How Government Treats Teachers Like Professionals

The state of the economy is still being used to prove that our schools are an embarrassment compared to other countries. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan remains adamant that we need to better prepare our teaching professionals to train students for jobs the June employment numbers show are still in short supply. Washington’s solution is to train our teachers to teach:

While there are many good teacher education programs in this country, far too many of the programs that prepare our teachers are inadequate. Improving these programs is essential to ensuring our nation’s students receive the education they deserve.¹

We are warned that our educators must be placed on the same pedestal as professionals who are responsible for their own career development and don’t have government and unions watching their backs when they fail. The rhetoric about buying talent and treating teachers as professionals always reaches the same conclusion. We need to change the system so we can pay teachers more money:

A performance-based compensation model will enable great teachers to earn more, justify higher salaries, and raise the stature of the profession.²

Does money create teaching professionals?

Pushing for acceptance of state Common Core Standards, Duncan claims that:

… the buck stops with the states.³

Actually, the buck stops with the Federal Government’s demands for higher teacher pay that will force state and local governments to come up with more tax money (see: Will Taxpayers Support Raising Teacher Salaries 165%?).

We have to assume that anyone who ran the Chicago school system knows about the six-figure teacher salaries to be had in Illinois. We also have to assume that some of these highly paid teachers figured out how to do their jobs without federal meddling in teacher evaluation and preparation programs, and without the benefit of grants, loans, and other professional perks paid for with public money.

Teacher evaluation made impossible.

If this was a perfect world all professionals would be highly trained and supremely capable. The private sector weeds out the ones who aren’t (see: A Conservative Tip for Creating Effective Teachers).

In public education things are different. Arne Duncan’s views on teacher evaluation beg the question of why we shouldn’t expect competence in the classroom and why we have to teach underperforming teachers how to succeed. Standardized tests are deemed unsuitable for evaluating teacher performance in favor of an unworkably subjective mix:

Just to be 100 percent clear—evaluation should never be based only on test scores. That would be ridiculous. It should also include factors like principal observation or peer review, student work, parent feedback. It should be designed locally—and teachers should be at the table to help design it.4

Common Core Standards hold students accountable, not their teachers.

Common Core Standards raise the education bar with guidelines much more explicit than anything the Department of Education would recommend to evaluate teachers. Kids will be held to a higher standard than their educators, who government will not hold accountable for student performance.

If we can believe Obama administration figures about the numbers of teachers who have been laid off, then we have a ready pool of replacements to draw from:

Since 2009, we’ve lost more than 300,000 education jobs, in part, because of budget cuts at the state and local level,” said President Obama.5

In most highly valued professions competence rises and lack of performance gets you fired. No one likes to be evaluated for aspects of their job they cannot control, but most of us have to live with it. Fortunately for teachers, they have a protector in Washington doing his best to make sure that measurable standards like Common Core will only be applied to students.

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