Why Bad Teachers Are Hard to Find
Bad teachers need to be fired. You hear it all the time. It’s part of most education reformers’ guiding philosophy. Most people would have a very hard time justifying any opposition to it. Sometimes, in order to appease actual teachers and soften the harsh message, the phrase “after being given an opportunity to improve” is added after the word “teachers,” but the sentiment is the same: Our education system would be so much better if only we could fire the crappy teachers.
What strikes me most is what happens after someone says it. Never is the logical follow-up question asked:
Just what exactly is a bad teacher?
Teachers are unique. I’m not just saying that because I am one. Unlike many jobs, there is no one metric that can be used to assess a teacher’s performance. If you’re a salesperson and you don’t sell stuff, you’re a bad salesperson. If you’re a lawyer who can’t get clients, you won’t be a lawyer for long. If you’re a preacher whose sermons cause parishioners to switch churches, you probably went into the wrong line of work. If you make widgets and nobody buys them, you’re going to go out of business. If you’re a chef that makes food nobody wants to eat, you’re not a good chef.
Reformers want to equate teaching to other jobs because it makes their agenda easier to accomplish. So they have to come up with a metric and the one they’ve settled on is:
If you’re a teacher and your students don’t learn, then you’re a bad teacher.
The need to have a single metric creates some other problems that garner a lot of attention. You have to be able to say how much learning is the right amount. Then you have to have a way to figure out if students learned that much. Right now the US uses standardized test results to provide the numbers that are necessary to justify the labeling of teachers (and schools) as bad. Putting aside for a moment all of the problems inherent in rendering a verdict based on the results of a single test, the method has other obvious flaws, all of which stem from the initial error of viewing teachers the same as other professionals.
Let me know which of the following four teachers is bad. Which ones would you fire?
Ms. Jackson is young, smart, and energetic. Just out of college, she Why Bad Teachers Are Hard to Find - Teacher Habits: