Why teachers quit is a recurring theme on this blog. Teachers all over the country are tired and frustrated by the destruction of their profession. It might sound paranoid to say that the destruction of the teaching profession is a purposeful plan by privatizers and transformers*, but it doesn’t really matter if the result is the same. Fewer students are going into teaching. Veteran teachers are retiring for the wrong reasons. There are more and more inexperienced and poorly trained teachers in our nation’s classrooms, especially classrooms containing low income students. Morale is low.
The constant refrain of “failing schools,” “bad teachers,” coupled with state budget cuts (or budget redistribution to charter schools or vouchers), have made a career in education much less desirable. “Reformers” harp about bad teachers and claim that we need “great” teachers in every classroom. That claim, however, is denied by the actions of legislatures which do everything they can to turn the profession into a job for script reading babysitters. The result is that fewer students are looking at teaching as a future life-long career.
FEWER STUDENTS ARE GOING INTO TEACHING
All across the state, at public and private institutions, the number of students enrolled in education programs has plummeted.
Nowhere is this more apparent than at the state-owned universities such as Kutztown and East Stroudsburg, which were founded in the 19th century to train teachers for Pennsylvania schools.
Deans and administrators at six local colleges reported a drop in undergraduate education majors this fall. The numbers vary from slight to significant.
At IPFW, for example, the number went from 1,020 education majors last fall to 822 this fall – a 19 percent drop. At Huntington University, the number went from to 188 to 178 – a 5 percent decline.
Even Ball State University’s Teachers College, a nationally ranked program, saw its undergraduate enrollment drop from 1,491 last year to 1,368 this year. At the same time, Ball State and other Indiana colleges are seeing an increase in graduate education programs, as students rush to get advanced degrees before legislative changes take effect limiting the pay and benefits long associated with further education.
…working conditions for teachers continue to deteriorate. The latest national survey by MetLife found that teacher satisfaction levels have plummeted, perhaps not coincidentally at about the same rate as enrollments in teacher education programs in California. In 2008, 62 percent of teachers expressed satisfaction with their jobs, the highest level since 1984. By 2012, only 39 percent said they were satisfied – about the same level as in 1984.
Another possible cause has to do with the regimen of reforms that have put unprecedented pressures on teachers as a result of the negative sanctions of the No Child Left Behind law, along with the state’s Standardized Testing and Reporting program. As described in a report by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd, teachers in California faced what it called “a new normal of rising expectations and reduced support.”
“Teachers start telling their cousins and nieces and nephews and younger brothers and sisters, ‘Don’t go into teaching,’” said Michael Fullan, a Canadian educator and organization expert who is working with a number of California school districts on what he calls “whole system reforms.”
“When you are allowing the teaching profession to decline, you get a self-perpetuating future that goes downwards because good people don’t go into it, and those who do go in don’t find it satisfying,” Fullan said. [emphasis added]
“If I can help just one kid figure out the right bubble to fill in on his test, I will feel like I’ve made the world a better place,” said no young person ever. The inspiring, exciting image of teaching– the independence, the intellectual searching, the firing of imaginations, the sparking of young minds, the nurturing of fragile young souls, the passing on of vibrant living knowledge, the participation in the miracle of growth, the guiding on a path to being fully human– all those things that fired us up about teaching– we got that bug from our own teachers and our own school experience. But far more of today’s young people associate school with the drudgery of clerical work, the autonomy of assembly line workers.
Those teachers who are staying…or just starting out…are discovering that tests and so-called “accountability” rule the classroom. There is little room for teacher or student creativity. Teachers are rarely allowed to use their expertise to make decisions based on students’ needs. The school day is taken up with data collection and the constant threat of misused standardized tests.
In this disturbing era of testing and data collection in the public schools, I have seen my career transformed into a job that no longer fits my understanding of how children learn and what a teacher ought to do in the classroom to build a healthy, safe, developmentally appropriate environment for learning for each of our children.
Realize who the experts are. Our educators are our experts, having the hours of experience that leads to credibility and depth of knowledge. Be leery of self proclaimed experts and reformers who can talk the talk, but don’t have the experience, knowledge or credibility because they have never walked the walk.
“When I started teaching, the worst thing a teacher could do is teach to the test. Now, all we are doing is teaching to the test. From the first day of school to the final exam, that’s all we are doing,” Maggiano told the paper.
Maggiano told the outlet that he would rather retire than be part of the education system as it stands.
“I don’t think I’m leaving the education system. I think the education system left me,” Maggiano added.
…no one ever asks the teachers, those who are up to their necks in the trenches each day, or if they do, it is in a patronizing way and our suggestions are readily discarded. Decisions about classrooms should be made in classrooms. Teachers are the most qualified individuals to determine what is needed for their own students. Each classroom is different. It has a different chemistry, different dynamic, different demographic, and the teacher is the one who keeps the balance. He or she knows each student, knows what they need, and they should be the ones making the decisions about how to best reach them. Sure, using different resources and strategies among schools may make data sharing more difficult, but haven’t we gone far enough with data? Each child is not a number or a data point. They can only be compared to the developmental capabilities set forth by medicine, not education, and to their own previous progress.
In addition, teachers cannot and should not be evaluated on the grades of their students. Who then would try to teach the boy who will never progress past third grade due to a brain injury? Who then will teach the girl that refuses to complete any work? Who then would teach any special education classes? What stops me from skewing my grades to keep the world off my back? Education cannot be objectively measured. It never could, and our problems began when we came to that realization and instead of embracing it, decided to force it into a quantifiable box that is much too small and too much the wrong shape.
I have found it more and more difficult to pay my bills every month and continue to fall further and further into debt, not to mention the feeling of absolute disrespect that I feel every time a new “expectation” is mandated for our classrooms while all of our resources are being taken away.
STATE POLICIES DISCOURAGE
Politicians and policy makers, most of whom have never set foot in a classroom as an educator, are passing laws and instituting regulations for every aspect of teaching. Never before have so many unqualified policy makers regulated a profession. Never before have so many experts been left out of the decision making process.
The reason is simple — money. Test publishers, private school entrepreneurs, charter management organizations, and voucher proponents are buying legislators’ votes. The voices of public school teachers aren’t heard because they aren’t accompanied by enough dollars.
Bill Gates, a billionaire college dropout with no experience in public education, has a huge influence on public education policy. The Walton Family, billionaires with no experience in public education are paying legislators (through their donations) to divert public funds to voucher programs. Eli Broad, the Joyce Foundation, Mark Zukerberg (Facebook), Reed Hastings (Netflix), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), and dozens of other deep pocketed individuals and foundations are pouring money into privatization schemes and killing public education.
Why would the Democratic Party, so well supported by teachers in the past, promote Race to the Top, a plan dividing the nation’s school children into winners and losers, and promoted by a man who, while sitting in the chair of the nation’s highest ranking educator, has absolutely no experience teaching in (or attending) a public school? Money.
Indiana’s legislators — attorneys, auctioneers and florists — support policies completely at odds with the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction who won her election with more votes than the governor. Follow the money (see also here and here).
Will America’s professional teaching force be replaced with 2 to 3 year temps?
This overwhelming desire to help students is a common thread among all the teachers I speak with. They all cared for their students deeply, but even this couldn’t keep teachers like Hayley or Emma in the classroom. Simply put: everything else—the workload, the emotional toll, the low pay—was just too much…
“To improve the quality of teaching,” Ingersoll says, you need to “improve the quality of the teaching job.” And, “If you really improve that job… you would attract good people and you would keep them.”
At some point, even Louisiana has to worry how they will replace the teachers who have retired and resigned. And who will want to become a teacher when working conditions are so poor and teachers are treated so poorly by the state education department.
Teacher turnover last year was the second highest in a decade. There are more early retirements. Teacher training enrollments in the state’s university system are down 7 percent.
No surprise. After all, legislators killed a program to recruit top students for teacher jobs through scholarships. A modest form of tenure is being phased out. A master’s degree no longer will be rewarded with higher pay.
And there’s North Carolina’s disgraceful 46th-place ranking in average teacher pay. That’s lower than the neighboring states of Virginia, Tennessee and South Carolina.
“Teachers are beginning to be reluctant to host a student teacher,” said Joyce Rietman, director of USI’s advanced clinical experience and co-teaching. “Their name is on (the) test scores. It’s scary and risky to take a student teacher.”
School districts around Indiana have already begun linking teacher ratings to how students perform on state standardized tests or other student growth measures. Starting in the 2013-2014 school year, doing so will be mandatory, and districts will make decisions about compensation, tenure and layoffs based on the results.
Some universities are having a harder time placing their students because teachers don’t want their evaluations affected by the potential mistakes of a rookie.
It’s official. The job satisfaction of American teachers has dropped to the lowest point in decades.,,According to the 2012 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, about a third of our public school teachers are considering a job change.
Does this surprise anyone who is familiar with what’s been happening to public schools since A Nation at Risk?
Yes, teacher morale is lower than it’s been in decades.
- if you had no job security
- if your job evaluations depended on factors beyond your control
- if you were demonized daily by the media and politicians
- if your professional expertise was ignored because you weren’t a billionaire
- if your private personnel information (valid or invalid) were published in the newspaper
- and if you still had to put in your 50 hours a week just to keep your head above water…
…how would you feel?
*transformers – In her book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools Diane Ravitch wrote that privatizers and so-called “reformers” don’t actually want to “reform” public education but to “transform it into an entrepreneurial sector of the economy.” She said that corporate executives “believe in transformative change and disruptive innovation” which might work for business (though that is debatable) but not for education. The “reformers,” politicians, pundits and policy makers who seem hell-bent on destroying America’s public schools are “transformers” not reformers.
All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.