“I’m sick and tired of outsiders, ignorant of the inter-workings of the public education system,” a local 20 year veteran teacher opined in the hardcopy edition of a local newspaper, “bashing public education, and by implication, its teachers… I am beyond sick and tired with public school administrators … who continue to perpetuate the lie that the only thing that really matters is the quality of instruction in the classroom.”
He goes on to say that the truth is that instruction is only half of the problem. He calls for a “fundamental shift in the reward structure (of public education) to bring about student and parent accountability.”
This teacher offers a view heard from teachers and some education professors across the country for the last five decades. With respect, this view slips off of a point some “outsiders” and some insiders make.
Effective instruction is possible and occurs routinely by some teachers. It is the contracted duty of teachers, regardless of how inconvenient the situation, people, etc. make that instruction.
As one curriculum supervisor told a beginning teacher in a steel mill town, “Assume that parents sent to school the best children they could send on that day. Work with it. That’s what you’re paid to do.”
Second, people do not hold a common view or expectation for education or schooling, whether they are inside or outside of school systems.
Third, a single public education system does not exist in the United States. Instead, each of the 50 states has the right to offer schooling as their elected state representatives choose. They voluntarily enter into agreements with Federal agencies in exchange for funding and with other states for common curricular standards. But, these do not make a single education system.
Yes, it can be difficult to instruct all students effectively all of the time. Yes, more students meet school standards than do not. Yes, people other than teachers can change what they do, so effective instruction can be easier for teachers.
But, the bottom line is that each teacher pledges by signing a teaching contract his or her honor to instruct all students, regardless of how or which students enter a classroom and to do so according to the formal expectations of their education agency, Signing is a voluntary action. Ultimately, each teacher is accountable for the learning that occurs in his or her classroom.
Harsh? No, direct. That’s reality.