No Child Left Behind, But Teachers Are Fair Game

7 Oct

DC Fires Teachers

With the 2009 – 2010 school year well underway, it is evident that many school systems across the nation are feeling the sting of the recession.  Teachers remain concerned about budget cuts that affect their classroom productivity, as well as their own pocket books.  Insufficient staffing and continuous classroom overcrowding  are also hot button issues that directly impact educator’s effectiveness and remain on the minds of school board meetings attendees.  Couple these concerns with the mass exodus of about 250 teachers (in one school system), and you have a recipe for even more confusion and inadequacies.
Such was the case with the District of Columbia School System at the end of last school year. The Chancellor, Michelle Rhee decided to dismiss 250 teachers that she deemed ineffective.  The majority of the teachers who were given a permanent summer vacation in June were novice instructors, but there were some 80 tenured educators who were let go as well. 
While I understand to a degree Chancellor Rhee’s mindset in cleaning-house and removing educators whom according to her were given ample opportunity to turn things around (after being given a 90 day probation plan), it is important to note that teacher’s classroom assessments were not the only criteria by which these fired instructors were judged.  For many of these educators, not having their proper teaching certification was undoubtably the kiss of death.  It is clearly understood by most in the field of education that the NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT has pretty much made it a federal law for all teachers to be certified in their state and requires the state to develop assessments in basic skills to be given to all students in certain grades, if schools in the state are to receive federal funding.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think it is a good idea that teachers ought to know the content they are teaching to our children and not be found deficient in areas of knowledge and instruction, but in the case of the DC School System, when you sack 250 teachers whom you see as simply ineffective warm bodies in front of a classroom everyday, how does one then propose replacing said warm bodies?  It’s not like teaching has been classified as this decades most sexy profession.  And not because the majority of teachers aren’t doing their darndest to ingrain some lasting imprint on our future CEO’s and entrepreneurs.  The fact is, everything being equal, teachers are not paid comparably for the things that they do.  So even with vacancies available, what in the world could the school system do to entice teachers; those already certified and those willing to return to school to obtain certification as well? 
Well by terminating uncertified educators, the school system stays in compliance with the NCLB mandate and can therefore continue receiving federal funding.  Shouldn’t a good portion of that federal funding then be used to provide some sort of  bonus for instructors who come into a teaching position already certified and establish continuing education programs to certify these same teachers that school systems around the country are telling us that they so desperately need? 
And what about  the most severely impacted  group in all of this, the students?  NCLB enacts the theories of standards-based education reform, which is based on the belief that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education.  The downside to that however, is the fact that in the United States,  we do not use a standard data base and uniform teaching standards across the country so wouldn’t these “standards” be subjective from state to state?  And if we are talking subjectivity, then wouldn’t firing a teacher for deficient performance then be subjective as well if there is no federal standard by which to evaluate an educator’s performance?
I don’t pretend to have all the answers in the realm of education reform, but I truly feel that we owe it to OUR future to not even make concessions, but to do right by America’s Educators.  In many instances, teachers play the part of  role model, counselor and even surrogate parent to many students who otherwise would not have someone around to even care about their own personal successes, much less their academic accomplishments.
I know President Obama has a lot on his plate lately, but my hope is that he can pencil in Rev. Sharpton and Newt Gingrich  in the near future to discuss better strategies to transform and restructure this country’s legislation on education, because bake sales and raffles to buy textbooks and classroom supplies is just not working for me.
I’m Packing Up

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