A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Friday, April 27, 2007

Teaching in Cali (and everywhere): Not really a surprise

New teachers in California have a rough time feeling that they can really sustain a decent life while in the profession:
Teachers stifled by bureaucracy and blocked from making decisions in their own classrooms are leaving teaching in droves, according to a new study by Cal State University's Teacher Quality Institute.

Nearly 22 percent of California teachers leave teaching after four years, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. With this type of exodus, the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning projects a 33,000-teacher shortage in California by 2015.

At high-poverty schools, one in 10 teachers leaves each year, either for a different campus or a new occupation entirely.
"It's students from our most challenging schools who suffer the most," said Jack O'Connell, state superintendent of schools. "We really do have a revolving door."

The 1,900 teachers surveyed by the institute said they left mainly because of the endless amounts of paperwork, constant interruptions and fruitless meetings that take time away from actual instruction, said Ken Futernick, principal author of the study and director of K-12 Studies at the institute.

"Those kind of things aren't just driving people crazy, they are driving teachers out of the classroom," Futernick said.
Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association, said the study echoed the union's concerns.

"We need to have more say at the local level. We have bureaucratic-ed ourselves to death," Kerr said. "Teachers are feeling like they're not able to use the knowledge they have."

Read the whole thing. And there's more here.

It seems like a lot of people running school districts around the country seem to have a scornful attitude toward the teachers who do the work that schools are there to do. When administrators denigrate and devalue teachers, student and parent attitudes will follow. Then administrators wonder why the discipline in the school has become so unmanageable.

Like it or not, the way our capitalist society demonstrates the value it places upon one's work is directly related to the salary one can earn doing that work. Our culture claims to care about children, and yet we pay the people who work with them, educate them, and care for them a fragment of what other professions may attain. And when more tasks are piled upon you with no compensation, that actually equals a pay cut-- further eroding the value of teaching.

I guess the situation won't resolve itself until they can't find any warm bodies to throw into the classrooms of America.



At 4/27/07, 6:43 PM, Anonymous mrschili said...

Your assessments are dead-on. The fact that we have CEOs and ball players earning millions and teachers who can't afford to live on their salary is an indication that we're doing something drastically wrong.

I'm a teacher (I teach in a junior college). My husband is a mechanical engineer (he works at our local university in a non-academic department). We both have Master's degrees. I will NEVER earn as much money as he does. EVER. Even if I get a full-time, tenured position (which would require my getting a P.h.D., the cost of which would effectively negate any salary increase I may see as a result). Now, I'm not saying that Mr. Chili doesn't do important work (he was one of the pioneers in automobile airbag technology); what I'm saying is that the people who employ him are willing to pay TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollars more for his work than my employers are willing to pay me.

The thing is, though? It's REALLY not about the money - at least, not for me (since I have Mr. Chili and his good salary); it's about having an enviornment where we can do our jobs effectively. Schools are becoming less and less interested in what kind of learning students are getting and more and more interested in meeting graduation and grade quotas and passing accreditation inspections. Teachers with standards - and who hold to them - are not supported. THAT'S the part that infuriates me.

At 4/28/07, 12:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try being a school librarian.

At 4/29/07, 1:01 AM, Blogger Coach Brown said...

I couldn't have lived two hours north of San Francisco of I didn't get help from someone to stay in the area. I have no clue how teachers are living in the Bay Area and surviving.

At 4/29/07, 1:17 AM, Anonymous eleanor said...

UK teachers, fed up with heavy-handed reforms, low public opinion, and low pay, began the massive exodus to teaching posts around the globe. The gov't tried subsiding housing for new teachers in London. It bombed. Parts of the US seems to be going through the same changes, only a decade later.

At 4/29/07, 8:33 AM, Blogger rightwingprof said...

You get paid what your skills are worth, based on demand and supply. And ed schools are full of majors, mostly because an ed major doesn't require much (there's a reason the ed school is a joke on every campus). There's no shortage of teachers.

But nobody gets paid based on some abstract idea of what they believe they are worth, and never will.

At 4/29/07, 9:15 PM, Blogger Carolyn Foote said...

Our world has changed. Schools used to be able to depend on people staying in education their entire career.

Now young people know they can leave teaching to work for a dot.com, or Dell, or in real estate or one of a myriad of other professions, and they do so. It's not a world where people remain in the same profession their whole lives any more.

To add to that, teachers aren't respected, the salaries aren't what they should be for the important role that teachers play in children's lives, and everyone has an opinion about what educators should be doing.

Even within the profession, as you mentioned, there is often a lack of respect for the classroom teacher.

And as for colleges of education, I'm tired of hearing them knocked. Many of them are excellent institutions who prepare teachers very well, and I think it is a shoddy generalization to throw the blame at colleges of ed. They are all different just like every high school is different.

And not to mention, in many states, you are required to have a degree in a content area anyway or the state allows alternative certification, so it's hard to blame education colleges in those states.

I also get frustrated because discussions of teacher quality often revolve around the issue of unions. Not every state has teacher unions. What do we blame in those states?

If we're interested in having a real discussion about improving conditions for educators, we need to look at the things indicated in the study:

Time to collaborate and stay current in the field

Salary commensurate with importance of the job

Respect and autonomy for educational professionals

Incentives to stay in the field and room for advancement (and that doesn't mean becoming an administrator necessarily).


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