Friday, March 15, 2013

Response to "Helping Education Leaders Grow"

In a recent survey by Metlife, educator satisfaction is at the lowest it has been since 2008. Considering that the overall attitude of American's is at an all time low since 2008, this fact does not surprise me. What does surprise me is the unwillingness of our State and Federal organizations to understand what is happening to education in America. You see, it does not matter whether it is public education, or charter schools, people on the front-lines are breaking down. The pressure to perform against all odds, with lack of support, lack of leadership by administrators who are truly in touch with the classroom is unprecedented. While every teacher who enters in to the profession will tell you, he or she, knew that it would be hard. It would be long hours. It would be filled with ups and downs. They knew they were going to be the backbone, the front line of offense and defense. They knew that the game was going to be tough, but REWARDING. How did they know this? Because those who entered into traditional programs of education, meaning they spent 5 years going through the practicums, the training, the lesson plans, all while fulfilling other extraneous liberal arts programs, knew what they were getting into. They were in the classrooms, they were reminded daily about school. They fulfilled a semester of unpaid, hard work as student teachers, plus hundreds of hours of observation. Some days filled with absolute exhaustion. Let's call it teacher boot camp. Those teachers like medical school students were broken down, they were forced to withstand the trial. If they still wanted the career after working long hard days and nights then you knew they were primed and ready to be front-line responders. What we have now is "fast track" education. This is a profound movement that is undercutting the heart and soul of traditional education programs. There is a new influx of educators. This new influx of educators are taking traditional educators jobs, and making the teacher pool a very tough one to swim in. Not because they are better educators, but, because the are on the "fast track." It is undercutting traditional programs. Traditional programs, where future teachers entering into them knew from the first day of entering into schools of education that they had numerous steps they had to go through and a whole lot of tuition money, before they would ever get their first paycheck. They did it anyway! Why? Because they believed in the profession. What we see now is a huge network of students graduating from college, unable to find a job in their fields being promised a teacher's salary, a Masters degree at the end of one year, and a guaranteed job with benefits for 2-3 years. Their incentive, while it may appear glorious and altruistic, is not. It has a great monetary incentive. It also promises to forgive the loans that they incurred for their "failed" degree. Why is this a problem? Because in the unionized world of public education, they are in essence, "scabs." Whether I see the that as a truth or not, the pressure and threat that that places upon the traditional educator is profound. When you go to apply for a teaching position, having graduated from a school of education, clocking your student teaching and 5 years of training only to discover that they are only hiring teachers who have gone through a Teach For America process, it deflates and limits the hiring field. Or, they are filling classroom with inexperienced Teach For America newbees. Imagine if all new hires in the field of non for profit had to spend 2-3 years in the Peace Corp? Or, if the only engineers being hired had to do a 3 year stint in the military first? Also, imagine that you have made in 10 years in education, and you have decided that you want to bring your experience to areas where the achievement gap is so low it has disappeared into the abyss and you discover that they are only interested in individuals with less experience, less educational training and have not even passed certification testing. This reality pervades the mind of professional educators. Now that I have painted a very sweeping landscape of frustration, add to it, the mandates, the testing, the approaches that non-educators are imposing upon the profession. Couple that with the societal breakdown which has transformed our understanding of school. Match with it the declination over the past 12 years as a result of NCLB. Those who are now ready to enter college lack the skillset necessary to enter into college fully ready is at an all time high. Well, guess what? They were the babies who entered our schools under No Child Left Behind. Sadly, far too many of them were left behind, or did not make it to the finish line. Far too many teachers left because, they could not in good conscience do to our schools what our education leaders in Washington demanded. (when did our federal government gain total control over localized, state run education? The legality of that is quite questionable.) Bottom line: We have hundreds of well-trained experienced classroom educators who have advanced their education and training to encompass Administration. They are writers, thinkers, reformers, transformers. Like a general in the military, they paid their dues, they fought on the front-lines, they should be the ones moving into positions of leadership. They know first hand what a classroom looks like now, and what it looked like at the beginning of NCLB. They are not getting leadership positions. Instead they are being outsourced by Administrators who have not been on the front lines long enough to be able to support the twenty year veteran. They are not astute enough to understand that while Hunter and Marzano are well versed in writing and publishing, it has been a long time since they were in a classroom and managing a classroom over a long period of time, as our "frontliners" are. While they have learned to make millions and advance to being founders of their own publishing companies, their primary motivation has moved from frontliner to marketing specialist of their own brand. One must wonder, if their approach is so fundamentally transforming, why are our kids still at the same level as they were in 1974 with the first nationwide research? While this is not intended to be a criticism of those who have dedicated their lives to education, the way in which our educational leaders hold on to the Marzano and Hunter approach imposes makes me shake my head and say, "when will we learn that just as we have to differentiate instruction for our kids, we also have to allow for differentiated instruction by our trained professionals!" We cannot say that Marzano works, because, it is not in all cases. So, in closing, we are failing our kids, our teachers and our society when we refuse to listen to our professionals, those on the front line. We fail when we continue to disenfranchise those who committed their lives to education. We fail when we advance into positions of leadership those who have less than five years on the front line. We fail when we limit promotion based upon, not the professional, but, what organization that fast-tracked under. We fail when we let first and second year educators enter into programs of Education Leadership. We fail when we refuse to look for educators who have the ability to think outside the box, see the white elephant dancing in the middle of the room, and refuse to applaud the emperor's new clothes when we can clearly see they were worn in 1995 or they clearly do not fit the emperor.

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