The Time Magazine Cover is Misleading: Here is what you should be more concerned with than teacher tenure

Time Teacher Cover - Rotton Apples A few things about the November 2014 Time Magazine cover that claims that “It’s nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher.”

1) That is simply not true. Tenure is there so that if a teacher is fired they get to know why and have a chance to tell their side of the story. It’s there to protect teachers from being fired for things like complaining about bad conditions at schools, rejecting pressure to falsify test scores (a big issue in today’s climate of high-stakes testing), for reporting discriminatory practices toward special needs students, etc. It’s not so that bad teachers can’t get fired. In fact, it’s become easier and easier to fire teachers over the years not harder. If you look at the way tenure works, it’s not the way the average person assumes, but Time is playing up on that assumption. (See http://time.com/3541384/eskelsen-garcia-cover/)

2) Teachers want to get rid of bad teachers. Especially in today’s climate of high stakes testing, it doesn’t help teachers to have students come into their classroom after being in one with a bad teacher. Schools can and do fire bad teachers. Teachers I know lament the difficulty in finding good teachers (especially for schools in low income areas) and have open positions due to the firing of poor teachers and difficulty in finding good teachers to fill those positions. This results in students being taught by resource teachers or substitutes. We need to get rid of bad teachers while attracting teachers to the profession, which is a hard thing to do with the deskilling and deprofessionalization of teaching as profession (seen most of all in today’s high stakes testing and assessment culture. Common Core may be a step in the right direction, but is marred by implementation issues; a post for another time).

3) If you think teacher tenure is the biggest issue to address in our educational system then you don’t have a good grasp of the multiple issues that are occurring today that are contributing to the issues our schools are facing. I simply cannot understand why teachers keep coming under attack by the media when educators and researchers know that there are much larger issues to address. Teachers are an easy scapegoat for the media, which is so sad because most teachers today are in the profession because they want to do something meaningful with their lives and because they care about the kids. They put in a lot of unpaid time, not to mention a lot of money out of their own pockets, to do what is best for the students. Yet time and time again, they are the target of unwarranted criticism. If you want to talk about the problem with teachers, it is the de-professionalization of teaching that should concern you more than tenure.

4) Our schools are not failing as much as the media would have you believe. Yes, there are improvements to be made. Yes, there are certain populations of students who consistently struggle within our school system. However, more people graduate from high school than every before in our history (for example, see http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/high-school-graduation-rates-at-historic-high/2014/04/28/84eb0122-cee0-11e3-937f-d3026234b51c_story.html). Education used to be in the realm of the elite; now we provide it for everyone. The US faces some big challenges due to our diversity, socio-economic disparity, un-equal resources across schools, and more. We have a long way to go, but programs such as No Child Left Behind, stated to help address some of those educational disparities, have been worse for poor and minority students.

5) Poverty is something we should be headlining over teacher tenure. For example: “The countries that manage to reduce the impact of poverty on learning outcomes have adequate school funding systems unlike those found in the United States, in which schools serving poorer schools have fewer resources for children than schools serving kids from wealthier families.” See http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/09/17/new-census-data-children-remain-americas-poorest-citizens/

There is so much more I can add and I could bring in more research to support what I am saying, but I’m tired just writing all that. I can’t imagine how exhausted teacher’s must feel after working long hours and coming home to see another article bashing them when they know as well as I do that there are much bigger issues to address.

Time Magazine Cover Rotton Apples

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