It’s good that President Biden is focusing on updating school buildings in his infrastructure plan. But there’s another crisis his administration should address. America needs a national movement to get well-prepared teachers into our public school classrooms.
The teaching profession has been in crisis mode for years. Much of this crisis has been generated by wealthy groups and individuals, venture philanthropists, who want to see technology replace teachers. They often use the term equity, but real equity isn’t found on a computer. Children need to see diversity face-to-face in the classroom, including real teachers of color.
It’s time to restore dignity to the profession and ensure that every child has access to qualified teachers, teachers who look like they do, care about what and how they learn like children should be cared about. Who are willing to choose teaching as a long-time career. Students need to know that their teachers are committed to them for the long haul.
This should include revisiting the Every Student Succeeds Act.
The Highly Qualified Teacher requirements (which stipulated that you must hold at least a bachelor’s degree from a four-year institution, be fully certificated or licensed by the state, and demonstrate competence in each core academic subject area in which you teach) are no more.
While the HQT was problematic, states are now left to determine their own definitions of what makes a teacher. The profession is up for grabs with nonprofits and unregulated teacher training programs. Clarity needs to come from the U.S. Department of Education.
Meanwhile, in Biden’s current plan, we read:
As we make our schools safer, we also will invest in cutting-edge, energy-efficient and electrified, resilient, and innovative school buildings with technology and labs that will help our educators prepare students to be productive workers and valued students.
Education Week reports:
The plan would provide an additional $100 billion to help expand broadband access in communities nationwide. This funding would not be targeted at schools, but it would help address the lack of reliable internet that has made remote learning and homework difficult for many students. Funding to help address that concern was also including in the COVID-19 relief bill.
This goal may make sense considering the past year. Students need access to the Internet. But online charter schools and transforming public schools from within into online learning hubs is worrisome if the teacher component is missing, especially since research indicating benefits of learning by machine only is pretty much absent.
Students deserve access to qualified teachers who have credentials in the subject they teach and understand the age group with which they work. Technology is a tool for them to use.
Do Americans want teacherless classrooms? Are they willing to accept a continuous diet of online instruction for children in school?
The Biden administration has made little mention of the teacher problem. The media reports on a teacher shortage, but that shortage has always been about driving teachers out of their classrooms, replacing them with alternatives like Teach for America. Older teachers higher on the pay scale have especially been affected. Now there’s much talk about volunteers.
This drive to privatize by tech isn’t partisan. One can equally find Arne Duncan working for the tech industry, selling online learning like Betsy DeVos.
While the Covid-19 problem escalated and teachers worried about safety concerns, many teachers retired early; others continued in-person, remote, hybrid, all while school districts couldn’t find substitutes.
So it’s good that President Biden is working on fixing school buildings and the other infrastructure problems in this country. It’s hard to believe that lead pipes, inadequate ventilation systems, and asbestos still raise concerns. These issues were troubling for students and teachers before Covid-19.
We also need, however, better teacher recruitment, well-designed university college of education programs, incentives to get teachers who retired early back into the classroom, along with better high school future teacher organizations, fairer wages, tighter certification rules, smaller class sizes, resources and materials, and a campaign showing how teaching can be rewarding and a vibrant profession.
The time for this is long overdue but now also seems like the right time. We have a real teacher as the first lady and one, hopefully, two, real educators at the top of the ladder. They’ve studied education and how children and youth learn by attending accredited universities. They did not come from fast-track training programs.
It’s time to create a teaching profession supported, and given the respect it deserves to become a shining example for the world to see! If Americans want real progress, they must get behind the people who will make it happen, America’s public school teachers.