This morning I read a review of Why Great Teachers Quit over at the Education Policy Blog. The review mentions teachers being overworked, entering the profession with lots of idealism (and presumably having it crushed), and the disrespectful treatment we generally receive from the corporate reform movement. These are all reasons teachers quit, to be sure, but I really felt that the review failed to capture the venom with which teachers are being attacked. Many teachers feel like they're living in a surreal version of Nineteen Eighty-four - no exaggeration.
Last year, my AP told me if the school worked his way, I could get hit by a bus and nobody would know the difference. He told me virtually anyone could be hired to do my job. This is corporate reform's mindset, but this guy also had a reputation for verbally, sexually, and physically abusing staff and students. His alleged affair with the principal was what most staff believed protected him from being fired - that along with an inept union and lack of concern on the part of Mayor Adrian Fenty and Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Although both received letters about this AP's despicable behavior, Rhee is said to have responded, "You can't argue with results." I can't independently verify that, but that's what I was told by one teacher who complained.
There are thousands of these stories across the country, and millions across the world - this is not a phenomenon specific to the US.
On February 4th in the Bronx and February 11th in Brooklyn, rallies will be held in support of teachers who've been harassed, specifically teachers from Bronx Science, where teachers in the math department were routinely harassed by their supervisor. Teachers were criticized in front of students, brought to the point of tears, and referred to as "disgusting" at meetings. Thirteen of twenty math teachers have since left the school. There was an even worse turnover rate in the social studies department at Columbia Heights Educational Campus, my former school in DC.
The city of New York recently announced that Iris Blige, principal of Fordham High School of Arts in the Bronx, will continue in her position despite Office of Special Investigations finding that she threatened APs with their jobs if they did not give U ratings to teachers before they'd ever been observed. Comments at Gotham Schools and JD2718 suggest the environment was unbearable.
Mr Teachbad, sort of the John Stewart of teacher blogging, tells of his administration's recent move to define exactly what activities must occur in each teacher's classroom on each day of the week. I'm glad I don't work at that school...
In Detroit, everyone's favorite not-a-real-superintendent, Robert Bobb, has kids being taught by Walmart. He's hoping to bring the same model to DC.
In Philadelphia, Arlene Ackerman has threatened school personel with criminal prosecution if they speak out about "confidential information" related to the school district or its employees. The same is said to be true of Broad-trained Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre, who's also scared teachers from speaking publicly about what's happening there.
New teacher evaluation systems in New Haven, DC, Baltimore, NYC and plenty of other places across the country will make it exceedingly difficult for anyone in an urban school to keep a job for longer than a few years. What better way to get rid of tenure than to never grant it to anyone in the first place? I, for example, might soon be required to move 85 percent of my students to grade-level proficiency despite many of them being unable to read or write a paragraph in English.
In Rochester, Broad-trained Jean-Claude Brizard is trying to close schools unilaterally, with no input from parents, students, or teachers.
In 2009, 43 percent of large superintendent openings were filled by graduates of the Broad superintendent academy. I've never attended the academy, but I'd guess its essential learnings go something like this:
-Parents, teachers, and students have no clue what's best for them. Effective leaders act without their input.
-Not only are test scores are valid indicators of educational progress, they're all that matter. Treat them like a businessman treats profit.
-Close as many public schools as you can and invite as many private operators to take them over as possible. The private sector is always right. Public employees are always incompetent.
-Actively seek to rid your systems of educators whose viewpoints have been contaminated by experience. While you probably can't actually kill them (and keep your job), the Khmer Rouge's model is a good one to study.
Today in the New York Times, Michelle Rhee, who I'm utterly convinced has narcissistic personality disorder (not kidding - at all), reminded everyone that we should be privatizing as quickly as possible and relying on student test scores as much as possible in evaluating teachers. She applauds six states for increasing their reliance on testing and twenty-seven for allowing more charter schools. The piece might not come off so self-aggrandizing if you didn't know she thinks she's responsible for those changes.
The National Education Association recently refused to rule out a nation-wide strike if widespread attempts were made to eliminate tenure. I'd rather see a nation-wide strike against unqualified leaders in our districts. That's where most of the vitriolic ignorance is coming from, backed by monied and ideological interests who see deprofessionalizing the American teacher as a path toward improving the economy. Imagining an unqualified teacher in front of my kids worries me. That disagrement around Cathie Black's appointment is viewed as legitimate debate is particularly sad.
Why do teachers quit? Seriously - why do any of them stay?