Teachers, Status and Budget Cuts

I know that waking up every morning at a time when many normal people are just going to bed is not a cause for great celebration. But I rather enjoy it. And being able to browse the Internet in darkness and silence opens up a whole world of contradictions.

Take education as an example.

Sam Dillon has an interesting NYT article this morning “U.S. Urged to Raise Teachers’ Status.” Here’s an excerpt:

To improve its public schools, the United States should raise the status of the teaching profession by recruiting more qualified candidates, training them better and paying them more, according to a new report on comparative educational systems.

Andreas Schleicher, who oversees the international achievement test known by its acronym Pisa, says in his report that top-scoring countries like Korea, Singapore and Finland recruit only high-performing college graduates for teaching positions, support them with mentoring and other help in the classroom, and take steps to raise respect for the profession.

“Teaching in the U.S. is unfortunately no longer a high-status occupation,” Mr. Schleicher says in the report, prepared in advance of an educational conference that opens in New York on Wednesday. “Despite the characterization of some that teaching is an easy job, with short hours and summers off, the fact is that successful, dedicated teachers in the U.S. work long hours for little pay and, in many cases, insufficient support from their leadership.”

And:

The meeting occurs at a time when teachers’ rights, roles and responsibilities are being widely debated in the United States.

Republicans in Wisconsin and several other states have been pushing legislation to limit teachers’ collective bargaining rights and reduce taxpayer contributions to their pensions.

President Obama has been trying to promote a different view.

“In South Korea, teachers are known as ‘nation builders,’ and I think it’s time we treated our teachers with the same level of respect,” Mr. Obama said in a speech on education on Monday.

And the point:

The “five things U.S. education reformers could learn” from the high-performing countries, the report says, include adopting common academic standards — an effort well under way here, led by state governors — developing better tests for use by teachers in diagnosing students’ day-to-day learning needs and training more effective school leaders.

“Make a concerted effort to raise the status of the teaching profession” was the top recommendation.

Wow. “Make a concerted effort to raise the status of the teaching profession.” I imagine that means hire, support, retain and reward excellent teachers who view education as a career, not as a step to a better job somewhere else.

Here’s another story — this one via the HuffPost: “Union Estimates 19,000 Teacher Layoff Slips So Far in California.”

School districts in California have issued nearly 19,000 layoff notices so far to teachers amid uncertainty over the state budget, the California Teachers Association estimated Tuesday.

The union announced its estimate of preliminary notices on the day school districts must let employees know they could lose their jobs.

Some districts had yet to fully report how many warnings had been distributed as they prepare for worst-case budget scenarios. The union said it expects to have a final count Friday.

And:

In Union City, between San Jose and Oakland, kindergarten teacher Quyen Tran was one of about 60 school employees in her small school district to get a layoff notice. She started teaching in New Haven Unified School District in 2006.

Quyen, 30, said she was laid off last spring but hired in August right before the school year began. She is expecting her first child in June.

“It’s very stressful,” she said during a news conference, “just not knowing where I’m going to be next year or how secure my income will be.”

Quyen, however, said she’s more worried about the impact of state budget cuts on her students.

“With all these layoffs of teachers, they will have no choice but to stuff more kids into these classrooms,” she said. “They’re going to be cheated out of their education just because there are not going to be enough teachers around.”

Increase the status of teachers?

We’ll see.

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4 responses to “Teachers, Status and Budget Cuts

  1. What do you mean “a step to a better job somewhere else,”? What kind of jobs do you think teachers are getting after employment as a teacher? I have never heard of teachers using classroom experience as a stepping stone. Please elaborate. Enlighten me.

    • Deborah,

      Thanks for your comment. And I must not have written that well because I was trying to make the exact point you are making. Unlike in business or health care and so on, people don’t become teachers as way to get experience and then move on to other jobs. They view education as a career. And to the extent that every spring now a significant number of teachers in communities throughout the country receive notices that their jobs will or may be cut because of budget reductions diminishes the status of teachers and makes the whole idea of a career in education iffy at best.

  2. A few years back, when my son was shopping for colleges, he received a recruiting booklet from a large state university in Ohio. It’s south of I-70, that’s all I’ll say. Each “college” unit within that university listed a profile of the “typical” student. The College of Education had, by far, the lowest average ACT scores, just 18/36.

    We all know that standardized tests aren’t perfect, but when the worst performers on those tests are preparing to become tomorrow’s educators, it should tell us something is amiss. We gotta find a way to attracted more of the best and brightest to in the classrooms, so they can produce more best and brightest.

    As a society, we have devalued teachers by portraying them as overpaid and under-worked. Total nonsense. And folks like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker just make things worse.

    • Bill, I completely agree. We have devalued teachers and teaching for many years — just like we devalued skilled workers who actually knew how to make things. And the situation involving education is getting worse, not better. We need the best and the brightest to at least consider careers in education — as classroom teachers — but the odds of that happening aren’t good given everything that is taking place these days.

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