We Won’t Improve Education By Making Teachers Hate Their Jobs
How can you improve education by attacking educators?
This post first appeared at Common Dreams.
Does this sound like a place you’d like to work?
The work environment is “depressing” … “morale is at an all-time low.”
“It feels like a lot of busy work and hoop jumping and detracts from the work.” “Every move … needs to be documented and noted.”
“We have to respond to feedback given by an administrator who did a one-minute walk through and thought they knew what was going on … but didn’t.”
“There is no time for conversations” … “my salary has been frozen for six years” … “everyone feels like losers.”
But this is how classroom teachers and school principals describe what it’s like to work in public schools.
The comments come from a new survey of K-12 educators nationwide that yielded responses from 2,964 teachers and principals from 48 states. The survey was conducted by the Network for Public Education, a grassroots public school advocacy group founded by public school advocates, parents, educators, and university professors, including education historian Diane Ravitch. NPE recently released the survey findings in a report titled “Teachers Talk Back: Educators on the Impact of Teacher Evaluation” at its national conference in Raleigh, N.C.
The survey findings add strong anecdotal weight to previous statistical surveys of teachers that have found their work dissatisfaction is at an all time high. A survey from 2012, found teacher job satisfaction has plummeted to 39 percent, its lowest level in 25 years, according to one review of the findings.
Findings from a more recent survey, published in 2015, revealed only 15 percent of teachers feel enthusiastic about the profession, and about three in four “often” feel stressed by their jobs.
One likely outcome of this high work dissatisfaction rate among teachers is that many states and school districts are now reporting acute teacher shortages. One major school system, Philadelphia, still struggles to fill teacher vacancies, even as the current school year nears end.
Meanwhile, other reports reveal record low numbers of college students enrolling into teacher preparation programs, foretelling even worse teacher shortages in the future.
Certainly, it doesn’t help that teacher salaries are stagnant. As an op-ed writer in a recentU.S. News and World Report noted, “Teachers haven’t gotten a raise in 15 years.” But poor teacher pay is a chronic problem that doesn’t by itself explain the shortages.
Teacher pension programs are also being chiseled away, but why would even short-timers—such as those coming from Teach for America, whose recruitment is down 35 percent over three years—be discouraged?
Indeed, the NPE survey reveals there are factors other than economics that are making teachers’ work-lives miserable.
What value added subtracts from teaching
As an article for Education Week explains, the NPE survey had a specific target in mind: to paint a qualitative, descriptive portrait of the effects of new teacher evaluation systems that are now in place in most schools.
“The new evaluation systems,” according to the EdWeek reporter, “were mostly developed as part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top competition and NCLB-waiver projects” during the Obama administration. The evaluations combine the traditional practice of classroom observations with a heavy emphasis on student test scores. The test scores are fed into a computer-driven algorithm typically referred to as a value-added model, or VAM, which, according to the reporter, “attempts to estimate how much a teacher has contributed to student-achievement growth by factoring in the gains the student We Won’t Improve Education By Making Teachers Hate Their Jobs - In These Times: