I’ve been writing about this for a while. Education is supposed to be a team effort. All parts of the system are supposed to work with each other and for each other. Yet, it always seems to be that the teachers get singled out for blame. Poor testing results – blame the teachers, a bullying problem – blame the teachers, lack of classroom control – yep, let’s blame the teachers for that too.
The question has to be asked: At what point do we focus our attention on the administrators when handing out the blame? It seems to me that whilst there is always going to be poor teachers in the system, nowhere near enough focus is directed to policy makers as well as those in management positions and on school counsels.
That’s why it is refreshing to have documentaries like “Waiting for Superman” and articles like the one written by Saul Rubinstein, Charles Heckscher and Paul Adler in the L.A. Times:
Most of the current efforts to improve public education begin with the flawed assumption that the basic problem is teacher performance. This “blame the teacher” attitude has led to an emphasis on standardized tests, narrow teacher evaluation criteria, merit pay, erosion of tenure, privatization, vouchers and charter schools. The primary goal of these measures has been greater teacher accountability — as if the weaknesses of public education were due to an invasion of our classrooms by uncaring and incompetent teachers. That is the premise of the documentary, “Waiting for Superman,” and of the attacks on teachers and their unions by politicians across the country.
Much of the current wave of school reform is informed by the same management myths that almost destroyed U.S. manufacturing. Instead of seeing teachers as key contributors to system improvement efforts, reformers are focused on making teachers more replaceable. Instead of involving teachers and their unions in collaborative reform, they are being pushed aside as impediments to top-down decision-making. Instead of bringing teachers together to help each other become more effective professionals, district administrators are resorting to simplistic quantified individual performance measures. In reality, schools are collaborative, not individual, enterprises, so teaching quality and school performance depend above all on whether the institutional systems support teachers’ efforts.
Whilst I am not a fan of unions, it upsets me that teachers are often singled out when there are other integral stakeholders who should be sharing the blame for poor results.