“REFORMERS” WANT CHEAP TEACHERS
For some “reformers” having teachers resign in large numbers is likely cause for celebration. They might not admit it, though, since the latest PDK/Gallup Poll shows that most people (72%) “trust and have confidence in” the teachers who work in their schools. Still, teacher turnover lowers the personnel costs for schools because, for the most part, new teachers are cheaper than veteran teachers. If you keep replacing older teachers with new teachers, then personnel costs go down.
So those “reformers” who approve of (and encourage) experienced teachers quitting will likely be cheering the situation in Wake County (Raleigh), North Carolina – population 974,289.
WAKE COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA
Wake County has had a significant increase in teachers leaving the system, state and profession — up 41% since last year. The reasons are varied, but for many it’s because North Carolina has abandoned the path that led it to higher achievement.
In her 2009 book The Flat World of Education, Linda Darling-Hammond wrote about North Carolina.
A combination of substantial investments in early learning and K-12 education — coupled with raised standards for students, teachers, and school leaders and supports for professional learning — helped improve student achievement in North Carolina and reduced the achievement gap over 2 decades from 1983 through about 2003.
Things have changed since then, however, as “reformers” have taken over public education in the state. Diane Ravitch chronicles the demise of public education in North Carolina.
…North Carolina is controlled by an extremist governor and legislature intent on destroying public education…
In October, 2012, Ravitch posted a letter from a North Carolina teacher, Kris Nielsen. Nielsen listed 21 different reasons why he was quitting…why North Carolina had become toxic for teachers and students in public education. Among them,
…I will not spend another day under the expectations that I prepare every student for the increasing numbers of meaningless tests.
…I refuse to watch my coworkers being treated like untrustworthy slackers through the overbearing policies of this state, although they are the hardest working and most overloaded people I know.
…I refuse to watch my family struggle financially as I work in a job to which I have invested 6 long years of my life in preparation. I have a graduate degree and a track record of strong success, yet I’m paid less than many two-year degree holders. And forget benefits—they are effectively nonexistent for teachers in North Carolina.
…I’m tired of watching my students produce amazing things, which show their true understanding of 21st century skills, only to see their looks of disappointment when they don’t meet the arbitrary expectations of low-level state and district tests that do not assess their skills.
…I refuse to hear any more about how important it is to differentiate our instruction as we prepare our kids for tests that are anything but differentiated. This negates our hard work and makes us look bad.
…I’m tired of watching parents being tricked into believing that their children are being prepared for the complex world ahead, especially since their children’s teachers are being cowed into meeting expectations and standards that are not conducive to their children’s futures.
More and more teachers are joining Nielsen and leaving the profession in North Carolina.
[Principal] Jordan said three teachers have already left Underwood [Elementary School] during the 2013-14 school year, and two more have told her they won’t be back next year.
“One teacher left California 11 years ago, and is still making $20,000 less in teacher pay than when she left California,” Jordan said. “She loves her job, but unfortunately, due to the financial responsibilities for her family, she has to look for a different profession.”
Is anyone surprised by this? Not Wake County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Doug Thilman.
“While these figures are alarming, they are not surprising. Given the flat pay scale over the past few years, the recent legislated removal of both career status and higher pay for teachers with graduate degrees, increased teacher turnover has been expected,” Thilman said.
What’s the prognosis for the teaching profession in North Carolina?
Maher said fewer students are looking to be teachers, which could lead to hiring problems down the line.
“As today’s teachers leave their classrooms for other careers or other states, the supply of new teachers to fill those empty slots is declining,” said Maher said in a statement. “The pipeline is drying up, and this has both immediate and lingering long-term effects on the quality of teachers in North Carolina classrooms and ultimately student achievement.”
COMING SOON TO INDIANA?
What happened in Wake County? What changed North Carolina from a state making progress in K-12 education to one in which teachers are leaving in droves? The answer is the last few years of North Carolina politics.
…charters and vouchers; Teach for America; flunking third graders who don’t pass a reading test, and other punitive actions. At the same time, they enacted generous corporate tax breaks.
Sound familiar? There’s more…
The legislature has passed law after law stripping teachers of any and all rights and privileges.
Teachers can no longer get a raise for earning an advanced degree (just shows you what the legislature thinks of education).
The legislature killed off its successful North Carolina Teaching Fellows, which produced well-prepared teachers who made a career of teaching, yet found $5-6 million to bring in Teach for America, guaranteed not to stay in teaching.
North Carolina has one of the worst climates for teachers in the United States, and it has gotten progressively worse over the past three years since hard-right Republicans took control of the legislature and the governorship.
Indiana is following in North Carolina’s footsteps….
- charters and vouchers bleeding money from public schools
- class sizes growing
- Teach for America gaining a foothold in Indianapolis
- IREAD-3 flunks third graders if they don’t pass ISTEP
- loss of due process for teachers
- restrictions to collective bargaining
- frozen salaries
- teacher evaluations based on test scores
- lower requirements for becoming an educator
- a ten percent drop in average teacher salaries over the last decade
THE BOTTOM LINE
How does this affect students?
…teacher turnover harms student test scores in both mathematics and reading. It says that it harms academic performance most among poor and black students. It says that high rates of teacher churn affect both the students who lose their teachers and even those who didn’t. The researchers are cautious about why this is so, but they think it may have to do with the continual disruption of the school’s community and culture. It is hard to have collegiality and a cohesive staff when staff members come and go in large numbers.
(Click HERE to read the study.)
Politicians with no experience in education are being bribed with campaign donations from education privatizers. The result is the promotion of state and national policies which are damaging the teaching profession and pushing experienced teachers out of the classroom. All the babble about having “a great teacher in every classroom” or about “rewarding great teachers” is just so much hot air.
If we as a nation are serious about improving education for all our children we would improve the professional lives of teachers instead of making things more difficult for them.
I have watched over the past few years as wonderfully gifted young teachers have left the classroom, feeling they do not have support and that things are not going to get any better.
In the past, these are the teachers who stayed, earned tenure, and built the solid framework that has served their communities and our nation well.
That framework is being torn down, oftentimes by politicians who would never dream of sending their own children to the kind of schools they are mandating for others.
Despite all of the attacks on the teachers, I am continually amazed at the high quality of the young people who are entering the profession. It is hard to kill idealism, no matter how much our leaders (in both parties) try.
…or perhaps we’re not serious about improving education since that would interfere with making a buck.
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.