Thursday, March 25, 2010

First Let's Fire All the Teachers

Under the Orwellianly named NCLB law, all public schools across the country will be required to have all their students, 100%, at grade level by 2014. By 2014, unless something changes, we will have a nation full of “failing” schools.

While striving to teach 100% of the students to grade level or beyond is a cherished ideal, it is ludicrous to penalize and deem failing schools that do not reach that goal. But in my school, my wife’s school, at the schools of every teacher I know across the country, we are trying to meet it. We are working our butts off to get the impossible done.

I’ve been teaching since 1987. In that time I have heard teachers lauded over and over again in the press and by politicians as being members of a “noble profession.” That is, when the press and politicians weren’t busy using teachers as scapegoats for all of the educational problems on the country. But it does rest pretty squarely on our shoulders to be the ones to help make the goal. Without teachers, the goal is so far past impossible, the light from impossible would take thousands of years to reach it. And so, of course, all of us teachers are rewarded with respect and the acknowledgement of just how important it is for us to keep working hard.

But, if that is true, if teachers are so important to quality education, why are so many teachers being fired?

In California 23,000 teachers and other educational personnel got pink slips. That is on top of 16,000 teachers and 10,000 other education employees fired there last year. Let’s see, 16 + 23 = 39. So in two years almost 40, 000 teachers are fired in that one state. But the goal to improve the standardized test scores each year took no notice of that. The teachers left are expected to do better somehow.

It is not just California. In Illinois they are looking at a possible 17,000 teachers lost. In New York City (not state, city) they are looking at laying off 8,500 teachers. Almost 50,000 teachers gone this year from just those three places. And, again, NCLB does not take that into account.

And the hits just keep on coming. Googling teachers fired, teacher layoffs, teacher firings, yield far too many hits. We are decimating the teaching profession in this country. And we are expecting teachers left to reach Olympian heights.

Am I the only one here who sees the disconnect? How in the name of all that is sane and rational are we going to have the slightest chance of reaching that goal without the teachers to do the teaching? How can there be no provisions in the law to take this gigantic collapse of public funding into account? How many more teachers will be fired?

I tried to get mad about this. I tried to get all indignant and righteous. Instead the most I could manage was weariness and despondency. I guess all I can do is enjoy the descent in this glorified handbasket that American education has become.


John Thornburg said...

It is frustrating to see what education has become due to NCLB. What once was a noble and special profession has now become a high stakes testing with outcomes being the most important, instead of watching and guiding kids growth. I think your comments are right on the mark.

Kim Jones said...

No Child Left Behind = No teacher Left Employed. In AL we are "lucky," increased insurance costs, no instructional allocations, no textbook monies... but we are still employed. Yee Haw!