Why Teachers Are Taking to the Streets

October 15th, 2018

Teacher morale has declined dramatically over the past ten years or so, resulting now in educators protesting in the streets, along with widespread teacher shortages, and far fewer college students choosing careers in education.

We start with the good news first, though.

PDK’s most recent poll found that support for teachers is at its highest in 50 years, with 66% of respondents saying teachers are underpaid. Moreover, 73% of them—taxpayers all–said they’d support a work-stoppage if it came to that.

Then there the rest of the story.

There are lots of reasons for teachers to take to the streets, front and center being money. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nationwide, the average public school teacher’s salary stands at $58,000. In Oklahoma, it’s just $42,460, the lowest in the country.

That, according to a new Economic Policy Institute study, translates to teachers earning about about 23% less than other college-educated workers; in other words, approximately $350 less per week.

On top of all that, there’s the quality factor, or, should I say, the perception of it. A recent Gallup Poll found that, while 70% of parents with school-aged children are satisfied with the education their kids are getting, just 43% of Americans in general think that’s the case.

And that, of course, begs the question: How come the difference in views?

In part at least, look no further than politicians affecting how schools work and the media running with the teacher bashing ball…

Bush’s answer to our perceived schooling woes was his bi-partisan No Child Left Behind (NCLB) back in 2002. Along with all students being tested annually in grades 3 through 8, all were expected to be proficient in both math and reading within 12 years. Never happened; couldn’t happen.

That was followed by the lofty-sounding, equally unrealistic (ESSA) Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed into law by Obama in 2015, and still in force today. About that law, the U.S. Department of Education says: “ESSA includes provisions that will help to ensure success for students and schools.”

Among them:

·       It advances equity … for America’s disadvantaged and high-need students.

·       It requires—”for the first time”—all students be taught to high academic standards…

·       It ensures vital information is provided to all stakeholders via “annual statewide assessments that measure students’ progress toward those high standards.”

·       “It helps to support and grow local innovations… consistent with our Investing in Innovation and Promise Neighborhoods”

·       It expands the administration’s investment in high-quality preschool.

·       It requires accountability and action be taken towards positive outcomes in low-performing schools and their historically low graduation rates.

There’s more it, of course, but you get the idea. Meanwhile, the “reforms” keep coming, with tech folks now in on it, too. At the same time, costly charter schools keep gaining ground despite their overall dismal performance.

And now back on the scene comes Obama’s secretary of education for seven years, Arne Duncan, who has written a mostly self-serving book. Entitled How Schools Work: An Inside Account of Failure and Success from One of the Nation’s Longest Serving Secretaries of Education, it opens with the lines, “Education runs on lies. That’s probably not what you’d expect from a former secretary of education, but it’s the truth.”

This from a man who never spent even one day teaching kids in a classroom, yet whose impact on education reverberates to this day. His “fix” started with, but did not end with, his $4.35 billion Race to the Top (RTTT) whereby he bribed states to adopt the poorly-crafted Common Core State Standards and their related online, standardized testing. Scores on those were then tied to teachers’ evaluations, whether they taught the tested math or English/language arts subjects or not.

P.S. Publisher Simon & Schuster describes said book as “an expose of the status quo that helps maintain a broken system at the expense of our kids’ education.”

The no surprise upshot? Demoralized educators holding up picket signs, along with the PDK’s most discouraging finding: “Parents don’t want their children to become teachers.”

Who can blame them?

Indeed, between 2008 and 2016, the number of college students choosing and completing teacher prep programs dropped by 23%, according American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

Plus, 17% of new teachers leave the profession within five years.

The good news, though, for those still in the trenches, Education Week recently confirmed that 101 running for their state legislatures have now moved on to the general election. Says 8th grade teacher Jennifer Samuels, running for Arizona’s House as a Democrat, “If even just a handful of us win a seat [in November], … then teachers will have a voice at the Capitol—and we haven’t had one in so very long.”

And so it goes, with hopes that you’ll make your voice heard, too.

 

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