is celebrating along with its partners, the International Labour Organization, UNDP, UNICEF and Education International (EI).
Taking a stand for the teaching profession means providing adequate training, ongoing professional development, and protection for teachers’ rights.
All over the world, a quality education offers hope and the promise of a better standard of living. However, there can be no quality education without competent and motivated teachers.
On this day, we call for teachers to receive supportive environments, adequate quality training as well as ‘safeguards’ for teachers’ rights and responsibilities…We expect a lot from teachers – they, in turn, are right to expect as much from us. This World Teachers’ Day is an opportunity for all to take a stand.
Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General
Teachers are among the many factors that keep children in school and influence learning. They help students think critically, process information from several sources, work cooperatively, tackle problems and make informed choices.
Why take a stand for teachers? Because the profession is losing status in many parts of the world.. World Teachers’ Day calls attention the need to raise the status of the profession – not only for the benefit of teachers and students, but for society as a whole, to acknowledge the crucial role teachers play in building the future.
If teachers are so important, why do we treat them like widgets?
Effective teachers are the key to student success. Yet our school systems treat all teachers as interchangeable parts, not professionals. Excellence goes unrecognized and poor performance goes unaddressed. This indifference to performance disrespects teachers and gambles with students’ lives.
Dr. Weast, who calls the United States secretary of education, Arne Duncan, “a good friend,” said, “He’s told me, ‘Jerry, you’re going where the country needs to go.’ ”
Unfortunately, federal dollars from the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program are not going where Dr. Weast and the PAR program need to go. Montgomery County schools were entitled to $12 million from Race to the Top, but Dr. Weast said he would not take the money because the grant required districts to include students’ state test results as a measure of teacher quality. “We don’t believe the tests are reliable,” he said. “You don’t want to turn your system into a test factory.”
Race to the Top aims to spur student growth by improving teacher quality, which is exactly what Montgomery County is doing. Sad to say, the district is getting the right results the wrong way.
It does not seem to matter that 84 percent of Montgomery County students go on to college and that 63 percent earn degrees there — the very variables that President Obama has said should be the true measure of academic success. It does not seem to matter that 2.5 percent of all black children in America who pass an Advanced Placement test live in Montgomery County, more than five times its share of the nation’s black population.
Kudos to Montgomery County for staying with a proven successful strategy that enhances teacher practice and positively impacts student achievement. But it makes me wonder how long they can afford to reject Race to the Top money as budgets get tighter and tighter. Under the federal rules, the 11-year program that has a proven track record will receive no funding (because it doesn’t rely on standardized test scores), while other programs, newly-created and untested – DO receive funding BECAUSE they rely on standardized test scores.
WHEN we don’t get the results we want in our military endeavors, we don’t blame the soldiers. We don’t say, “It’s these lazy soldiers and their bloated benefits plans! That’s why we haven’t done better in Afghanistan!” No, if the results aren’t there, we blame the planners. We blame the generals, the secretary of defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. No one contemplates blaming the men and women fighting every day in the trenches for little pay and scant recognition.
And yet in education we do just that. When we don’t like the way our students score on international standardized tests, we blame the teachers. When we don’t like the way particular schools perform, we blame the teachers and restrict their resources.
To improve its public schools, the United States should raise the status of the teaching profession by recruiting more qualified candidates, training them better and paying them more, according to a new report on comparative educational systems …
“Teaching in the U.S. is unfortunately no longer a high-status occupation,” Mr. Schleicher says in the report, prepared in advance of an educational conference that opens in New York on Wednesday. “Despite the characterization of some that teaching is an easy job, with short hours and summers off, the fact is that successful, dedicated teachers in the U.S. work long hours for little pay and, in many cases, insufficient support from their leadership …
“You can spend a lot of money on education, but if you don’t spend it wisely, on improving the quality of instruction, you won’t get higher student outcomes …”
Reason #1: Tying test scores to teacher compensation suggests that teachers are holding back on using their experience, expertise, and time because they are not being paid for the extra effort.
Reason # 2: The standardized tests in most states are lousy and so are the standards they are designed to measure.
Reason #3: The idea of compensating teachers individually in order to differentiate their performance from their school colleagues defeats a principal tenet of good instruction—that teachers need to learn from one another to solve difficult pedagogical challenges.
Reason #4: Most teachers do not teach a grade or subject that is subject to standardized testing.
Reason # 5: Even reliable standardized tests are valid only when they are used for their intended purposes.
Reason #6: A key assumption of using test scores to judge teachers is that students are randomly assigned, first, to schools, and, second, to classes. Neither is true.
Reason #7: State data systems are in their infancy. It turns out that it is harder, is more expensive, and takes longer for states to produce reliable, accurate, and secure longitudinal data on students and teachers than widely assumed.
Reason #8: The rationale for tying tests to compensation is not clear. … if teacher compensation does not keep up with inflation because of poor student performance, then teachers will . . . what? Work harder? Dig deeper? Stay longer? There is no evidence that such measures improve instructional practices or student outcomes.
And as Diane Ravitchpoints out: to tie test scores to teacher evaluation requires a minimum of three years’ data. At then end … what? Fire the “bad” teachers? And replace them with … who? new teachers? There is no precedent for this in any other developing nation.