Better Teaching

It’s Ohio’s responsibility to make sure that every student has a great public school, and it’s hard to imagine a great school of any sort without high-quality teachers.

The 1983 federal study A Nation At Risk (which could not be accused of shilling for teachers or their unions) noted, “not enough . . . academically able students are being attracted to teaching; . . . teacher preparation programs need substantial improvement; . . . the professional working life of teachers is on the whole unacceptable; and . . . a serious shortage of teachers exists in key fields.”

Most teachers working today started their careers after those observations were made, and many would make the same observations today. And yet, the occupational denigration that teachers face today doesn’t attempt to deal with those very real issues. Instead, lawmakers have concentrated on “fixes” that are more political than educational:

  • weakening teachers’ due process protections;
  • dictating the amount and methods of teacher evaluation; and
  • linking teacher evaluation (and pay) to student test scores.

The problems are particularly acute in urban schools, most of which are relatively large and have layers of administration that tend to make supervision and evaluation less personal and more bureaucratic.

The challenge, it seems to me, is not to look for better teachers; it’s to create the conditions for better teaching. Many systems for identifying poor teachers impoverish the professional climate for all teachers and, ironically, reduce the quality of teaching and learning for all students. What Ohio’s lawmakers have done is to design a whole system around outliers. Educators know that punishing a whole class for the offenses of a few doesn’t work, but that’s just what Ohio’s lawmakers are doing.

Teachers are the solution, not the problem. The challenge is to treat them that way.

(Note: This post grew out of an exchange of comments on Facebook. While the exchange seemed promising, the topic is clearly too big for Facebook messaging, and I promised to write something in more detail on my website. Of course, it’s too big even for a post like this, but at least here it’s possible to identify some basic thoughts on the subject.)

This post originally appeared on the website of my 2016 campaign for State Board of Education,

Author: StgCoach

Retired teacher and public education leader. Pastoral musician, community activist, parliamentarian, and photographer.