Thursday, February 23, 2012

Public Education

My wife is a teacher. She always wanted to be a teacher. It was a good and decent profession to which to aspire. One could help young people learn and perhaps inspire them to do good work. She loves her students. Many of them speak English as their second language and are new to the United States. They are eager to learn to read in their new language and discover all they can about this new place. Many of their parents work two jobs or more and live in large extended families. They are very committed to their children's education. My wife's school is filled with committed teachers who love the students they teach. They love their jobs. It is a wonderful place to visit because of the exceptional school spirit. Test scores which are the important evaluators today are rising. My wife is a reading specialist and she routinely passes her students on as they become proficient according to their test scores. It's a great achievement for these students.

I know there are some teachers who are not doing their best work but I don't know very many. By far most of the teachers I know are teachers who I would be very happy to send my children or grandchildren to.

The climate of public education has changed over the past ten years. Since No Child Left Behind the assumption is that we are leaving too many children behind and the teachers are to blame. So the solution seems to be more teacher evaluation and the way to do this is by assessing a teacher's performance based on how his or her students do on their proficiency tests. While this simple idea sounds good it is inadequate. Teachers do not deal with a classroom of children who come to school equally prepared to learn. There are problems at home to deal with. There are learning problems. There are language problems. There are lots of problems that teachers deal with in order to help their students learn.

The politicians need a scapegoat. They are making budgets that commit a lot of money to public education. People pay taxes to fund these budgets and they demand accountability. Here in Alaska our governor has stated he does not favor any more education increases because it's the "ultimate giveaway". Money spent with no accountability, with no means of knowing if it is getting the job done. Thus, the teachers are left feeling unsupported and having to do more with less every year. They do it, too. They love their students and are committed to helping them learn.

Our governor or anyone else who questions what our public education is doing for the money that is spent only needs to spend a day in my wife's classroom, or in any of the classrooms in our community. It would be time well spent.