Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Obama does not "get it" with Education

I was listening to President Obama talk about his education plans on CNN today. I was distressed because, as high as my hopes were for him, he seems to regurgitate the bullet points I heard from the previous administration. He bemoaned our scores in the international standings. Then he pronounced how we are going to turn this around - get quality teachers in the classrooms.

President Obama seems to believe that we can raise scores by attacking our perceived problems at the teacher level. This will fail, because our scores are NOT being driven by teachers.

I have been teaching for 18 years. Here is the truth as I see it: You can put a motivated student in with mediocre teachers for years and at the other end, the student will have made good gains. Conversely, you can put an unmotivated student in with the most talented of teachers and a few years later the student will have made minimal gains. If we put (to use No Child Left Behind logic) above average teachers in every classroom in America, I believe we would see negligible change.

I am a perfect example. Up until my tenth grade year, I was a poor student. I never made a grade above C. I just didn't feel like doing the work. When I turned it around and committed to work, I became a solid A/B student. My scores did not improve because a teacher taught harder, or better, or longer. My scores changed when I decided they would.

I really wish that my students' outcomes were solely dependent on me, but they are not. If we, as a nation, desire different results then we will need to address the situation a little more honestly. Attacking the problem at the teacher level will yield no real difference, and will give us a very frustrated teaching workforce.


Anonymous said...

Quite right.

I breezed through Jr High/ High School as a C student.

Only one teacher had the guts to call me out and call me lazy. He told me I had the capability of being an A student IF I would do the work. It was not an ability problem. It was a drive problem.

Of course I have had bad teachers over the years, but all in all the teachers did their job. The problem was ME.


Steve H. said...

Some teachers motivate better than others...some are more interesting than others...but at the end of the day. it comes down to the student.

Sarea said...

I agree 100%. What I don't get is this: I am pretty sure that most teachers would agree with you on these points, so how come no one is listening to you guys? Is it parents that would rather blame their children's apathy on the teachers? The root of most of the problems in our country is trying to fix the symptoms and not the problem causing the symptoms . . .All this to say I WISH MORE PEOPLE WOULD LISTEN TO YOU!!

Side note: I do homeschool my children, but not because I don't believe in the great teachers that are out there! You have my support!

Anonymous said...

Quite correct Steve.

As a teacher, both at Church and School, I tried to be passionate and engaging. I took the approach that if people were bored it wasn't me. I had heard boring teachers and I wasn't one of them.

I had a college professor that read the textbook to us. Boring as _______. I got an A in the class but not becuase of her. I could read after I read the text on my own and I did other school work in her class.

I would like to see the teaching profession purged of those who are drones and who have no passion for the craft. Is it any wonder many kids hate history? It seems history teachers can be the worst of bores.


Andrew said...

I like to compare it to a three-legged race. The student and I each have a leg locked together. There may be others who could go faster and farther than me, but I will get the student around that track in good time. However, if the starting bell sounds and he falls to the ground, expecting me to drag him... perhaps even pulling against me; then it should be no surprise that we do horribly in the race. It would be lunacy to pretend that the input of my partner in that respect is of no consequence; yet that is how educational policy is being formed.

Sarea - My wife has homeschooled our children for years. We love it, and are grateful that we have the option.

Sarea said...

I LOVE the three-legged race analogy! It is perfect!

I was pleasantly surprised to hear that your wife homeschools. It allows you to see both sides of the coin, which I believe makes your statements stronger.

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