So, this week is teacher appreciation week. I look forward to the plethora of appreciative coupons that will be stacked in the staff mail room. I will finally be able to eat my discounted pizza while reading my discounted book and planning for all the discounted school supplies from the office supply store!
For one week, people will finally tell me how much our work is valued. Maybe I won't hear how teachers are so great, it's just those darn unions that are evil. As if they are two completely separate entities. I won't have to hear how I hate kids, and just want due process protection because I am a lazy, good for nothing teacher. It's no wonder that teacher morale is at an all time low. No matter, bad morale can't possibly affect the learning environment.
Recent studies have shown, conclusively, that teacher turnover is more harmful than any positive or negative gain in discreet teacher efficacy. As a metaphor, great schools are more like the Avengers, while the reformers want to pretend they can separate us all into Supermen. Oh yeah, if you aren't Superman, you're dirt. I'll take the Avengers.
In this week of appreciation, I daydream about what it would be like to be respected as a profession the other 51 weeks. Meanwhile, I look back at what a year it has been for teachers.
Before we begin, I would like to submit that the destruction of the teaching profession has nothing to do with saving state budgets. The phrase and excuse, "Our country is broke" is probably the biggest zombie lie of the past year. With the DOW reaching pre-recession levels, we are the richest nation on the planet. With CEO wages increasing 750% last year, we are clearly the richest nation on the planet. With over three trillion in corporate cash reserves, we are still the richest nation on the planet. You know? It's not even close. To say we, as a country, are broke, is about the most ridiculous statement to come out of someones mouth. Now, how we allocate all that cash is completely dysfunctional, but broke? Not even close.
From September 2008 until September 2011, we lost 290,000 school personnel. Over a quarter million in a scant three years. These were not inevitable causalities. These were choices made. Calculated choices made in state legislatures located in the richest nation on the planet. The Recovery Act saved many, many more, but that was pre-2010 Tea Party. Now we have coupons.
This year, state after state have implemented or tried to implement the firing of teachers based on student test scores. They want to base pay on student test scores. In a profession where the "clients" are not equally distributed, this has obvious consequences. In New York City, a grade A teacher from a grade A school was rated the worst teacher in the city, and her family harassed. Her crime? Taking on the most challenging children in one of the most challenging districts.
The National Academies, Rand Testing and Educational Testing all say not to use test scores in this manner. Meanwhile, we have Democratic politicians like Teri Bonoff who say, to oppose the Rhee/Student's First testing agenda, is an indefensible act. It is almost like a suburban colonialism come to save the masses with their heavy handed mission from God. Teachers are told they only oppose these laws because they are bad teachers. My dream, someday, is that every single teacher from Edina would exchanged, for two years, with every teacher from Saint Paul High schools. It would just show how silly this whole reform scheme is. As if the Edina teachers are all top notch and the Saint Paul teachers are all terrible. Luckily this will never happen because we know how terrible staff turnover is for kids.
Just last month, Scott Walker decided that half a percent or even one percent raises were too good for teachers. Too lavish. Too extreme. A new state rule in Wisconsin would use the lowest base salary possible for computing a percentage increase, not actual base salary. That outrageous $400 raise magically reduced to $300 or even $200. So in Wisconsin, the only thing they are allowed to bargain over are cost of living increases. Now those increases will be even less.
Of course, in state after state they are considering parental trigger laws. Under these laws, parents can vote to have schools dismantled and turned into charters. Wait until they get the bill and realize charters are more expensive than traditional schools. Again, we are not broke, we just make lousy choices of where to send our money.
So, teacher appreciation week. We love and respect you, but we hate your professional organization. There is zero evidence your professional organization is bad for kids, but our gut tells us it is, so you hate kids. Right to work states that already got rid of unions fare no better, and often worse, but we still think that is the solution. Early childhood education is paramount, but we are not even going to address that. Teacher morale affects learning, but we'll ignore that. Research tells us not to use test scores for hiring and firing, but we don't care. If you disagree you must be a bad teacher.
I am off to go find some appreciation coupons.
Crossposted at MN Progressive Project