COMMENTARY | How do we make America’s schools better? Recent years have seen our society bemoan K-12 public schools, shaking our heads over increasing standardized testing, eroding test scores, and an increase in incoming college students who need remedial courses. We taxpayers demand answers! Parents want accountable and high-performing educators, students want to be engaged with the material, and employers want graduates to be ready to work. Gallup sought answers and applied surveys, research, and statistics to the dilemma of eroding U.S. public education, reports the Huffington Post.
Their big solution? We need to make teachers true “professionals” in mainstream society. Currently, they argue, teachers are not considered professionals like doctors, lawyers, and engineers. This lack of respect, the reasoning goes, makes teachers less motivated and engaged to perform. And, of course, as always, more pay would be nice.
As a high school teacher, I can’t argue with more pay! I do, however, caution against the “professional” line of reasoning, which risks provoking the ire of many current teachers by asserting that the “best and brightest” shy away from teaching due to the profession’s lack of respect and prestige. While Gallup and the Huffington Post may have a point when they say that the “best and brightest” are not flocking to become K-12 teachers, one factor that might also drive the “best and brightest” away from the teaching profession could be…
Lack of student accountability.
In all the exhaustive opining about how to fix America’s schools, nobody but real teachers appear to be willing to suggest that the way to succeed is to allow kids to fail.
Sure, Gallup and HuffPo put on a good song and dance: Make teaching more prestigious, pay teachers more, fund schools better, let teachers teach, etc, etc. What they don’t do is mention the elephant in the room, which is lack of student accountability. Teachers feel stressed because, at least at the high school level, they feel they have little control over both curriculum and students. Teachers may be more worried about the lack of respect in the classroom as opposed to the lack of respect by the general public.
But it’s not politically correct to suggest that minors should be held responsible for their own actions, efforts, or lack thereof. We would rather throw money at schools for new technology to supposedly increase academic engagement than suggest that we toughen up academic rigor by making students actually earn a passing grade to pass the class. Sure, we teachers would love more money…but we would also love to have our grading and student evaluations respected.
Perhaps one reason K-12 teachers lack prestige in America is that we know about the grade inflation and how school districts run roughshod over teachers’ grades and disciplinary referrals. We know that teachers are not the ones in the driver’s seat. Only when we return to teachers the power of the failing grade and the disciplinary referral do we return respect and prestige to the position. Currently, teachers are viewed as having little clout or autonomy, with their threats often idle.
Perhaps one thing Gallup should research is how much “tough love” teachers in other industrialized nations are allowed to show their students and how frequently administrators in other countries pad grades to allow more students to graduate.