DISCLAIMER: I have not and am not planning on reading the article!
Apparently, because I read the summary on TIME's website, this article is about the tenure system and how it protects "bad" teachers. I am not going to read the article and you shouldn't either. Not because it is attacking education, not because I am a union fanboy and not because I totally agree with the article. I am not going to read it because I hate it when people outside of education pretend to know anything about how education works. Now I am sure that TIME interviews a whole bunch of "experts" with "degrees" and "opinions" and "facts", but who cares. TIME did create an absolutely awesome cover and I am sure the ideas presented in the article to "fix" the problem of tenure are rooted in a child-first approach (sarcasm) without any thinking of politics, money or power.
HERE IS MY 2 CENTS...and it's worth the cover price!:
First: Online subscription-based Magazine=Dumb.
Flipboard, Zite, RSS allow me to read for free! Not only is it free, it is sourced from multiple locations, blogs and editors. Why does TIME still charge to read their magazine online? Does TIME not understand the internet? Perhaps their paradigm shifts slower than everyone else. Maybe their information is so valuable that they will continue to attempt to control it from getting into the hands of the have-nots. I'm sure what they make in advertising is enough to allow online use for free.
Second: Educational Unions, Tenure and Bad vs. Good Teachers.
In a nut shell, you cannot argue that tenure is the reason for bad teachers (1)staying bad; (2)keeping their job; or (3)ruining the educational system. I am amazed that media and politicians continue to blame the teachers for the problems in education. The real problem with education:
(1) Standardized assessment;
-Why do we talk about differentiation, multiple career paths, individualized learning and then STILL say every
kid has to pass the same test to prove they are accomplishing their individualized goals. My credo: "Teach
Above the Test"
(2) lack of long-term thinking;
-Tenure shows me a lack of long term thinking on the part of the education system. We are saying that if you
are good in the first three years you will remain god for the next 33 years. We think about our curriculum as
lasting 180 days, without considering how what we do this year could be creating learning for the kids we have
(3) poor funding;
-Stop taking money aways from schools...it ruins the ENTIRE country. I'm not talking about home values and job opportunities either. I'm talking about how kids think about learning, exploring, creativity and each other. Our kids go to underfunded schools where everyone is stressed constantly thinking about costs over benefits and it is create a generation of adults that associate learning with misery.
(4) parent involvement;
-A teacher recently quipped that the problem with Google Classroom is that parents don't have their own login credentials so they cannot see what is going on in class. I responded, "The parent can sit down with their child and look at it together!" Why do we even have to consider this a problem! Why are we trying to make our
communication make sense to parents? Why aren't parents sitting with their kids and encouraging their kids to
explain things and creating a better parent-child relationship by showing interest in school; other than report
card time? Both parents work is often the argument. Guess what... both my parents worked and they were
divorced. They still took an interest in my education, they still knew my teachers names and what I thought
about what I was learning. My wife and I both work ten hours a day, but we take time to talk school with our
kids. I'm not talking "what do you have for homework" talk, I mean philosophical discussions about how
learning experiences are shaping their lives and critical questioning to show our kids that learning is more than
just what happens in front of a teacher. You want to know the dirty little secret that explains why we don't
blame parents for not parenting? It is because we are so afraid that they will vote our levies down that we put
up with it and misdirect blame for poor parenting back at the schools.
(5) lack of technology;
-Change is great, but you need mobile learning devices. textbooks are helpful, but they outdate and are
expensive. Digital versions of textbooks are so poorly created, one dimensional and expensive that they make
less sense than the old paper versions. Colorful graphics and printable worksheets with built in assessments
does not redefine learning, nor does it empower students to own their learning. You want teachers to stop
lecturing, you want project-based learning and problem finding; well that all requires devices, end of story.
(6) overly priced textbooks and supplemental materials;
-I explained this above. The fact that textbooks are big business means that they will always be limited, slowly
developed and stagnant. Have your students create your class resources (I'm not even using the word
textbook). We don't go to one place for information anymore because that idea is archaic. Why would I learn
from just Holt, or just TIME, or just Yahoo or just Google? You want kids to be able to evaluate multiple sources
(via common core and common sense!) Why are you having me do it from just one textbook or website?
(7) inconsistent teacher step and pay schedules between districts;
-I can only rip on Ohio for this because I do not know enough about anywhere else. I know teachers that make
$90,000+ and teachers that make $20,000+. When I was looking at my first job and comparing pays scales I
learned that within Cuyahoga and Lake county there was a gap of nearly $15,000 from the lowest starting pay
to the highest starting pay. In Chardon, with a master's degree and continuing education (if memory serves), I
would have topped out somewhere in the low $70,000 after 15 years. In another district, it would have been
nearly $95,000. This depends nothing on quality of teaching, personal education or anything else. I know the
business world is like this, but they are not publicly funded. As they grow larger and do better, often employees
earn more and do better. I know of schools that are low achieving, but the teachers still make more than I did.
When Garth and I were interviewed for newspapers, two books, presented at hundreds of conferences, etc my
pay was still the same as the teacher down the hall that takes nothing home, refuses to answer email outside the
work day and uses pre-made everything.
(8) administrators and boards of education that just suck.
-You do realize the people with the ultimate decision control in a school district are not unionized, right? You
do know that they often retire and rehire, earning pension and a paycheck, right? You do know that that makes
it hard for young, dynamic leaders to get jobs and make change, right? You do know that metropolitan school
districts like Cleveland have more administrators than some districts have teachers, right? You do realize that
administrators and boards of education often have no idea what is going on in politics and their own districts,
right? You do know that some districts still pay their administrators pension and health insurance, right?
(9) no student voice in decision making
-Show me a professional committee, BLC, PLC, TBT, etc that includes students. Show me a board of education
that has student advisors. Show me a staff meeting that is open to students. Show me kids OWNING not just
their learning, but the educational system.
(10) thinking teachers have it made because we "get" 3 months off every year.
-Not voting for levies because teachers "work part time and make enough already" is an ignorant argument that
replaces the reality of just being cheap/misinformed/angry/apathetic. Our school year was essentially based
around an agrarian society. Summers meant students had real-life work to help with for our families. Instead of
arguing that schools don't deserve money because they close for the summer, why not argue to change what a
school year looks like. Imagine graduating by the time you are 15! That will never happen because if we go to
some form of an all-year school calendar the government will find a way to fill it with assessment and slow the
process back down.
Tenure does protect bad teachers. It also protects great teachers that want to take educated risks in a business model that rewards the status-quo. Tenure meant that I could send all staff email replies to bull shit emails sent by administrators. It meant I could voice the truth, my opinion and talk to people like people. I was fortunate to have worked with some administrators that rocked and wanted change, but i have also watched administrators go after teachers they didn't like; for reasons that had nothing to do with teachers. You know who isn't tenured in Ohio? Private school teachers. You know why people don't flock to teach at private schools? Because they often treat you like dirt. You know who has antiquated ideas about education, but contributes billions of dollars to the government (not education directly of course, no influence in that), business owners that want to shape their future sheep....I mean employees. Why is only Pearson allowed to produce our Common Core aligned assessments? Where is the free-market and choice in education. Why is the textbook purchasing power of Texas and California the reason that Ohio has limited choice in their textbook adoption? Why do politicians think they can manipulate learning through laws and mandates?
Tenure is about 15 things down on the list of things destroying education in this country. Unionization of teachers was just as important as unionization in other industries. Have unions adapted and grown? Of course not. I am speaking from my experience with a union for the past seven years. It was ridiculous and the people that waved the union flag the proudest were never the great teachers (my experience).