Like most people, I like a sale, but there are some things that don’t pan out at bargain prices, like America’s public school teachers.
Most teachers are paid by a career ladder. This means they receive a salary step increase with every year of experience. Some don’t like this protocol, but it is simple and direct. Teachers don’t have to compete for bonuses. But it leaves veteran teachers vulnerable.
For years, corporate reformers and policymakers have tried to cheapen and destroy the teaching profession. They don’t want to pay teachers what they’re worth. It seems vindictive since most teachers don’t make huge salaries compared to some professions with equal education.
These same reformers have attempted to replace teachers with cheaper alternatives at discount prices, relying on individual and corporate funding through donations, or they’ve used tax dollars to fund alternative teaching programs.
Many believe the goal is to replace teachers with online instruction. This is easy to believe. We see little effort to save the teaching profession.
Here’s how we’ve become a nation of discount teachers.
Diminished License Requirements
Since 1989, corporate reformers have invested in Teach for America, where college graduates are permitted to enter the classroom as real teachers with only five weeks of training.
This defies logic. Any teacher that enters a classroom should be able to prove they are well-prepared to teach. They should have both an education degree in the area they will teach and experience working with students. New teachers should have been through student teaching under the supervision of a real teacher.
TFA corps members mostly wind up in charter schools where the focus is strict student discipline. They stay one to three years. When they leave, a revolving door of more corps members replace them. There’s a never-ending surplus of cheap teachers.
Not only is TFA promoted, other fast track alternative groups are part of teacher hiring. The New Teachers Project fellows, residency programs, and the Relay Graduate School of Education promote career changers to enter the classroom as teachers.
I have friends who changed their careers to be teachers. They worked hard to learn about children and were committed to their new career. But these teachers fulfilled a need. They weren’t about remaking teaching.
For $1900, anyone can apply to be a teacher through the online government program American Board of Certification For Teacher Excellence. There are complaints about this program online.
In some states charter schools are permitted to train their own teachers. Like other programs, it’s unclear what the instruction involves.
Some states are recruiting teachers from other countries. These individuals are happy to receive low salaries ($36,000 is the average), because it is more than what they make at home.
Veteran teachers are often pushed out of the classroom, but recruiting older individuals to become teachers is now a program. They will start at the lower rung of the career ladder. So apparently you can be an elderly teacher if you don’t have years of experience working with children.
Some states have reduced requirements to be a teacher. All it takes is a bachelor’s degree. They will be paid at the low rung of the ladder too.
Devaluing Higher Education
In order to devalue teachers, corporate reformers have been critical of teacher education schools, claiming universities fail to prepare teachers. Undermining such programs lends itself to promoting cheaper alternative teacher programs where there’s little preparation.
It wasn’t a coincidence when Bill Gates proclaimed in 2011 that teachers don’t need to further their education by obtaining additional degrees to become better teachers. Gates knows that teachers with master’s degrees and PhDs get salary increases. These slight salary adjustments are added to their career step and it makes them more professional, not less.
But Gates also defies logic by criticizing seniority (experience teaching) and the salary increases for teachers who earn additional degrees.
It makes no sense to say that teaching experience and learning more about how to help students learn doesn’t make better teachers.
Everything having to do with today’s corporate school reform places blame on teachers.
Here’s how teachers have been de-professionalized.
- High-stakes testing.
- Repealing or attempting to repeal teacher tenure (due process).
- Merit pay plans have been used to try to destroy the career ladder pay plan.
- Failing to negotiate a timely contract with teachers.
- Denying teachers salary increases for additional degrees.
- Large class sizes.
- Placing ELL students in a large class with no support.
- Placing students with disabilities in a large class with no support.
- Failing to supply resources and materials.
- Eliminating support staff.
- Closing school libraries.
- Eliminating art classes and art teachers.
- Denying schools counselors and nurses?
- Having lots of money for technology but not teachers.
All these tactics diminish creating a true teaching profession. Instead, qualified teachers are being driven out of their schools and the country relies more on discount teachers with less preparation to teach. This has not turned out well, and it will be a lot to expect students to be equipped with what they need to know to solve the problems facing us today and in the future.
Teach for America definitely doesn’t allow teachers to enter class only after 5 weeks, having friends who’ve been in teach for America; friends who’ve graduated graduate school with me have ongoing training and professional development for two years while being in graduate school. You also don’t get experience simply because you have an education degree. Experience teaching is gained through doing just that ; teaching. As someone whose graduated from Relay graduate school of education as mentioned in the article. Your first year in the program is teaching in a classroom with a veteran teacher as you mentioned gaining experience actually doing it. It’s also not about remaking teaching, it’s about learning what works for children because everything isn’t a one size model. What worked in the 1980’s simply doesn’t work today; you’d be oblivious to believe it does. I’m also not sure which states allow bachelor teachers but again these programs you’re dismissing require training and going through graduate school to teach. Which is ironic that through that, teachers are still underpaid. That’s similar to asking a doctor whose attended all of these years of med school to take a $35,000 pay check. If I took the time (2 years to be exact) to attend graduate school for education, attend training twice a week/ with real teaching involved, I expect to be paid what I’m worth; it’s simple. New teachers and veterans can coexist.
Nancy Bailey says
There are some TFA corps members who go on to graduate school, although I question what training you get there, especially in Relay. The last two years of university preparation to be a teacher is critical. You missed it.
I wonder why you decided on TFA instead of committing originally to a university traditional teacher education program.
As far as working as a teacher with assistance from a real teacher…what you’re describing reminds me of the parallel some use of the individual flying the plane without training to be a pilot. Will it help if there’s a real pilot coaching the untrained individual sitting next to them? Well I guess. But would you want to be a passenger on that plane?
I would not want my child in a classroom where the individual who claims to be a teacher is learning as she goes along day-to-day.
Real teachers work through their courses, get some internships working with real classroom teachers along the way, and before they graduate they do student teaching for months under the direction of a supervisory teacher.
That’s a lot different than what you’re describing.
You are quick to criticize the pedagogy that is required to be a real teacher. What is your reasoning that the 1980s didn’t work? This sounds like corporate reform talk to me.
Disability Inclusion extremist are another reason for the decline in quality of education. These kids with disabilities can overwealm even experienced teachers with their needs that a general education teacher cannot address with their lack of training. Few have the courage to admit this and they never ask the opinion of a former special education student
about inclusuion and related issues like (Me) the person writing this responce.
What ever happened to California’s Bachleor degree of elementary education? It is repalced with some non sense degree called “LIberal Studies” (usually). Teachers must take an extra year or 2 to earn just his “Credential” adding to the education college drop out rate and ENABLING Teacher for America and other dubious groups, Why? Because these ( mostly white) Harvard graduates want to primp up their resume in the business world and not teach while Mr. such and such who wanted to become a teacher is stuck with an extra $20,000 in debt for that extra year or two in the credential program. Other state have a similar issue,
There are more effctive ways of schools sucessfully utilizing “alternative teacher licensure” to deal with shortages and encourage new teachers this is just not Teach For America approach which is business world related greed. Leave the successful programs to the state universities and school districts.
Nancy Bailey says
Wise words, Willie. You sound like a teacher. ( : Thank you for sharing.