Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Why Don't We Value Teachers?

From GOOD Blog:

A new piece by Arne Duncan, the United States Education Secretary, starts out fairly predictably: He praises the fine, difficult work teachers do, repeats the sentiment that they "deserve" better pay, top-notch training and more respect, and so on. Then he asks the predictable follow-up question: Why don't teachers get the respect, admiration, and compensation they are owed? Then the piece gets interesting.

He proposes that part of the problem is that the whole system is stuck in the "factory model of the industrial age. Students, in classrooms that look uncannily like the classrooms a century ago, move through 13 years of schooling beginning at age five, attending school 180 days a year, and taking five subjects a day in timed periods similar to what the Carnegie Foundation recommended in 1910."

He also says that a big part of the problem is the way we churn out teachers the way McDonald's churns out burgers. Instead of encouraging excellence and creativity and innovation, teachers are run through a factory-like training, then spit out the other side without the professional development, mentoring, a sense of preparedness, fair and honest evaluations of their work, and so on.

Finally, he also kind of sort of (but never explicitly) seems to think unions are also to blame. He stops short of saying unions are to blame for bad teachers keeping their jobs (thus lowering the status of the profession as a whole), but there are undertones there, at least in my reading.

What do you think?

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