The Millionaire Next Door

Throwing Teachers Under the Bus

It seems that it is open season on teachers.  People are questioning their integrity as well as their competency in light of recent achievement test results.   The large majority of teachers have high integrity and work hard to enhance the education of their students.  It is too easy to put the major blame for the poor academic results of our students on the backs of teachers. 

The New York Times recently published an article which profiled many of the top ranked teachers in the NYC school system.  According to the article, about 12,000 teachers were evaluated.  One of the top ten teachers is Alison Epstein who teaches 2nd grade.  In spite of her top ranking, she “is not a big fan of rating systems in which she excelled.  She cautioned against penalizing teachers whose students did poorly on state exams, saying there were too many vairables, from having supportive parents at home to being able to focus and read instructions carefully on test day.”  Further, she stated, “the pressure for teachers and children to perform for tests that do not really show how intelligent a student is or how amazing a teacher may be is substantial.” 

If you want your children to learn, remember that education begins at home.  Encourage your youngsters to read and enthusiastically support their good reading habits.  Stimulate their dreams, thoughts and insights by having them read about current events rather than watch the talking heads on electronic media.  I cited a study in my first book, Marketing to the Affluent, that said:  “The total number of words on a half hour television newscast would fill only a bit more than half of a typical newspaper page.”  Those who produce the printed word are a big cut above those in the talking head variety in terms of quality writing and reporting.

9 thoughts on “Throwing Teachers Under the Bus”

  1. Thank you for this post. No one knows their child like a parent does and my job as an educator is to come along side PARENTS, not try to take over the process of educating a child.

    The best tests I’ve ever taken have had nothing to do with paper. The best content I’ve ever gotten has been discussing a good book with a trusted friend. Thank you for encouraging us to take responsibility for our own education.

  2. “Encourage your youngsters to read and enthusiastically support their good reading habit”

    Children have an irritating habit of ignoring what we say and doing what we do. If they don’t see _you_ reading, they won’t either. So turn off the TV, put down the game controller and read. Or better yet, take them to the library.

    I am fortunate to have children in my life who love to read – for them a trip to the library is right up there with going out for Ice Cream.

  3. Due to testing I found myself in an average English class in high school.

    I remember in 10th grade my English teacher asking us if we knew a principle of grammar and none of us knew it. She pointed out that her son who was still in elementary school knew this principle. She went on to say that in her opinion none of us wanted to learn this so we didn’t learn it when it was presented to us.

    I really didn’t want to accept this when she said it but she really had a point. I am sure it was presented to me but I didn’t really want to learn it and thus didn’t.

    It is sad when you see everyone wanting to blame teachers when the real problem is the students aren’t motivated to learn. Responsibility for this motivation should mostly be the student’s and parent’s responsibility and not just the teacher’s.

    It is sad when you read articles portraying students that graduate high school that lack various skills as “victims.” They and their parents should take most of the blame for their failed learning.

  4. Couldn’t agree more! Teachers and parents should work together to educate their children (not just get them to pass standardized tests.)

  5. I agree with the teachers, but the flip side of this argument is also true- teachers don’t deserve very much credit when students do well. 90% of the credit or blame belongs to the parents.

  6. My mentor ,Tate,is an excellent teacher. I remember two examples. One was a friend of mine with an interest in immunology and hematologic diseases. He wanted to join the staff at Harvard as a junior faculty. Tate called the head of the heme- onc division and helped my friend land his first academic position. Another memory was of a young gentleman from India who struggled through the program with difficulty. Tate arranged for a post graduate job and helped the young man with his studies unroll he was up to speed and had passed his licensure and certification exams. Tate took care of every single one of his students including me. He also designed the research trial schematic for the gynecolic oncology group and has been credited as one of the developers of the taxanes. He is a friend and I cannot thank him enough.

  7. dwr, interesting point you make which I’ve never connected in the teacher’s fight to avoid testing. While it may be true that parents are to blame for bad performance (though ultimately, I believe, everyone, child or not, is responsible for their own performance regardless of whether or not Mummy spoiled them rotten or they had to work for it.) they can’t have it both ways. Teachers who would claim that must also recognize that they bear little credit for success, and therefore they are a commodity like almost all workers, easily replaced, and subject to dwindling pay/benefits in order to compete globally. Ouch! I wouldn’t repeat that to all the teachers gambling at the casinos on Teacher’s convention week. 🙂 (No offense intended to the conscientous teachers who do try hard, just the lazy ones with entitlement issues.)

  8. I’ve often heard the argument proposed by teachers that they are not responsible for the poor performance of their students – that there was nothing they could do because the parents don’t care. I believe there is a lot of truth to this – that good, involved parents result in better students.

    On the flip side, however, if the teacher has such little effect, or such a lack of ability to cause a difference, why do we pay teachers so much, have small class sizes, etc…. I mean, you’re saying that it won’t matter anyway. Why pay more to try to get good teachers?

    Perhaps we should stop looking at the performance of the really bad students, and start looking at the performance of the really good students in placement of good teachers. A poor teacher will not be able to help a good student. A good one will not get in their way. A great one will help them meet their potential.

  9. Research clearly shows that the quality of the teacher has the largest influence on the academic performance of the child. I taught nine years at a Cal State University before I changed my career to public school teacher.

    Research also shows that public school teachers have lower academic levels than many other professions. I can tell you that my district will never hire another ex college instructor after me. College instructors tend to be academically oriented and independent. This is the opposite of what a public school district wants. My district requires all teachers of the same grade to be within a few pages of each other in their teacher books. So all 12th grade history teachers at 16 schools are all on page 72 (range page 69-75). How can this be effective? I am a millionaire and I have four years of Ph.D training at UC. I enjoyed teaching when I made a real difference. I asked the Human Resources Superintendent if our district hires people with a C average from a state school with a B.A., and the answer is yes. If the teachers are not proficient themselves, how can their students be? Why would top level math and science graduates (M.A. or Ph.D) from universities (example: University of California) work on page 72?

    Another problem is that teachers do not teach in their subject area. I have a masters in sociology from UC, and I completed two additional years at the Ph.D level. I have more than nine years teaching sociology at the State college level (Cal State), but the district explained that I could not teach sociology at the high school. The reason is that sociology is part of social sciences, so anyone with a degree in history, psychology, economics, political science, etc can teach any other social science class. The reality is that sociology is taught as an AP class which is an elective that highly motivated college oriented students select. So until I had more senority (25 years plus), I would teach history. This makes complete sense to the administrators in my district!

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