Thursday, October 23, 2008

Good Teacher, Bad Teacher: What Parents Want

As a DCPS parent I have had the good fortune that my daughter has been taught by some really great teachers. She's now in sophomore year of high school and I've been at this since Pre-K. I've felt the happiness and security of knowing that my daughter loved those teachers, enjoyed being in their classrooms, and was doing important and interesting work with them. Her second grade teacher went from being "so unfair!" to "the best teacher in the universe!" by the end of one school year. I will always appreciate the way she made my daughter think about things and learn how to work hard on school assignments. Teaching is complex work.

I've also had the unfortunate experience of my child being in classrooms where learning couldn't go on because of disorganization in the way the teacher managed the students and in the way lessons were delivered. She's had teachers who used videos to kill time, lost her work, didn't return assignments with grades, threatened and bullied students, or bored and frustrated my daughter to tears. If you want to know how much damage a bad teacher can do, read page 15 in the World's School Systems report produced by McKinsey in Sept. 2007.
http://www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/socialsector/resources/pdf/Worlds_School_Systems_Final.pdf
In DCPS, the great teachers and the craft of teaching seem to get little recognition, respect or notice from the higher-ups. By the same token, there doesn't seem to be any system of intervention and support for a teacher who's really messing up.

As “teachers and parents for real education reform,” it’s important that together we advocate for a credible system that ensures good teaching in every classroom. I want to see teachers brought into DCPS with proper orientation to our school system. We are still throwing people into our schools and expecting them to swim. I want to see resources placed at the school level to enable teachers to do their best work because when they get what they need, so will my child. And when principals evaluate teachers, they have to know what to look for. If a learning standard is posted on the wall, that doesn’t make someone a good teacher in my book. If my child does well on the DC CAS that alone doesn’t make her teacher good. We also have a duty to make sure that we can get rid of incompetent teachers when evaluations merit it. But it can’t be as arbitrary as it now seems to be. I know from direct experience that it's been wrenching to have teachers that someone in power thinks "don't fit in" dismissed from my school despite their achievements and the praise of students and parents. As another parent recently said to me, "I don't see how coming down with a hammer is going to make things better." I surely agree.

4 comments:

very concerned parent said...

My son has had four wonderful teachers and one teacher last year who poorly performed. With the latter teacher, the principal made some effort to address the concerns raised by many parents in the class but it was clearly evident that she should/could have done so much more. Instilling the fear of God in principals by making it known that at any moment they can be fired makes the situation worse(like on a Friday before a holiday weekend during a 2 minute meeting with Rhee).

One challenge that made it more difficult for my son’s teacher last year was the fact that two students were real serious behavior problems and came from broken homes. Unfortunately, these two children took up a lot of the teacher’s time and disrupted learning.

Even the most energetic, enthusiastic and committed teachers face huge challenges with disruptive children. Doubling their salary is not going to fix the problem. I don’t think that dividing teachers with this red and green pay plan is going to help.

I really worry about staff morale in my son’s school. In my opinion, teaching has always been a tough job but now with the negative attacks on teachers in the media, Rhee has managed to make it more grueling.

All I read and hear about is the bad teachers who fail our children. It is mostly hype that reminds me a lot of the negative political ads on TV.

I am watching and waiting with patience to see what is next. We are definitely keeping our options open even if that means moving out of DC. I hope not.

Anonymous said...

With the Hart Middle school fiasco showcasing the multitude of problems facing many of our schools, DCPS leadership needs to do something dramatically different. It is quite clear that teachers and principals need a whole lot of support that they are just not getting.

Firing a principal and sending in more security just won't solve the problem. I wish it could be that easy.

D S said...

BAD TEACHERS MUST BE FIRED!

I have yet to meet one real parent who disagrees with me. I've met a lot of teachers who are trying to save the jobs of their friends who are hurting students however. Us parents know who this group consists of.

I have written to Rhee and demanded that specific teachers be fired. The PTA is watching and we're taking names.

I would recommend firing entire schools, the principals, the teachers, the janitorial staff- fire them all and start again. That's why charters have good years, because they have started without dead wood fake teachers.

As a taxpaying parent and DC Resident and PTA officer I know the majority of DCPS teachers MUST GO! If they are real teachers they can go work in fairfax, Montgomery County or at a college. If they are phony teachers, they can't. If they're phonies, then they aren't my taxpaying problem anymore.

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