My view: School districts need to stop losing ‘irreplaceable’ teachers
October 12th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

My view: School districts need to stop losing ‘irreplaceable’ teachers

Courtesy Evin GrantBy Robert Jeffers, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Robert Jeffers teaches at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles, and is a current Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow.

I recently attended a screening of a PBS documentary about the future of California State Parks, featuring several of my students at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles. When the applause died down, the host convened a Q&A session that included a former student of mine, now a rising senior at Williams College. Facing an intimidating crowd, this student spoke with eloquence and insight about Dorsey High School, about parks and about the important people that set him on his trajectory to success. Then he embarrassed me. He credited me – by name, and by pointing!

It takes a lot to make a successful teacher: Hard work, a generous support network and faith from colleagues and administrators all play a role. I’ve been lucky to have those things, and have seen some professional success — success that’s evident in my student growth data, their college acceptances and the outstanding hands-on projects they’ve completed.

My students have published a book of original food writing and artwork, completed award-winning films, established an on-campus recycling program recognized as one of the best in Los Angeles County and planted more than 60 trees around our inner-city campus. I’m proud of what we’ve done together.

But I would never call myself “irreplaceable.” That’s a word that has been tossed around a lot since TNTP, a teacher quality nonprofit, used it to describe top teachers in a new report, “The Irreplaceables: Understanding the Real Retention Crisis in America’s Urban Schools.”

As my former student pointed out, and as TNTP’s report suggests, motivated and highly effective teachers are not easily replaced. In fact, according to TNTP’s research, when top-performing teachers leave their schools, as few as one in 11 possible replacements will be of similar quality.

Our education system is not taking the necessary steps to keep these vital educators in the classroom.

Every year I’ve been at Dorsey High School, I’ve seen great teachers leave: They lose their jobs to reductions in force, they’re “displaced” and assigned to a new school, or they elect to leave the profession altogether. The result is an interruption of the network of colleagues and mentor relationships that we’ve built over the course of the school year, and an erosion of institutional and cultural knowledge essential to running a successful school.

I’ve witnessed teachers with some of the highest “value-added” ratings in the district and teachers who had the ability to marshal $50,000 a year in outside funding for a single school club leave the classroom. When these “irreplaceables” leave, their skills, programs and networks (among colleagues, students, parents and outside organizations) can take years to rebuild — and that’s if the school is lucky enough to replace them with teachers of comparable quality.

The situation is challenging, but not hopeless. TNTP's report suggests that if administrators want to keep high-quality teachers in their schools, providing deliberate recognition and concrete opportunities for career development will go a long way.

As a campus teacher leader, those are things I’ve been lucky to experience: I’ve been given leadership opportunities on campus, such as English Department Chair and Small Learning Community Lead Teacher, and through outside organizations like Teach Plus. Furthermore, I’ve received formal recognitions like Teacher of the Year from LAUSD and Los Angeles County. But in a system like ours, with more than 80,000 teachers, it takes work to recognize every excellent teacher out there.

Recognizing excellence in the teaching profession means acknowledging teachers as leaders, and giving us the autonomy and respect needed to act as change agents in our classrooms, our schools and across our profession. Professional leadership opportunities promote the sharing of “best practices” among teachers – on campus, in the district and beyond – that address how teachers achieved specific successes, and they encourage replication of successes in different contexts.

Most of my fellow teachers want to know, for example, how a colleague in the next building over can have three times more parents at an open house night than any other teacher. Opportunities for teacher leadership also acknowledge that great teachers are the best resource out there to improve education.

Most great teachers I know will never earn Teacher of the Year awards, there are just too few official awards to go around. In reality, most of the reward we get comes from our students. But while I hope every deserving teacher can experience a student calling him or her out as irreplaceable, it’s essential that school districts and leaders find ways to do the same.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Robert Jeffers

Posted by
Filed under: Policy • Practice • Teachers • • Voices
soundoff (244 Responses)
  1. Walter Gordillo

    I think it is a matter of the treatment of the teacher. Some teachers may leave their high paying public-school teaching position for that of a lower-paying teaching position in a private school. The factors may be that they are just unappreciated in the public-school atmosphere.

    October 22, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Jerry Brush

      Where are public school teacher "highly paid"?

      October 25, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  2. bdougherty

    I taught for five years before losing the motivation to deal with students who didn't care and parents who either didn't care or were looking for someone to carry the blame for their lack of parenting. I left the profession for three years and let me tell you, office jobs are easy. I did miss the classroom after a while but made the choice to teach overseas rather than go back for more of the same.
    I am now in my fifth year of teaching at international schools and can't believe the difference. I have students who are all motivated to go to college, parents who appreciate the effort I give to their children and a society who respects teachers as professionals and important members of the community. Having lived in three continents and seen the way the rest of the world treats it's educators, I have no plans to teach in the US again.
    I'm so glad I gave teaching another chance – I love what I do once again.

    October 18, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Karen Packard

      Now that's a personal solution I'd try if I were younger. Enjoy!

      October 22, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  3. Mackenzie

    Everyone should go to college to further their education, and have a better lifestyle

    October 16, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Shane

      I do not agree that everyone should go to college. That has become part of the problem, college has become a rite of passage, a right ... no longer a privilege. Not everyone should graduate high school but we push them through anyhow because no one wants to deal with angry parents or lose precious financial support due to low standardized test scores. Trade schools are often more appropriate for individuals who do not accomodate a forced learning style as well as some others. I have seen far to many passive college students putting in time and collecting a lifetime of debt without really developing the skills necessary to succeed.

      October 25, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  4. jewel

    very nice site. This is a very good site especially for student. it’s very help full to student academic papers. business term papers, article review, personal state man's very help full site for student. please join us your site and build your carrier. we are partner of build your carrier thank you.

    October 16, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  5. obat stroke

    You are really a just right webmaster. The website loading speed is amazing. It sort of feels that you're doing any unique trick. In addition, The contents are masterwork. you have performed a fantastic job in this topic!

    October 16, 2012 at 4:27 am |
  6. Parent

    I agree that good teachers need to be kept, BUT THIS IS THE BIGGEST PIECE OF SELF INDUGENCE I HAVE EVER SEEN. If you want to prove a point, you have... you need to take a good look at yourself before you post, There is more about you to the posting than their is about the need of the students today. I have had great teachers though several my years of education as well as the bad ones, but you take the cake for self promotion.I do not know if you are going for a raise, a promotion, or scouting for new opportunties but this article does nothing to help children. What they need are good teachers that choose the profession out of intrest in what they do and not out of glorification through awards, pay, or self indulgence. I became an auditor because I enjoy preventing fraud, as well as helping business maximize controls and procedures to benifit the company, employees, and in general the entire economy.I have received many awards, and achieved enormous savings for companies but not received a raise in 7 years, I do ask or want for more, I do what I like and I see smiles on even the faces of clients that do not like their reports, because I am always there to help. This is the approach that teachers need... this is what students need to see from their teachers. The economy is hard, I was laid off during the bottoming out period on the same day I received an award but I found another job doing the same thing. Get over yourself and focus on what is important, the kids. I teach mine when they get home from school, but I have met their teachers and they are taking an interest despite the times. Stop complainging about what is going on and make sure the teachers that are there are in it for the students and not themselves, otherwise you should be asking why they became a teacher!

    October 15, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • Shaun

      Parent, your critique isn't very coherent due to all the typos and odd grammar, and from what I can gather, you're being waaay too cynical. You really should lighten up. You're reading things into statements that aren't there. I wonder if you just go around flaming people on articles you don't understand.

      also, you gripe about the author being self-indulgent and complaining, but then you go on to cite accomplishments and tell us how great a worker you are, while complaining ...

      "I have received many awards, and achieved enormous savings for companies but not received a raise in 7 years, I do ask or want for more, I do what I like and I see smiles on even the faces of clients that do not like their reports, because I am always there to help. The economy is hard, I was laid off during the bottoming out period on the same day I received an award"

      ...which a cynic might say is self-indulgent, but I would interpret it that you're just conveying your authority to speak to this topic; same as the author.

      oh well, as they say, 'haters gonna hate'.

      October 15, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
      • Parent

        Actually, I apologize for the typing mistakes, This is what happens when you are in a hurry. Too the point about being self indulgent, my name and information is not in the reply. What I was doing was making a point. To you comment on replies to articles, this is the only article I have commented on. The plain and simple point I was trying to make is that teachers should only want to be in the profession for the students.

        October 16, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • Shaun

      "The plain and simple point I was trying to make is that teachers should only want to be in the profession for the students." -Parent

      Hi Parent,
      sure, and all I'm saying is that it's extremely cynical to presume that this teacher is not in it 'for the students' ... Consider that the topic of the article is, "School districts need to stop losing ‘irreplaceable’ teachers".

      ... so the point of the posting is: the plight of teachers; what they are going through personally and professionally to educate young people; making the case that we need to do what we can to keep good teachers; as well as the consequences of losing good teachers.

      In other words, the philosophical make-up of a good teacher is an entirely different article. I tend to give authors the benefit of the doubt on stuff that they are not talking about.

      October 16, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
      • servicesalapersonne

        Do many people in the USA use tutoring at home like Tutors?

        October 17, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
      • landon

        Teachers would like a nice house, car, college for their kids just like everyone else.

        October 18, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Grizzlyinohio

      Don't apologize. Just follow Mark Twain's advice: Better to keep silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

      October 17, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • lauren

      Teachers are in it to teach... not the money.... I've been teaching for 8 YEARS, and I make $43,000 in the North East. If you teach, believe me- you are not doing it for monetary gain. You are doing it because you are PASSIONATE about education, your subject and passing it all on to your students. Nor is anyone teaching because it is easy- because it certainly is NOT easy. Not only are you teaching/entertaining/guiding 25-30 kids at a time, per period... but you have the parents and administrators to answer to at a moments notice. You also have to factor in all of the disabilities that students are now experiencing. Anyone who says that teaching is easy and teachers are doing it for the money- is ignorant and projecting their own personal bad experience onto today's population of teachers. Shame on you- walk in my shoes for a day and you wouldn't last half that.

      October 17, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • Erica

      Is it so much, Parent, to ask that the quality teachers be paid what they're worth and that they be recognized? Everyone in America likes to give lip service to education. Oh how it's so important, and think of the children!

      But look at the reality. One of the first things cut is education. We tell people they HAVE to go to college to get a job they can live off of... and then tell them there are no jobs. Now they have 30-100K in debt. We tell our children that they need to go to college when they can't even earn credit hours for their first few classes. Why?

      Because we cut education budgets. Because we lost quality teachers, so our students find themselves in remedial math, science, english.

      Hawai'i, for instance. Every wednesday, across the entire state, is a half day. The students start at 8 am, and they are finished at 1215 pm. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday run from 8 am to 2:15pm. Almost a full hour shorter than every other state's public education system. A few years ago, they tried to cut Fridays out entirely because of 'budgetary' problems.

      Bringing attention to teachers is important. Without them, we fail even harder than we already do.

      October 17, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • Karen Packard

      I bet the teachers you hate were the ones who corrected your spelling over and over again. 🙂

      October 22, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  7. web optimization companies

    This is the perfect web site for everyone who really wants to find out about this topic. You know so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I personally would want to�HaHa). You certainly put a brand new spin on a topic that's been discussed for ages. Excellent stuff, just excellent!

    October 15, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  8. JGarner

    Two weeks ago, my school system forced my resignation. The deceit and fraud that was used to put an "older" teacher out!! My system is doing this to white females over 55, who make $60K plus to save money. It's awful! We all have excellent evaluations and the supervisors come in and all of a sudden you are not a good teacher. I worked with special need students and I am a good teacher. It's ok, I will find another job. I would never work for them again!! I was there 12 years. Sad! There was nothing I could do. I couldn't afford an outside attorney. The union attorney was a joke. It's just not right to put people out like that who have devoted their life to education!

    October 15, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Karen Packard

      So true!

      October 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  9. Harlon Katz

    Well, here in IL, teacher qualifications do not really mater when determining which teacher is let go. The only "metric" that matters, or at least did matter, was seniority. The person who was teaching at the school the longest gets to stay. This is the condition the unions required so as not to strike and harm all the children.

    October 15, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • JGarner

      Not me...I had plenty of seniority'

      October 15, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  10. allenwoll

    Any young person considering entering the teaching profession needs first to obtain a comprehensive and thorough mental evaluation for competency.

    October 15, 2012 at 1:59 am |
    • LeBear

      I agree one hundred percent.

      October 15, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  11. Nodack

    Well I think if Romney is elected we can all it gurantee that he will push through the Republican plan of shutting down public schools altogether in favor of private schools and vouchers. That will help those with money to save money. They won't have to pay taxes for public schooling and they will get part of their kids private schooling paid for through vouchers.

    If you aren't wealthy enough to afford private schooling your choices are rob a bank to pay for your child's education or have him stay home while you go to work so he can learn his education from the streets. I'm sure that plan will be great for the poorer people of the US. Thank you Republicans for once again thinking of yourselves first and nobody else.

    October 14, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • andres

      With logic like that it is obvious that public education has failed YOU. Do you really believe that even if (and a dam n big if) romney wanted to eliminate our public education system, that he could? The president actually has fairly limited powers, don't believe it? You merely need to go back to obama's first two years in office when he had a supermajority in the senate and a majority in the house and he still couldn't get legislation passed.

      Before you make such idio tic statements in the future, pick up a civics book and study how our government works. Study the three branches of government then reassess your ludicrous statements.

      October 14, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
      • Michael Monko

        Obama had the majority in the House & Senate for only 24 days after he took office. Do you know how long it takes to design a proper bill? At least longer than it takes to build a house. Even that had Congress a sizeable portion of "Bluedog" Andres: Democrats who were on the take from insurance companies & special interest groups and voted against anything positive. In other words, they would peddle their soul to the highest bidder. Most of them were not re-elected and they took their share & ran away. What followed was a record number of filibusters by The Republicans & we saw even John McCain voting against the recent veteran jobs bill. We'll never get anything done for you & me until these guys sit down & learn how to negotiate & compromise properly & stop acting like spoiled rich kids.

        October 14, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • TeamChaos

      That is a ridiculous statement

      October 15, 2012 at 6:06 am |
    • Tim

      I couldn't disagree with you more. Please drop the labor union talking points and focus on kids. Remember when the teacher's unions were formed to help the kids? either!

      October 15, 2012 at 8:31 am |
    • LeBear

      Sadly, it's not just Republicans. It's Democrats, too. Politically, you'd be hard pressed to find an ally. Too much guaranteed money to make off the government.

      October 15, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Karen Packard


      October 22, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  12. Bryan Bechtol

    I agree with everything said, I don't want to be friends with my kids. I am judg, jury and executioner! And if I do it right, I will be friends with them when they become productive adults.

    October 14, 2012 at 1:09 am |
  13. cynthia

    Good teachers are worth their weight in gold, but cannot be kept because administrators can't lead. I've taught in various states and problems are the same everywhere, public, private, or charter school. My own children are homeschooling my grandchildren because of the chaos that is public education, and the elitism of private schools (not to mention the prohibitive cost.) I can't say that I blame them. I served my country by teaching the thousands of children during my career. Some have actually remembered me and thanked me, but unlike the author of the article, I did not have the strong "leadership" he has enjoyed in his career. There are many teachers who never are recognized for the long hours and devotion they give to their students and their vocation. A good teacher doesn't like the term "educator" either!

    October 14, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • disclose full picture

      Great teachers are hard to keep. The problem is two fold. First, good teachers aren't recognized financially. Thus they leave. Secondly, the education system doesn't get rid of bad teachers so they don't want to give more money. So, the conundrum is under control of the teachers and admin. FIRE the bad teachers, pay the good teachers more. Many are willing to pay more if I know it goes to good teachers and not bad.

      October 15, 2012 at 3:18 am |
    • Karen Packard

      Why doesn't a good teacher like the term educator?

      October 22, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  14. AbcXyz

    I respectfully disagree. I make it my mission, as do my ensure we are on the cutting edge of best-practice in the classroom and still take time to really listen to the needs of our kids. I stand by what I have observed as a current administrator in a large suburban high school AND as a parent.... Our parents are not devoting enough time to their children. Electronic gadgets and a myriad of activities dominate the time of today's youth.... We need to wake up... My stance is not popular- but typically the truth never is.

    October 13, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Barbra & Jack Donachy

      AbcXyz: Setting aside factors such as retirement and personal issues, the most often cited reason teachers give for leaving a school, a district, or the profession, is lack of administrative support or some variation of that theme. Yes, there is also frustration with parents in many cases. Much of what parents do and don't do is beyond our control. But the manner in which public school administrators conduct business is a factor fully within our power to address, and we should do so.

      October 13, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • Guest

      You can take a horse to the water but you cannot make it drink! I think it's rubbish.

      October 13, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • Karen Packard

      Just what is it that you disagree with?

      October 22, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  15. The_Mick

    I was burned out when I retired in 2006 because conformity limited teacher creativity, teachers had less and less authority ("Did you actually see the student inhale the cigarette smoke or was he just holding it?"), and the stresses due to enlarged class sizes and longer and longer hours were just too much. Since then over half of the rest of the faculty of over 100 has left teaching or retired from my school and the school is no longer running its International Baccalaureate Program and is no longer running its Magnet Gifted Program for the north half of our county because our replacements do not have the certification and abilities to teach the AP and Gifted classes that we who left have ably did.
    People think teaching is so easy and lucrative: if so, why are so many school districts even now traveling to 3rd world countries for people who will put up with the high stress, GOP damning, and low pay of teaching? 10% of Baltimore's teachers are from the Philippines. Bobby Jindal is suing a contractor over fees for supplying foreign 3rd-world teachers to Louisianna in the 2010's. Chicago's recruiters worked in 2 dozen nations. It's going on all over.
    We're now seeing the populace that's allowing our education system and teachers to be destroyed having their own children's education similarly hurt. This time, look in the mirror before you blame a teacher.

    October 13, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • pattyanne

      Please don't blame the Republicans for everything. I taught for over 30 years and I saw people taking their children out of public school because we were forced to lower our standards so that children who did absolutely nothing could pass. We have dumbed down America. If I had young children today, I would have to send them to private school because of what I saw and experienced in the public system. Many democratic families are putting their children in private schools also especially the rich ones in Congress who pretend to really care about the education system and the children of those who
      cannot afford private schools. They support Unions that are destroying the system. In the Chicago Strike I saw the media interview striking teachers who were not able to speak the English language properly (and they were not foreign teachers). These people are kept in the classroom because of Unions.

      October 14, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
      • LeBear

        Many "right to work" states are not models for education. In fact, number one In the nation is Massachusetts – a state with strong unions. I agree that we shouldn't blame just Republicans. Just as we shouldn't blame just unions.

        The problem is more complex. It has many causes. One other cause is: Many ineffective teachers are teaching because of lazy administrators or administrators that practice cronyism. Teachers cannot go around giving themselves tenure. Unions do not go around giving tenure. That is just ridiculous. An administrator did that. They retired or moved to another school and, consequently, passed the buck to another. Now he/she is in the position of giving bad reports to a teacher who previously had glowing reports.

        October 15, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
      • Karen Packard

        I sure didn't see any interviews like that. Please send me the links so I can see what you saw.
        The interviews I saw were compelling. I admire those teachers for taking on their administration and the local board and Rahm Emanuel and President Obama and yes, even their own AFT where they got minimal support.

        October 22, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  16. AbcXyz

    Why are we surprised that competent teachers are leaving the profession? As an administrator and a teacher with over 20+ years in the profession, I am disheartened that we are so vilified and indentified as THE sole reason for every problem that plagues the children we teach.

    We have no rigor in the classroom, we have brought our country/state/township into financial ruin, we don't teach the"right" way (whatever that may be at the moment), we don't compete with the rest of the world, we encourage bullying....the list is endless and somehow every one of society's ills becomes our responsibility as educators. And...contrary to public sentiment...we do shoulder many of these issues and continue to work to improve the state of affairs with each one!

    The fact is we are required to educate every single student who comes through our doors each morning (and do so happily and with amazing commitment). I grew up in a another country that segregates their students from a young age based on ability...their scores surely reflect much better than ours because they compare their best students against the scores of all of our students. Data can be manipulated to prove any point one wants to make!

    The truth is...unless you have spent any time in a classroom working with our students and with their parents... You have no idea what is really happening. Unfortunately, the one thing many teachers will tell you is a factor in the success of a student is the support of the parent and that support has radically changed in the last 20 years.

    Halloween brings more parents to our schools to visit than parent conferences or Back-to-School nights, and that is a terrible reflection on our priorities as a collective society.

    I've always been proud of my work and love what I do despite the trend that's made it popular and acceptable to harass and debase this amazing profession. I am not alone in my commitment to your children and ,for that, you are all very lucky... The day that young professionals stop wanting to become educators will be a day that impacts each family in this country. That will be the day that every parent will be able to finally show those rotten teachers how much better they can educate the students of this country.

    I wonder how our test scores will compare with the rest of the world then?

    October 13, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • James Mulhern

      Unfortunately, it has become increasingly more difficult to teach substantive content in the public schools because of major disruptions. In Florida, the class-size amendment has created havoc, as administrators are forced to make major revisions to the master schedule, moving students in and out of classes and rearranging teacher assignments, even two months after the school year has begun! (And ironically, the class-size amendment has resulted in electives and AP courses that are overloaded with students; in some instances, elective classes now have more than 50 students!) Students need consistency and stability. Of course, classes should have smaller student populations, but something is radically wrong when the master schedules are not set by the beginning of the school year.

      In addition, the testing situation is out of control. In Broward County, much of our school year is spent assessing student learning, and valuable teaching time is being forfeited. And because of a lack of computer resources to do the actual testing, classes are fragmented, with some students testing one day, and others the next. There are so many ongoing tests that it is difficult to keep track of the acronyms: FCAT, BAT I, BAT II, PSAT, PERT, ASVAB, FAIR and ePAT, to name a few. Student learning suffers; school days are chaotic; curriculums are disrupted.

      Another test, the Common Core Assessment, begins in 2014, yet over the next few years educators are wasting even more time preparing students to take the current FCAT, which is a very different assessment. Why not have a moratorium on FCAT testing in Florida? It’s illogical to prepare ninth graders for the FCAT while at the same time prepare them for the Common Core Initiative. Teachers and students should be focused on the higher-level thinking skills that the Common Core requires. Let's simplify the testing situation.

      Because of the absurd testing frenzy, student learning suffers, school days are chaotic, curriculums are disrupted. Why is it that in the realm of Education, the alleged provenance of intelligence and learning, some of the most ignorant and dimwitted choices are being made?

      James Mulhern,

      October 13, 2012 at 11:33 am |
      • Barbra & Jack Donachy

        James: We have experience in and with school districts where average class sizes are about a dozen students per class. These schools and districts are still poorly administrated, the boards that are supposed to provide oversight still don't do their jobs effectively, and the result is still poor academic performance. While we agree that in some instances class sizes are too large, class size, emphatically, is as a leaf on a tree compared to the root of the problem, which is inadequate leadership – the seminal problem from which many, many other problems flows. And it is our feeling that educators are making mountains out of molehills regarding testing. On the one hand, we in the U.S. are finally testing (almost) as much as other developed countries. On the other hand, if you want to see lack of rigor and focus, go back to the days when testing was rare and undervalued in our schools.

        October 13, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
      • thlroz

        Mr. Mulhern–

        Thank you so much for your post. As a pre-professional teacher studying at Broward, I am sometimes disheartened when my cooperating teachers tell me off all the days that are taken up by testing. I have seen the lack of technology in the classrooms. I have seen the unmotivated teachers. It makes me wonder why I, at 50 years old, I am making a transition into another career field.

        It's simple – I want to teach. I have wanted to teach since I graduated high school in 1980, but didn't as my life took a different path. I feel I have a lot to offer my community. I can only hope for a job in a school with decent administrators who are prepared to lead with the students in the forefront of their mind. That is my biggest fear – administration.

        October 15, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • Barbra & Jack Donachy

      We’re not sure where to begin. Take the matter of bullying in schools, which you bring up: The problem is that in many schools, students and teachers report that when they report incidents of harassment, assault, threats and so forth, administrators do nothing. And yet we have seen examples where competent administrators have come to the helm in given schools, addressed concerns about bullying with a coherent plan, and restored confidence.

      Unfortunately, in our present-day school system, good leaders are few and far between. And so layer upon layer of oversight has been lain atop our public school system: tests to foster academic rigor; contracts with outside vendors to ensure for adequate teaching methodologies; audits to ensure that schools are simply doing their jobs; media scrutiny to curb bullying… the list, as you say, is “endless.”

      Unfortunately, all this oversight doesn’t seem to be helping. We still have too many administrators who have one eye on the retirement calendar, and another eye on the clock. How DOES one prompt an immovable object to move?

      On the matter of international test scores: AbcXyc, we need for you and others in the education community to educate yourselves. The fact is, when we compare our Best students with the Best students from other countries – apples to apples – our kids are still lagging.

      Do you not see the hypocrisy entailed in administrators turning around and pointing fingers at parents? Here, too, some administrators do an effective job of working with parents and getting them involved in the school. Most administrators say “it can’t be done,” blame the community, their faculty, the times we live in and go back to monitoring the calendars and clocks in their offices.

      We do agree with you on one point: “…unless you have spent time in a classroom working with …students and parents… You have no idea…” So, if you’re a school board member, a school superintendent, a politician, a member of the news media or a parent reading this, a fair question is: How often do you visit schools and spend Meaningful time talking with teachers?

      October 13, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
      • James Mulhern

        I respect your opinions. You are eloquent and persuasive. I ask that you might consider reading the following articles about Finnish schools (see links below); Finnish schools are some of the most successful in the world. Testing in Finland is not a priority. I also suggest that you visit a school and speak with some of the educators on the front line to get their opinions about testing, or actually view some of the testing schedules on a monthly basis to see for yourself how much time is being taken away from teaching. I love my job. I want to teach. And I am all for testing, just not constant testing. I really do care about my students' education; I am advocating for them, not complaining about tests. I agree that students need to be assessed, and we, the teachers should take responsibility for gains and losses in achievement, given the appropriate considerations.
        I think the Common Core, which starts in 2014 in Florida, is a great test, emphasizing rigor and higher-order thinking skills.

        Thank you for responding to my post. Best, James

        October 13, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
      • Athena6515

        I don't believe that we are "finally testing" as much as other countries. Finland is 2nd? in the world and they don't have "standardize testing" at all. They teach the children how to LEARN instead of what to remember because it's on a test. Also, they don't have a guide on what or how to teach. They are free to use whatever learning tools they want. Teachers are revered, parents are involved. The kids start school later(typically around 6-7) and finish earlier (16). I do believe the biggest & best part is that the teacher is with their same group of children for their entire elementary school years. They know exactly who is at what efficiently and their social background. They don't spend the first several months playing "catch up".

        October 16, 2012 at 10:24 am |
      • Barbra & Jack Donachy

        Finland is indeed an exception, and the contrasts between that country's education culture and that of the U.S. could hardly be more sharp. In Finland, education, educated people, and teachers are almost universally highly respected. Against that backdrop, approaches to education are possible that aren't possible in typical schools in America – much as even here in America, we have various alternative schools that enjoy strong support from parents, attract dedicated students, and are able to successfully move away from some of the governance norms in mainstream K-12 schools. For example, Waldorf schools here in America also have their teachers stay with the same group from grade 1 through 8, they eschew standardized testing, base their curriculum heavily on student-generated materials... and it works quite well. But as much as some of us love that model, it's difficult to see how it could be scaled to cover all or even most of America's schools. For starters, most American administrators would have no clue as to how to run such a system. So, Finland, while interesting, doesn't seem to offer a particularly useful model for America.

        October 16, 2012 at 11:26 am |
      • Athena6515

        Finland teachers have respect because they do not allow "everyone to be a teacher" just because they want to be. They have an EXTREMELY picky/rigid acceptance process into university (Under 10% of applicants are let in). More people get into a Medical school vs a Teaching University in Finland. They are respected because they did the work, those parents know they have the ability to guide, teach and help their children.They know they are EXPERTS in the field. They are chosen for that field. I'm going to say something HIGHLY UNPOPULAR to all USA teachers, but it's exactly what 75% of the non teaching public thinks. They don't respect you because they see you as a babysitting monkey. (We know your hands are tied by administration and it's NOT YOUR FAULT, but really it makes you a robot, a monkey and replaceable)You only teach to test, you follow a strict set of guidelines on how or what.. you can't or won't think for yourselves. . There is no reason they can't do a pilot program, take 1 district in a "low economic" area and start Finland's system. Give the teacher the overall goal on the subject matter (let them pick the books they want to teach with or with none), with NO governmental testing. Have all the new kindergarten classes in 1-2 schools depending on the size. They stay in that school with that teacher and that building for 5 years. The other schools will continue on the same course with the teachers moving into the new roll as that lowest grade moves up and they don't have another incoming grade behind them. They stay in that school with that teacher and that building for 5 years. As 1 teacher gets their class into 6th grade- that teacher goes back to start with a new group from Kindergarten. Test that school district in 5th grade against a similar low economic status school. You will find out which works. Technically, Finland spends LESS time in school, learns more, spend less money per child. Empower the teacher to teach, parents will show respect. The current system stinks. Flat out.

        October 16, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Karen Packard

      Well put. Sadly, the day is already here when fewer and fewer well qualified young people are choosing the teaching profession. I can't encourage my son to get back in and I wouldn't think of encouraging my grandchildren to enter this once great profession.

      October 22, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  17. Barbra & Jack Donachy

    In Mr. Jeffers' rambling piece, above, he never does get to the heart of the matter: Why do good teachers leave the profession? Hundreds of thousands of licensed teachers in several states have been surveyed regarding this question. The answers are not elusive.
    Consistently appearing at the top of the list is a desire among teachers to work for competent administrators. The media and lawmakers alike harp incessantly on teachers, making it sound as though teachers – or the unions they often belong to – are responsible for this country’s mediocre public education system. Readers can Google this fact: ALL of the democratic countries that routinely outperform the U.S. in education have STRONG teachers’ unions. The unions, per se, are not the problem. As for the teachers themselves: No sports team, no military unit, no corporation and no school system can rise above the quality of its leaders for very long.
    The ongoing failure of the American public education system is in large part a failure of leadership on the administrative level and includes principals, superintendents and their various lieutenants. Exacerbating this crisis in leadership is that local school boards – comprised of people who typically come to these boards with very little knowledge about education and yet have huge axes to grind – do a disgracefully poor job in their oversight role.
    Of course, there are other factors involved. But until the issue of leadership in our public schools is vigorously addressed, all other reform efforts will largely prove to be irrelevant.

    October 13, 2012 at 12:11 am |
    • Nelba

      You bring some insights that are not typical here. So thanks for that. Would anyone care to address the fact that we have been told for over 50 years that our schools are failint? Look up the 1955 best seller "Why Johnnie Cant Read". In the 1950s we were told over and over with shrieks of delight that American schools were awful. Go back and read the torrent of articles and speeches (see Admiral Hyman Rickover) on how the USA was losing the Space Race because of our schools. Then move on to the 1982 national report "A Nation at Risk" which repeated the same theme. Why have our schools always been "failing" if inded they are.

      October 13, 2012 at 1:46 am |
      • Barbra & Jack Donachy

        Hi Nelba: There is indeed a long history of American schools failing to live up to their promise. In 1952, conservative elements in our society were engaging this country in a protracted, painful debate about whether or not to allow people of color to attend schools with whites, thus leaving behind millions of American children. Fast forward to 2012. America remains virtually alone in the world in that it has never developed a federal, nationwide education system. Our state-by-state system has failed our children. It ensures chaos, uneven funding, uneven standards for teachers and administrators entering the profession, and fiscal waste.

        Also, going back to 1952 (and prior), it seems there has always been an element in our society that just plain does not trust, value or respect educators and educated people. The contrast with most of the rest of the world – where teaching is an honored profession – couldn't be more stark. Tied in with this is pay. We live in a capitalist society where in a very direct way we demonstrate how much we value a given profession by how much we pay the people in that profession. We are very aware that conservatives will debate this reality till the moon turns blue, but the fact seems to be that we simply do not offer sufficient financial incentive to attract enough quality people into the education profession. This is particularly true at the administrative level where private sector CEO's and other executives can earn many times more than their counterparts in K – 12 education – and not have to put up with even a fraction of the disrespect from politicians, the media, and the like.

        October 13, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Viva Valdez

      What you just said is the primary reason I won't go back. I was sold out several times by administrators who all privately told me I was right or backed me initially but once district office came in I was the only one standing by my decisions and ending up losing every battle.
      A friend of mine is very right-wing Republican and we talked about public education and he spoke about business and I told him why he was incredibly wrong about unions. I told him unions in the teaching profession are absolutely one area where they are necessary and for teachers who don't believe that wait until trouble comes your way and you'll change your mind like I did. I told him and I've told others bad teachers can always be fired but blaming unions for being unable to fire bad teachers leaves an important group off of blame, administrators. I've had a few good administrators but most were average and there were a couple of promising ones who knew how their district worked and realized they couldn't win being courageous so just went along with the flow of cowardice because if they ever wanted to move up they knew being trouble, standing your ground doesn't pay off. Administrators, especially risk-aversed cowards are one of the biggest problems of education and no one talks about it. Teachers are afraid to speak up out of fear of their job and the cycle continues.
      I'm all for teacher accountability when I start seeing administrator accountability and backbone should be a requirement.

      October 14, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
      • Barbra & Jack Donachy

        Hi Viva: Thanks for sharing your story. Unfortunately it is one that is far too common. It is truly puzzling that among the thousands of new articles run each year by CNN, NPR, FOX, MSN and the rest the news media, the issue of incompetent administration – and incapable school boards – never seems to come up.

        October 14, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Karen Packard

      Today's administrative problems go way beyond local boards and administrations. Look at what big business is doing via ALEC and Bill Gates to destroy public education and increase the testing business profits and test prep profits and now tests on computer profits and charter school profits. Education is no longer for the purpose of helping students learn. The purpose since the beginning of NCLB and its expansion with Race to the Top and Common Core State Standards (that really are national standards) is to line the pockets of businesses that do not support meaningful learning for democratic living. In the process they are destroying public education. I don't know if that is the intended purpose or the unintended purpose of those who are destroying public education, but I do know it is the consequence of our national education policies for the last 11 or 12 years.

      October 22, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  18. etm

    I agree that good teachers are hard to find and when the district finds one they should do their very best to encourage them to stay in the profession because these are the teachers who can get our students prepared for college. I have encountered teachers who teach kids to memories with out telling them what they are teaching is used for, which I think is the wrong approach. Memorized it today and you forget it tomorrow, but teach them what they are use for in their lives and they tend to remember it the rest of their lives.

    About 15 years ago I was approached by some parent of kids on my daughter's geometry class, they want me to tutor their kids. My daughter and her classmates happened to be in the GATE program. I am an electrical engineer and a computer science, and knowledgeable in mathematics so parents believed that I am capable of teaching geometry. They said that their children are getting D's in Geometry while on other subject are all A's. In short this kids are not dumb, and it is obvious because they are GATE students.

    I took the responsibility and told the parents that I will lecture their kids at home twice a week. On the first week I asked them what they do not understand in Algebra and Geometry and they said graphs of equations and few particular equations were Parabola, circle and ellipse. I ask them what they know about ellipse and they showed me the equation and how to solve and plot the graph. So they could give me the right answer. Then I asked them why they needed to be tutored when they know how to solve the equation. Well they said that when the data are different they do not know how to approach the problem. In short they are memorizing the procedure and when the teacher diverts from the procedure they are lost.

    Anyway, I asked them what they think the ellipse is used in real life, the answer they gave me was, it is an equation they have to memories. They know how an ellipse equation looks like, they know the shape of an ellipse, but have no idea what it will do to them.
    Then I showed then the solar system and asked them bluntly if there is something in the solar system that is somehow related to the ellipse. They all shake their head sideways, it is a resounding NO. So my lecture started, I asked them why do we have Summer and Winter and why is it colder in Winter than in Summer. I got their attention. I asked them the shape of the ellipse and everybody said it is an elongated circle, which is correct. I asked them if an ellipse has a center and they all said no but there are two foci. Then I asked them if the sun is in one foci and the ellipse is the path of the earth’s movement around the sun, will there be a point the earth is closer to the sun and will there be a point where the earth is farther from the sun, they said yes. So far they still do not know where I am going with my questions. Then I ask then what the weather will be when the earth is closer and when the earth is farther. They all said Hot when the earth is closer and cold when the earth is farther. And finally I told them every heavenly bodies revolves around their stars not circular motion but ellipse motion. If they can tell the location of the foci and know at least few more point on the path of a heavenly bodies they can calculate when winter and summer will come. Bottom line show them first what an equation is used for and you will get their attention. From that point on I knew how to get these kids interested just show them first what the equation is used in their daily lives.

    Some Teachers, teach kids to memories which is the wrong approach. There are few teachers who are good who will first tell the kids what a certain subject matter will do for them, this are the teachers the school district should not let go. But this are also the hard to find teachers. 1 out of 11 is about the correct ratio , one best teacher out of eleven.
    Now, I am happy to know that most of those kids that I tutored finished college mostly in engineering.

    October 12, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • Sigh

      Ummm guy, please relearn basic physics . The earth is actually warmer when it is farther away and colder when it is closer due to the ANGLE the earth is compared to the sun.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
      • Nelba

        Well, when we have winter in the northern hemisphere, it is summer in the southern hemisphere.

        October 13, 2012 at 1:49 am |
    • MikeyZ

      While I appreciate the fact that you built the kids' intuition from an applied-science perspective, you wold have done well to choose an example that was actually correct. The earth's orbital eccentricity is, for all practical purposes, circular and has zero bearing on the earth's seasons. Such an argument fails to explain why Australia's winter is at the same time as Europe's summer.

      October 14, 2012 at 10:22 pm |


    October 12, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Katie

      I had a teacher like that. She had a giant dictionary on her desk and called it her Bible. She let us know that all of us have weak points and that they were not something to dismiss, excuse, or explain away, but something we could and should be trying to improve, even if it meant working on it for the rest of our lives. She let us know it was ok to admit our weak points and to ask for & to accept help with them. I never forgot that. BTW – she was the English teacher, and I learned more about the English language and its structure and grammar from her than I ever learned from anyone else. THANK YOU MISS HILLEBRAND!

      October 13, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  20. Mike Spurlock

    Mr. Jeffers, we dont need you to teach kids how to plant trees or recycle, that is much easier to do than teach them algebra, chemical equilibrium and standard English. We are ranked 15th in the world, we have out-of-control bullying, what in the world are teachers doing except cashing pay checks and waiting for their pensions?

    October 12, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • mrprincipal03

      I'm afraid you are not even scratching the surface of the real problem regarding getting more quality teachers in K-12 schools. Some of the problem is the definition of a quality teacher. Many people still feel that a good teacher is one who lectures(sage on the stage) to the students, gives a quiz/test and at the end of the week and the student who regurgitates/memorizes more correct answers is the one who has learned the most and earned the best grade. Too many citizens have demeaned the nations teachers and seem to feel that teaching is like working at McDonalds. This is a multifaceted problem and until all aspects of the problem are addressed and agreed on, a workable solution will not be forthcoming.

      October 12, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
      • Arlen

        Thanks! I was thinking it, but you said it.

        October 12, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
      • Angela Birch

        The best teachers are the ones who inspire a student to want to learn, It doesn't matter what the subject is. If a student wants to learn they will learn, planting trees and recycleing is important if the srudent learns. The notion of a teacher standing on a stage lecturing a room of teens is your idea of teaching you know nothing about teaching. Teaching about mathmatics does not exclude planting trees.
        The problem in my view is that teachers are no longer encouraged to engage the students and get them involved in learning. They now have 47 minutes of Algebra and then 32 minutes of American history followed by another 47 minutes of Biology. It is like a fast food restaurant. Here is your daily dose of math and it comes with a few minutes of French revolution and Napoleon and a side of comparative anatomy of birds and mammals. Teaching to the test.

        October 12, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • Patty1

      I have been teaching special education and regular education for 18 years. I have put forth all of my energy to make sure that my students feel successful, safe, and respected. I have seen many students pass through my door at school and never come back, but I have had more students come back and visit once they have left my school because they say I was their best teacher. My husband (who is also a teacher) and I both work during the summer to allow our family to join in on athletics or go on weekend outings. We are not ones to sit around and wait for paychecks and or so-called pensions you say we will be getting. Our lives are built around our jobs, we feel that our students are part of our families.
      Mike, when you live the life of a teacher, it is not the money that matters, it is the smiles, hard work, and success of the students that is rewarding and satisfying to you.

      October 13, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • G8r

      Mike, I disagree with your assessment of teachers. I taught junior high shop classes for 5 years, quitting only when the administration would not allow me to discipline or remove a student who was high on drugs from my classroom and shop. Since then, I have worked a variety of jobs, including owning several businesses. Teaching was the most exhaustive job that I've ever held. I enjoyed the experience nevertheless. I loved the students, and I loved my colleagues, but I detested the administrators. They were wall between the students and their education. In a confrontation with a parent, the classroom teacher was NEVER supported. Of the 50 colleagues that I worked with, only 2 were what I call "clinkers". As taxpayers in many states, we have about $130,000 invested in each child for their K-12 education. To allow even 1 child in the classroom disrupt the class is absolutely nuts, and I attribute that to administrators and school boards with no backbone. If the readers here would Google "Marva Collins", she serves as an example of what can be done. That she accomplished what she did on a limited budget will blow your mind.

      October 14, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • resourceful

      Surely you don't believe that is all teachers do AND students that bully...don't you think that is parent responsibility??? It is not the responsibility of the teachers or the school to teach your children how to behave and treat other people...but somehow you and society have added that to our plates along with education. Interesting. You actually sound upset about it too; as though we are not doing a good enough job teaching children not to bully. Wow!

      October 20, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Karen Packard

      I think the out of control bullying is coming from No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

      October 22, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  21. Yes1fan

    Teachers who simply impart how it is that WHAT they are teaching, pertains to student's future potential ACTUAL LIFE experiences (aka "the WHY"), are the best ones.
    Giving the student a valid reason to learn, giving them a personal grubstake in the process, is the trick to good motivated students.

    October 12, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  22. HJA

    I have heard people rant and rave about unions destroying our country and teachers are over paid and only work 8 or 9 months out of the year. Then I hear these same fools going on about a sports figure getting only 15 million a year...."He should have held out for more....He's worth more!!!" Teachers are crooks but some tool that plays sports is worth every penny. What a crock! Just a bunch of fools.

    October 12, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Burt Way

      Well, that's the overblown sports fan mentality.

      October 12, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Most of those people you refer to wouldn't last a week in a classroom.

      October 14, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  23. koko

    And they keep too many teachers that are very bad. From what I've seen school districts are very poorly run.

    October 12, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Katie

      This is such a common myth – that you can't get rid of bad teachers. Yes you can. And the good teachers would love to help you do it, because bad teachers bring everyone down. In my school district we had several known bad teachers. We elected responsible people to the school board who worked with the good teachers and the union to force the bad teachers out. We ended up getting rid of the bad administrators who were sheltering a couple of the bad teachers, too. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you work TOGETHER instead of pointing fingers and blaming everyone.

      October 13, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • Karen Packard

      And just what have you seen up close and personal?

      October 22, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  24. Matt

    I don't know how many posters here believe in the "free market", but I have noticed that a lot of teacher-bashing tends to come from those with right-leaning political views, and so I think it's fair to think there may be some overlap.
    Having said that, here's the free-market problem I see with a lot of the comments here: We demand excellence of physicians, and so we make it very difficult to become one, and the course work and job training is brutally demanding. People endure it, however, partly because the importance of excellence is reflected in the relatively high salary that we as society feel is reasonable for a physician and which many are able to draw. They are also held in relatively high prestige and afforded a measure of respect once their profession is known.
    For teachers, however, I hear the same voices demanding an increase in rigorous job preparation on the one hand, but arguing that teachers get paid too much and exercising blatant disrespect on the other. What is the carrot that the market holds out to prospective teachers to incite highly-qualified individuals to submit themselves to an appropriately rigorous preparation? How many highly-qualified candidates can we expect to start the process when professions with similarly rigorous preparation will be offering higher compensation, job security, and prestige? I agree that there are many teachers out there who are unsuited to the profession... but who is there to take their place when they are "booted out"? Where are these legions of unemployed super-teachers who are being squeezed out by unionized deadbeats? How many people currently in lucrative positions in other fields are just waiting for a lower-paying teaching job to open up once the unions have been busted (and, arguably, even lower paying without unions)?

    October 12, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • TeachersRpeople2

      Well said.

      October 12, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • ES71

      I believe in free market and I believe that free market will sort it out if givern a chance.
      in our are there are a couple 30K a year private schools which prepare kids for Harvard, there is a secular 10K a year school which is above average and has vrey small classes, there is a number of religious schools with 5-8K tuition and then there are public schools at a cost of 8-10K to taxpayer.
      I believe that if people could get a refun on their taxes many of them would choose a religious school or the 10K school with 5-6 kids per class for their kids,
      Those who want super-qualified teachers will choose 30K, since yes, these teachers should be paid more.
      Let people decide instead of pushing everyone into one-zise fits all public school system.
      We don't have one-size-fits-all colleges but for some reason we think that it is just fine for K-12 education.

      October 12, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
      • mrprincipal03

        I am so afraid of folks like you who have no real grasp on teaching or the problems faced by teachers. I understand a free market solution. But when did kids become free markets?? You do realize that learning has a very important emotional component, do you not? Hey, I was ecstatic when I had a 36% return on a mutual fund I invested in, but as far as teaching and learning, the financial part is pretty cut and dried. I will say that the state of Arkansas has gotten it right in one way: Arkansas must, by state law fully fund K-12 education before any other departmet receives funding. No teacher layoffs, schools are all offerinc the same curriculum. Last time I checked Arkansas was rated 5th in the nation. But back to the subject. Until we stop glossing over the problem with opinions on all sides and really define the problems and solve them, you can expect more of the same. "If you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got.

        October 12, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
      • roger

        Are you smoking something. Do you know how much you would get for a school if you didnt have to pay taxes? MAYBE 2-3k per year. Not even enough to send them to DAYCARE, MUCH LESS SCHOOL

        October 12, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
      • rotorhead1871

        its parents job to get their kids motivated and educated. quit thinking monopoly public education has all the answers. they need to diversify into many modes and methods, not one monopoly!!...when the NEA gets out of the business of defending every crappy teacher, the good ones will stay as the crappys will get weeded out.....thats just for starters...

        October 12, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • MD Hoyt

      Could not have said that any better, and I have been making that same argument since this mess began. Nice job!

      October 12, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Karen Packard

      Great questions, Matt.

      October 22, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  25. msp

    I appreciate dedicated teachers, doctors, sanitary workers, grocery store personnel, everyone who do the best they can at the job. But no one is irreplacable in any organization. Steve Jobs has been dead for a year and Apple is still doing very well. We are all replacable and that is not the point.

    October 12, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • SaiyaMew

      msp, it's funny you should say that. Because while Apple is indeed still doing well financially, you can already tell the fire is starting to fade in the year since his death. From the general "meh" of the industry at the iPhone 5's mid-range specs, to the harshly negative reactions to Mapgate, to Apple's "rumored" upcoming 7" tablet - which Jobs himself stated was a terrible product that he would not want his company to produce - vision of the company is cloudy, if not gone altogether. The company will still be successful, but that spark is gone.

      However, let's look at that analogy. What made Apple the powerhouse it was since 2000?
      – A leader and an administration who not only was passionate about making their business thrive, but also about connecting with and supporting their users.
      – A focus on innovation, giving users the highest quality while still making it accessible (remember the dawn of the iPod)?
      – A community that gives back – one of the biggest reasons Apple thrived was because of the rabid fanboys that emerged.
      – Rebuilding – With every decision that hasn't gone as well (DRM, iTunes Ping, iPhones with terrible antenna placement, etc), they have learned and adapted to make the quality better.

      Now, apply those same factors to schools:
      – An administration that not only focuses on high rankings and metrics, but reaches out to the students and the community.
      – A focus on education – constantly rethinking curriculum to make it high-quality, while still accessible.
      – A community that gives back – from parental support of students to booster clubs, the community needs to be as passionate about their local school as the school is about teaching their children.
      – Rebuilding – Sometimes programs slump – a rebuilding year for the football team, a well-loved choir director of 20 years leaves and it provides a rough transition to the new teacher, or numbers for certain electives begin to drop. Allowing the program to rebuild instead of cutting it when it's weak allows the tradition to continue, gives students something to rally towards (be it getting back that winning season or everyone trying to be in the hip new teacher's class).

      Now, this analogy is by no means flawless, there are many holes that can be poked through it (the near-slave labor of Foxconn, the cost of product, the inital funding from companies like Microsoft, etc). But at the heart is this: when you have these things – innovation, energy, support – you have excellence. But when you get by with middle-of-the-road products and services led by a corporate schill with his eyes on the bottom line (Lookin' at you, Tim Cook), you have mediocrity. So it goes with education.

      October 16, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  26. JC

    I was a classroom teacher for 27 years and now coach new teachers and instruct pre-service teachers in college. I agree with everything that Robert Jeffers said. But, he left readers with the inference that it's a matter of luck if the "irreplaceables" are hired in the first place. While I agree that some great teachers are born to it, others can be helped to achieve it. Our whole system, from teacher training programs to the support for new teachers and encouragement for veteran teachers, needs to be overhauled. Sadly, nobody will ask teachers how to do that. We'll be told. We should be asked.

    October 12, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • rotorhead1871

      be proactive then...propose and present.....go sell it if you believe its that good....

      October 12, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • Karen Packard

      That's the biggest failing of today's education policies, no one bothered to ask to ask the educators what to do to make a difference in public education.

      October 22, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  27. Jay

    Good job ignoring the elephant in the room – it's the teacher's unions that force out the better, younger, more energetic teachers and keep around worthless, out of touch teachers. Not all of the young teachers are great. Not all of the older ones are bad. But when your policy is set strictly on seniority in an area where the most useful skills are energy and passion, well... you end up with the educational system we have today.

    October 12, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • TeachersRpeople2

      How do unions force out young and energetic teachers? Unions protect teachers from random punishments from an administrator or a hormonal teenager. It does not protect bad teachers it just allows due process. If you are accused of a "crime" would you not want due process? If your boss walked into your office today and fired you because someone said that someone else saw you doing something but would not give details, you would sue. Teachers sign contracts to work and if a contract is broken in the rest of the world, you can sue; teachers usually go to arbitration. Unlike the world of business, teachers have so many factors completely out of their control that unions protect them from random craziness. Just because a teacher has taught for 15 years does not mean she is no longer energetic or passionate about her profession nor does it mean that a newer teacher is better because she is newer. New teachers leave the profession because they are not prepared to do everything they need to do to succeed. It does not mean the union did it.

      October 12, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Katie

      Sometimes unions grow so large and so powerful they are called "organizations", "chambers", "associations", and "political action committees" – that's when we should be working hard to gut them. Teachers' unions are hardly that powerful and do not have anywhere near the kind of money these other special interest groups throw around to buy politicians, swing elections, and get their way. If any group of professionals needed solidarity, it's teachers. Politicians, think tanks, and other people with education but no real experience in current classroom conditions make the rules, set up the plan, and write the standards and then hold teachers accountable for the outcome. Teacher unions help temper the marching orders handed down and back up the teachers when these so-called leaders point fingers and make outrageous comments and demands.

      October 13, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • Karen Packard

      That's way too simplistic.

      October 22, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  28. Julie Labrouste

    Big business and big money, along with their legions of political minions don’t want teachers, don’t want a well-informed society, don’t want the poor and middle-class to be educated, which, to them, is counter-productive; that’s why they do everything they can to decimate teaching, except, of course, in schools/colleges that cost so much more than regular people can afford, that only children of the members of big business and big money, along with their legions of political minions can pay-for.

    October 12, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • bigdumbdinosaur


      October 12, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
      • Julie Labrouste

        Spoken like a true big business big money drone.

        October 12, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Jay

      Possibly the dumbestcomment I've ever seen on a CNN article. And that's saying a lot. Big businesses want an educated, quality workforce.

      October 12, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
      • Julie Labrouste


        October 12, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
      • Julie Labrouste

        Big business wants "human resources" that are just smart enough to push the buttons and push the papers, but not smart enough to know that they are being constantly ripped-off by big business, big money, and the oligarchic corporatist state that they purchased.

        October 12, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
      • Julie Labrouste

        Big business wants OBEDIENT wage slaves.

        October 12, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Yes1fan

      ...and only because bodies are still cheaper than robots...for now...

      October 12, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Karen Packard


      October 22, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  29. Achicinchina

    I have had the privilege of teaching secondary science for 4 years, it is an amazing job! As a "newbie" I really think that the best teachers I have observed are the ones that LOVE to learn themselves, LOVE their subject area and want to help the students understand just how COOL that subject is.
    Perhaps a potential way to recruit and maintain a high level of talented teachers is to encourage teachers to pursue higher education with scholarships in the fields that they teach (of course there are contractual strings attached to any scholarships). As I continue to learn more about the subjects I teach I am more excited and "charged up" to share with my students. While education classes and degrees do have their place, for subject area teachers a deeper understanding of content can make a HUGE difference. Enthusiasm is contagious and we need to get our kids infected. Thats my 2 cents.

    October 12, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  30. 4Mel

    No matter what job it is, some people are going to be better at it than others. There's nothing wrong with that – it's just the way humans are. What's wrong with incentivizing the best performers to stay? It will keep better teachers in the classroom, and that means a better education for students.

    October 12, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Karen Packard

      True. Sadly, today the best teachers are maligned by those who want to do away with public education because they don't want to pay for it. Did you know that Americans spend more on cosmetics than they spend on education? What's wrong with our priorities?

      October 22, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  31. Phil (D.C.)

    Teacher education programs are far too easy for the profession to be taken seriously right now. When a school of ed has the lowest incoming SAT/ACT scores yet the highest gpas at graduation, you know something is amiss. If teachers want to be treated like professionals, they need to act like it. Stop admitting and coddling inferior candidates. Weed out the trash and then grow a backbone. If you don't like your pay, leave. Period. The public will get the message eventually.

    And, if you are going to fall back on the tired excuse that you have a "calling" or a "love for children" all you are really saying is that you are scared of facing reality. No one in any other profession puts up with being paid and treated so poorly, yet there are arguably many more admirable "callings" than teaching.

    October 12, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Oakspar

      Most teachers would agree that education classes and degrees are a joke – and many more would be happy to admit that teachers with other degrees who enter the field often do a better job. Teachers, however, do not choose the classes they must take to get their state licence.

      The government chooses the required courses and then puts pressure on the schools to mass produce teachers (particularly math and science). The glut of poorly trained, poorly equiped, first year teachers keeps downward pressure on teacher wages.

      Thus, particularly in the first years where pay is truely dismal and expenses are higher, many promising teachers move on to lucrative careers, while those who cannot do better hang around.

      There are, of course, many exceptions, particularly among people who appreciate the job satisfaction of teaching or who are willing to exchange greater pay for job security (teachers tend to be bond buyers more than stock investors).

      Most teachers would love it if education programs were more rigorious and useful – as that would increase their job security, create job demand, and push wages higher. Unfortunately, there is no incentive for the colleges (who get paid either way and enjoy large teaching programs) or governments (who thrive on the cheap, barely certified labor) to do so.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:35 am |
      • old golfer

        Well stated. Also, there is the matter of how much time teachers are off. Most of their contracts are 160-170 days per year.

        October 12, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • phoenician1

      Did you even read this article?
      "When a school of ed has the lowest incoming SAT/ACT scores yet the highest gpas at graduation, you know something is amiss." YES, it means that most of the people with better SAT/ACT scores don't want to be a part of the teaching profession anymore, and that we are so desperate for teachers now that we've lowered the bar.
      "Stop admitting and coddling inferior candidates. Weed out the trash..." Your own previous comment makes it clear that 'inferior candidates' are all we can convince to become a teacher anymore. We've so demoralized, under-paid and micro-managed the profession that very few of our best and brightest want to teach.
      "The public will get the message eventually." They have, and your comments and the article make that clear; we're no longer producing anywhere near enough good teachers, because we've made the profession too unattractive as a career path.
      Did you even read this article? Or was this just another opportunity to put forth your own opinion, and bad-mouth teachers in the process? 'Cuz obviously, they need more kicking, right?

      October 12, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Barbra & Jack Donachy

      Phil, you've identified a big part of the problem – weak preparation at the college level for aspiring teachers, predicated on the fact that these programs are not able to attract enough intellectually capable students into their programs. The problem is one of economics and culture. Other professions offer bigger salaries, and as long as that's true, education majors will continue to represent the lowest, or next to lowest, or next to next to lowest in terms of SAT scores. Grade inflation follows: I'm sure you can imagine the kind of writing and thinking that is "acceptable" for "B" work in many education programs. And bright students are frequently harassed out of these programs because the education professors themselves are not able to answer tough questions pertaining to education – questions such as "Why are all these 'scientific studies' referred to in education texts rarely supported by anything even remotely approaching real scientific research?"

      October 12, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • M.

      Amen, Phil! I worked closely with different schools of education that feed into a major metro public school system. It would not be too difficult for the truly bright to shine!

      October 12, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Heather

      I agree with you that teacher education programs are lacking, and that the entrance standards are far from ideal. I have had this arguement with other education students when I was a student myself. However, I can think of no higher calling than teaching. And those who know what teachers really do, and who have had the good fortune to have a good teacher in their lives, have a great deal of admiration for those teachers. I am still in the education field, and with a master's degree I make considerable less than folks outside of education. But this is my choice, and I really choose to do this because I love the kids. Every day I go home knowing that I have made a difference in the life of someone else. I am often the only kind word, the only smile, the only positive role model that a child sees. Education isn't my job, it's the field that I work in to make the world a better place. And I will do that one child at a time, one classroom at a time, and one school at a time until I can't find another child to help. My guess is that I will never stop, because there will always be children who need good teachers who care.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Rhonda

      How dare you say "No one in any other profession puts up with being paid and treated so poorly, yet there are arguably many more admirable "callings" than teaching."!!

      There are several other professions that put up with "being paid and treated so poorly", as you say. Have you looked at the real salary of a military member, the REAL salary not the one the media portrays as a real salary? Military members, police officers, fire fighters, and teachers are ALL underpaid and treated very poorly! For an example of how well our military members are paid, when my husband was in the military for 10 years and we lived on base (a so-called benefit when the military housing we lived in didn't even met the minimum guidelines for welfare housing), our two children were eligible for "free or reduced lunches." (No we didn't use this assistance because we have morals.) At the time, I was attending college to become a teacher and not working.

      Now the other part of your statement that really made me furious, "yet there are arguably many more admirable "callings" than teaching." What career do YOU know of that could possibly exist without a teacher having influenced that individual person? NONE. There would be NO OTHER jobs without teachers!

      I absolutely despise people that "teacher bash" when most of them do not have a clue as to what they are talking about. Unless you've actually been in a classroom as a teacher you truly have NO CLUE as to what teachers do.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:56 am |
      • Arlen

        Two thumbs up! Way up!!

        October 12, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Karen Packard

      More admirable callings? For instance..................

      October 22, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  32. Director1

    After having taught for 30+ (and yes, using a double digit number it is correct to use the number, not spell it out) years I saw the good and bad teachers. I must say I was fortunate enough to see far more of the the former than the latter. I was taken under the wing of several very good teachers early and urged (not coerced) to use some different methods. I was allowed to observe these teachers as they interacted with colleagues, students, parents, administrators and others. It was very apparent to me that the biggest problem with keeping bad teachers was that some administrators were just too lazy to do what was necessary to remove them. I also saw what a positive thing it was when a couple of administrators did what was necessary to remove bad teachers. I might add that during that time I was always a member of the union and never once did I see the union step in to try to countermand what an administrator had done if all the rules had been followed (it is called due process). I loved working with students and many of my former students are now close friends, several have gone into teaching and many more have gone into fields related to my area of teaching (Business, Accounting, and Computer Technologies). The one comment about this article that people have been making that really disturbs me is that "it is the unions fault". That is untrue. I was an active member of the union and I still feel that if teachers were treated fairly and with the respect they so richly deserve, the unions would not be necessary. I also feel the union people I worked with would applaud that day and start looking elsewhere for employment with the feeling of a job well done. Now, you are free to critique, criticize, or otherwise disagree but from where I stand it was worth the trip, but I never encouraged any of my children to go into education as a career because there are too many out there who can neither do or teach but, they will be the biggest critics.

    October 12, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Karen Packard

      After over 40 years in education, mostly as a teacher, but also as a teacher educator, I agree.

      October 22, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  33. Jim Brown

    Robert Jeffers, you may be an exceptional teacher, and know others who you chose to associate and identify with, but the simple fact is most teachers are far below your quality, and you didn't make a convincing argument that you knew how to keep the best in place.

    I went to one of the best public schools in the nation (yes, I realize dozens make that claim). In this city, which hosts one of the great universities, in never had a single teacher in 12 years who I considered even above average.

    One member of my family taught in that school district. She was considered to be "one of the top". Knowing I have a scientific background, she phoned me one night, asking the difference between Red and Green Kryptonite. No, I am not kidding.

    There's a site online that shows the typical IQ range for professions. Grammar school teachers average 105 and high school teachers average 110.

    I'm sorry, but that just doesn't spell excellence. The appropriate people to teach children are the exceptionally intelligent, who have deep knowledge of how the world works. Not schoolmarms who don't know that Kryptonite doesn't exist.

    The people who have been commenting here, who have lead school activities? Bravo. I have no doubt that you are an asset and a credit to your community.

    I do question, however, Mr. Jeffers, that the teachers you think are irreplaceable are actually the best. What you want is the better-than-average, not the best. And that may be the whole problem with your approach. Would communities be willing to pay for teachers who placed their children in top universities on a regular basis? My guess is yes. Your position is that you just want to raise the bar. That's not acceptable. It will take years to make even the smallest improvement. And in the meanwhile, millions of kids are going to be incompetently educated.

    October 12, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Jim Brown

      (Oh, and please don't criticize my two typos, I forgot I was writing in a forum where it wasn't possible to make corrections on a draft.)

      October 12, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • TeachersRpeople2

      Goodness, you are very critical. I am a teacher and when I was in school I was considered gifted but I do not think being gifted makes me a superior teacher. I know individuals who are gifted but cannot explain the process of getting the answers because they just "get it." I know gifted individuals who understand quantum physics but cannot explain it to another because they cannot break it down so that non-gifted can understand. Teachers do not have to be gifted in a flawed IQ test to be gifted teachers. The person who can reach his/her students the best is the best definition of a gifted teacher.

      October 12, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • Bostic

      Mr. Brown, clearly you are a well educated idiot that probably thinks of yourself as that highest tier of intellectual. I myself went to public school which I must admit I got very little from with the exception, that it did teach me how to deal with all groups of people. I graduated from public school then went on to attend a prestigious University, which I was able to get a academic scholarship to attend. After finishing at the top of my class I then attended a very prestigious Law School. After several years I decide that I wanted to teach. I will admit the teacher prep programs are a joke. I breezed through with a perfect score. What I don't think you or many others understand is that teaching isn't something you can teach. It is an art not a science. So regardless of what IQ Test say that doesn't translate to being able to teach. Yes, we need qualified professionals in our classrooms, but we also need those that have a true talent for the profession. Because law is my background I will use it as an example. Not all lawyers are the same quality just like not all teachers are the same quality. What we need is to get politics out of education. It needs to be run like any other profession. The creme will rise if given a system that will allow this to occur. To many truly gifted educators are made to feel inferior because they choose this as a profession. It is educated people like yourself that have an arrogant view of what can fix education, when you have never stepped foot in front of a class. I would never have the audacity to explain how surgery works to a surgeon. Leave teaching up to teachers and stop with your arrogant IQ figures. I hope your relative will realize that the only mistake that they made is going to a source that is very unreliable to obtain important information. By the way my IQ is a 147, so stick that figure in your study.

      October 12, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • MrsRtheAPWHTeacher

      Nonsense on the IQ information. The website that I found – – shows that high school teachers' average IQ is 125. This is higher than accountants (123), sales managers (122) and just below engineers (128) and even MDs (132).

      October 12, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
      • LoriJo

        And even if the 105-110 numbers were correct, they're still not "idiot" numbers by any stretch. 100 is the average. 110 is about the 75th percentile, I think.

        October 13, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  34. Ed - Spring, Tx

    I had to chuckle a little bit at this article about it takes 11 candidates to come up with one replacement for a top teacher. Basically, he's saying that only 1 out of 10 teachers are in the top 10%. Pretty obvious. This is true for all professions, not just teaching. Doctors too. Some of the doctors are in the bottom of their class and they have licenses just like the top 10%. But, the main point is retention of the top 10% and we need to figure out how our schools can do a better job of that.

    October 12, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  35. JB

    I currently teach history in high school and will be completely leaving the profession after ten years very soon. I coach two sports(which means I also cut the grass, wash uniforms, care for the facilities and drive the bus), sponsor clubs, do several after school activities when I am not coaching and have the highest test scores in our district. I love my job but it has gotten to a point where my family has lost almost 4k a year, my wife also teaches. I agree with an earlier post that stated administration and people at the state level who have never been in a class are running things. I have got to a point where I feel that people outside of the teaching profession have no respect for teachers and we will never achieve the pay we deserve and only be cut. So, for my family, I will be leaving to take on a new job.

    October 12, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • MM

      Yes! Teachers are constantly ridiculed, blamed, disrespected, underpaid, overworked, etc. I've been teaching for six years and I've already figured out that no one will ever see this as a "real" job no matter how well I perform if. Students tell me they "feel sorry for me" having to work such a terrible job, parents tell me it's my fault because their child won't do the homework, no matter how small the amount is, and I get paid less than I did working as an assistant retail manager in a SMALL store. Ridiculous.

      October 13, 2012 at 8:14 am |
  36. /lol

    Author – I dont consider myself or any other great teacher 'irreplaceable' now I will explain why these teachs and myself is irreplaceable.

    Honestly, one the most contradictive articles yet about this.

    BTW – LA has one of the worst educations in the entire U.S., so I doubt you or anyone else who teaches in L.A. is irreplaceable.

    October 12, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • Kristina

      I don't believe you are a teacher (or at least a good one).
      If you were, you'd be able to speak English.
      Honestly, "dont" or "these teachs and myself is"?

      October 12, 2012 at 10:54 am |
      • Athena6515

        It's very possible she/he is a teacher. My niece's (Former) teacher could barely SPEAK English, so I wouldn't doubt anything at this point. They also teach "spelling" phonetically. As long as you spell it as it's "heard" it's right, even if it's wrong! Cat.. spelled K-A-T. Not kidding! Needless to say they moved to a different school district.

        October 16, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • gmilewski

      Great teachers in urban districts are even more irreplaceable than great teachers in suburban districts.

      October 12, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Nietodarwin

      I'm with Kristina. If you really are a teacher, you need to leave the job immediately. You are like a quack doctor, doing more harm than good.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • bigdumbdinosaur

      I dont consider myself or any other great teacher 'irreplaceable' now I will explain why these teachs and myself is irreplaceable.

      Now that's a sterling example of a bad teacher's English. Geesh!

      October 12, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  37. Ghost82

    That's right, blame the educator not society at large. Schools are at best reflections of the immediate community in which they exist. You simply cannot teach a person who has no willingness to learn. The sooner that we wake up to the fact that society does not value education, and we are now required to teach to lowest common denominator in a society in which everyone is deemed special, the sooner we can all get along with our lives and stop pretending to be so damned self important. I simply relish the idea that so many people are experts on how to fix everything "wrong" in our society. Most of your experiences have probable merit with relevance only to your personal experience, and without all information available. To this end, this will be the last time I waste time and effort either reading or responding to your mindless dribble. Do not bother yourselves to respond….I promise not to read it.
    A TEACHER-“ Who is tired of being hated for simply trying to make his country stronger”

    October 12, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Kristi

      I am sorry you feel unappriciated. Good teachers are worth all our respect since they have one of the most under-paid, unglamourous professions that we have all gotten good from. Thanks for your service.

      October 12, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  38. Mark

    Tony's comment is the exact thinking that has gotten us into so much trouble in public education. So misguided and unaware of how truly dumb of idea merit pay is when it comes to a job that is dependent on so many other factors beyond whether you just try hard and work hard.

    October 12, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Kristi

      I don't think people that are against the 'merit pay' argument are thinking things through. I completely understand merit pay based upon student performance is not practical and would reward teachers with good students and punish those having the hardest time with troubled students. Like you said–it's about working hard all the time. I know first-hand some teachers put in the minimum required and some go above and beyond. The above and beyond teachers should have a means of being rewarded. Without that, truly talented teachers will walk out the doors of schools that really need them for private schools with better pay or other careers with more earning potential.

      October 12, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • l. Stevens

      I am a veteran teacher and I agree completely with what Robert Jeffers says. If you do not, you are not a teacher.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  39. MD Hoyt

    Jared I would like to commend you for that. The world needs to know that the biggest obstacle facing teachers most of the time is administration. Principles, AP's, Superintendents, board of Ed. members, etc. If the teachers controlled the schools everyone would be better off. Trust me, there are alot of administrators who have never taught a class, yet they can command a school full of teachers. Doesnt make much sense. At the same time, board of ed. members who make ALL of the final decisions are voted in citizens with usually NO TEACHING experience whats so ever. Doesnt make sense. I too am taking my educational knowledge and venturing toward non educational purposes.

    October 12, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Art

      You are 110% correct. I taught in NYC for 33 years. Iretired the first year I was eligible because of teh policies that the Dep't of Education was putting into place. Although a few of my students were horrible, most were good students and I enjoyed teaching them. The biggest problem were the administrators. Some only taught 2 or 3 years but thought they knew more than 30 year master teachers. One actually told me that bulletin boards were more important than classroom instruction(and she was an experienced teacher before she was an AP). I kid you not. They always took the side of a student if there was a he said she said situation and often gave the student a slap on the wrist or no punishment at all for offenses that you or I wouldn't dream of doing when we were in school. The inmates run the asylum would be an accurate description.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:08 am |
      • Nietodarwin

        I had my 2nd grade classroom divided into groups of tables, which I then labeled as the continents. I would say, Europe, get in line, Antartica get in line, etc. I was told that this was not appropriate because it was not in the 2nd grade Social Studies standards. He is "%110" correct, and I almost used the "inmates running the asylum" quote above. Sad stuff.

        October 12, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Nietodarwin

      Very well put. I worked in LAUSD, in a school where the crazy administrator "ran out" %50-%60 of the staff every year, to maintain her dictatorial power over an elementary school of 1800 students, while allowing the pedophile (who recently appeared in the papers) to remain year after year after year. This administrator had "friends" on the hill, and could not be touched. I was granted the right to sue by the EEOC, the district spent big $$$ defending her, and getting rid of me, because I got kids singing. Your comment is DEAD ON.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • M.

      Good for you, MDHoyt! But you may want to learn how to spell "principal" first before "venturing" into the public education profession. Thanks.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  40. Blackboard Daze

    "concrete opportunities for career development will go a long way."- One of the issues with teaching, there is no career development. You become a teacher and stay a teacher for 30+ years. In any other industry people work hard and advance to new levels. With that advancement comes recognition of a job well done. There are very few leadership opportunities like the author speaks of. People become complacent if they cannot challenge themselves. Don't get me wrong, ensuring that 30 or so students meet their academic targets is challenging, but so many people feel that it is impossible to meet those goals because there are too many factors out of there control.

    October 12, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  41. ES71

    Best teachers leave for private schools. This is where they can perform and be aprpeaciated accordingly. Our public schools are the lowest common denominator in education and everyone recognize them as that.
    And nto expect more.
    You have to work with your kids and provide additional tutoring if you want anything other than slightly below average.

    October 12, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Valerie

      Really? You get out of it what you put into it, and that includes an education. You might want to get out in the world a bit....some of the most successful people in this world didn't even graduate high school. If you want to learn and put in the effort, you WILL learn, no matter where you go. All the money for a private school is NOT going to ensure your kid does what they are supposed to be doing.

      October 12, 2012 at 10:03 am |
      • Unegen

        Lemme guess: you read The Secret and you're a libertarian. Because this "think happy thoughts" crap you're spewing is exactly that, crap. People do not educate themselves. People obtain knowledge from other, more experienced and knowledgeable people. They do not exist in a vacuum. And as for the most successful people leaving high school–yeah, there were a few, but not since the '60s or '70s, and 99% of the others wound up working 2 or 3 shift jobs just to get by. You really have no clue what you're talking about. Get out more. Stop listening to your own voice.

        October 12, 2012 at 10:45 am |
      • Kristi

        What does being a libertarian have to do with this particular philosophy of education? I'm really not following. I think it was intended as an insult but it simply doesn't make since. As a libertarian I'm quite sure there's the belief amongst at least the majority of us that education should be free enterprise, so the idea that Valerie is a libertarian when she doesn't believe in the merits of a free enterprise (private school) education is really obsurd. No comment on The Never read it, never will.

        October 12, 2012 at 11:04 am |
      • Art

        Valerie... I taught dozens of students that were kicked..... err I mean asked to leave their private schools because of either academic or behavioral problems. There were strict rules as far as dress goes and even if a girl could have any pieircings other than the ears. No dyed hair and other rules were strictly enfoced. In other words you can't compare private schools with public schools for those reasons. They cherry pick students.

        October 12, 2012 at 11:13 am |
      • ES71

        Valerie, yes, there are people who can educate themselves .May be 1 in 100 thousand or a million. I know of such examples in history, but the fact that these people are in history books might give you a clue as to how rare they are.
        Everybody else needs good teachers early on otherwise their potential will not be developed and will be lost.
        Most of the famous minds in hisotry had very educated parents.

        October 12, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
      • Glen

        It would be nice if public schools had the ability to kick out students who don't want to be there or do not even try to learn. The remaining 60-80% could then receive a high quality education. Why force learning on those that just fight the system? The U.S. produces some of the smartest graduates when measuring the top end, we just are awful when measuring the aggregate. The reality is our culture needs mostly low skilled service positions (or vocational training).

        October 12, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Pride

      Wrong, most leave the profession.

      October 12, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Dan

      Hmmm.... I am a teacher in a public school. The private schools in my community pay about half of what I am paid. These private schools do not require a degree to assure content competence or a credential to assure pedagogical awareness. These students still, largely, outperform public school students. Why? Their families value education so highly that they will pay for something they could get for free and they are surrounded by other students who come from families with the same values. My students come to school without supplies, do not read at home and live in homes where education is less valued. If I wanted to be a great teacher, I would just have to transfer schools to a community with higher property values. Or would that make me a better teacher? According to test scores, it would. Merit pay would push competent, experienced teachers to communities that need them less and away from communities where that expertise and experience is required.

      October 12, 2012 at 10:41 am |
      • Glen

        You have clearly recognized the problem. Test scores/ education can be measured by demographics and zip code. The teacher is a part of that but any research into the topic is that family and community and value of education is more important. I wish I could understand why this is not more openly talked about, perhaps because it would really alienate a block of the voting public. We should be more like Europe where at 14 kids are given a test and can go on if they pass otherwise they get vocational training.

        October 12, 2012 at 10:59 am |
      • Kristi

        Would all teachers on here agree that good teachers deserve to get paid more than bad teachers? I think that sentiment is universal. No one thinks teachers that call in sick every other day, show up without lessons planned, and yell at their students should get paid the same as teachers that inspire their students or at least try really hard to. Obviously, merit pay based on test scores is NOT the answer, but I have confidence we can find a solution if we think about it rationally. I don't have the answer, but I'm sure one exists. Good doctors get more patients, thus more income, good social workers get promotions, good politicians get re-elected (usually!). Good teachers deserve more than bad teachers get. Period.

        October 12, 2012 at 11:16 am |
      • ES71

        > Merit pay would push competent, experienced teachers to communities that need them less and away from communities where that expertise and experience is required.

        This is the natural flow of things. Our issue is that we think we can somehow remake human nature. No,we should go with the flow. There is wisdom in this.
        If best teachers go into best areas then parents who care about education and their kids will also strive to earn enough to be in these best areas. Those who don't care will be left in the bad areas. This is how it worked for ageas.
        With our misplaced fairness we removed the incentive for parents to work for better lives of their kids. And what did we get? They dont' value education because what do they need education for? In their mind it is society's job to provide them with a fair playing field. No. I think they should have to work for it .

        October 12, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Concerned Parent

      I don't know anything about YOUR local public schools, I can only speak about our local public schools, but OURs tend to out-perform ALL of our local private schools! Here in the deep south (yes, I know what your are thinking) we have a small local city and community that is very education oriented as most of our local citizens work in high tech engineering or scientific research and development, not to mention the 16 different colleges and universities that have campuses here. Our public school teachers do not make very much money at all, but most of them are VERY dedicated to helping students and inspiring leaders! Many nationally prominent industry pioneers and leaders have come from our local public school system! Our local private schools seem much more concerned with the color of your skin, how much money you make or what religion you follow than actually motivating students! A couple of our public high schools in particular consistantly produce impressive numbers of National Merit Scholars! Our local private snob schools hardly ever produce a single one! But nonetheless, they seem to think they are the "chosen people" for some strange reason. I don't know of ANY local public school teachers who have quit public school to work at one of our private schools (even though the private schools pay a little more). There probably have been a few, but all that I personally know of left public school to work in private inudustry or civil service jobs! And yes, most of them were dedicated, motivating, cream of the crop teachers who finally had all of the school politics they could tolerate... It is a terrible shame that our public schools do not have the proper funding to adequately support such exceptional teachers, nor have the resources to reward the ones who truly "shine" and inspire future leaders! We MUST stop this mind-set of pouring HUGE sums of money into military project and useless wars while ignoring and insulting our dedicated teachers who will NEVER receive the compensation they actually deserve!...

      October 12, 2012 at 11:10 am |
      • Glen

        You recognized the issue early on which is that if a parents and a community is involved and value education then the students will succeed. Teachers will also be happier, and thus work harder, as schools where education is not valued by parents and community the teachers become highly paid baby sitters doing classroom management all day. This is the ideal solution where passionate students and families meet teachers who feel like they are making a difference. While the wars need to stop I am not sure pouring more money into schools (especially middle and high) will make much difference if the children, parents and community don't value education. Perhaps that money could be spent on improving the communities and parent outreach as you can't fix a tree with bad roots by working on the branches!

        October 12, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  42. Blackboard Daze

    Reblogged this on Blackboard Daze and commented:
    A well written piece.

    October 12, 2012 at 9:23 am |
  43. JP

    "Recognizing excellence in the teaching profession" and who is most against this the teachers union. Who is against merit pay the teachers union. As long as seniority is more important than quality we will never fix education. Save the kids break the unions. Think Chicago the major issue for the unions was no accountability for teachers.

    October 12, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Dan

      If unions were the problem, 'right-to-work' states would have higher performing students. They do not. My first two principals (former shop teachers) thought that good teachers did assign failing grades or write referrals. Obviously, those standards are absurd. I think people outside of education have this mistaken belief that administrators are all competent instructional leaders. They are not. I am always willing to be evaluated by competent administrators, but that has not always been my experience and so I understand why seniority is valued by teachers and the unions that represent them.

      October 12, 2012 at 10:47 am |
      • Art

        Dan.. You are so right. I taught in NYC for 33 years and you hit the nail on the head. I knew so many assistant principals and principals that couldn't even control a luchroom or auditorium and had to be rescued by a teacher. They were horrible teachers that couldn't wait to leave the classroom because they hated it.

        October 12, 2012 at 11:19 am |
      • Dan

        Font was small- should have written "did not write referrals".

        October 12, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  44. eviewg

    I left public schools and went into independent schools. no one can deal with the public school systems for long.

    October 12, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  45. Tony

    If teachers were paid based on MERIT (you know, the same way EVERYONE ELSE gets paid), we'd have more great teachers. But NO, the union says the teacher who inspires a love of learning in kids gets paid the same as the horrible teacher who yells and degrades.

    October 12, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • DoNotDisclose

      I love comments like these. Have you ever taught? Do you have any clue what it's like to be paid based on the success or failure of a 12 year old who lives in fear of going home? Have your pay based on a student who would gladly turn in a test, that could mean another year in seventh grade, with all the answers bubbled "A" in five minutes just so he could lay his head back down on his desk and try to sleep? No? Well, as a teacher (and one in a NON UNION state at that) I don't know what it's like either and I pray I NEVER do!

      October 12, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Stacys mom

      EVERY job is based on performance..really? Tras collectors, librarians, doctors with patients that do die..yeah he should be fired too for not curing cancer or reversing dementia....YOU need schooled on a few things......

      October 12, 2012 at 9:22 am |
      • Kristi

        All those people you mentioned are paid based on merit. Most are paid based on hard work, and bad doctors cannot attract new patients when they develop a reputation of incompetence. Moreover, an unethical doctor can lose his credentials, whereas teachers that do heinous things are protected.

        October 12, 2012 at 11:22 am |
      • Allen

        Stacys mom, you do not understand how public schools work. Other professions do not have uneducated people (school board) deciding on your job. They are usually just mad you did not play their kid, or pushed them to hard in school. or called their kid out because they are a jerk. This is what happens in my community, if you are a coach, you are going to get fired. Then the people wonder why they cannot get anybody to come coach the children.
        In jobs I have worked at you do not have to worry about the dumb parents, you have to worry about your job. That is the difference.

        October 15, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • brian

      Tony, you must not work or at least not work in the real world. You are claiming you never seen good workers who dare question their boss punished, while the brown-noser is rewarded? You've never seen that in the private sector?

      October 12, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • Blossie

      RN's do not get paid on merit....

      October 12, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • JLS639

      Merit sometimes earns people promotions, and sometimes does not. To say every job is based on merit is completely absurd and contradicts most of what I have seen working over my life. For example, I worked 3rd shift at a store in the warehouse. The only real qualification for working 3rd shift and getting regular pay increases was being willing to show up for 3rd shift and do the minimum. There were about 3-4 jobs that they really worried about worker quality. I have worked public and private sector, hourly, salary and "work until you are finished," independent and closely supervised, service, manufacturing and research. Promotion based on merit happened at all of them, but was never, ever the norm.

      October 12, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Doug

      If you are talking about merit pay based on test scores... you are wrong. It seems logical, but there are so many variables that account for test scores (home life, socioeconomics, language barriers, etc.) that we can't lay the blame on teachers. If you have any other merit-based pay ideas, I would to hear about them.

      October 12, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Concerned Parent

      In reality, very FEW people in ANY industry actually get paid on their TRUE merit! And therein lies the problem! HOW exactly, do you measure and determine true merit and accomplishment when comparing teachers of different subjects in radically different economic neighborhoods with very different parental influences!??? Trying to use national standardized test scores does not IN ANY WAY show the actual merit nor accomplishments of a teacher! If you could really come up with a fair methodolgy to measure this, I would indeed support it, but I have YET to see one!

      October 12, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Katie

      Who decides what MERIT is?
      How would you like it if your pay was based on merit despite the facts that you had to meet standards you didn't set that require money and materials and time you don't have and the expected results are measured by tests your students can't pass because they haven't been given the tools they need BEFORE they ever got to your class and/or because they have learning challenges (physical such as dyslexia, mental such as IQ rating, emotional such test anxiety, societal such not enough food, no home, or abusive parents)?

      It's easy, not to mention lazy to blame unions.

      October 13, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  46. Jt_flyer

    The American educational system is complete shambles but somehow the teachers walk away without any responsibility for the disaster. More money, more union power and less teacher testing will certainly fix the problem.

    October 12, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • pgh

      Yeah, agree totally. See how well it's working on the kids in Chicago....

      October 12, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Kenny

      Schools are worse in right-to-work states in the south. Here in Texas teachers unions hold NO power at all. So your argument of "unions" being the issue holds no water.

      October 12, 2012 at 9:41 am |
      • anon

        I live in a right to work state, and our public school is among the best. It's not so much the unions, but teachers who are intelligent, and actually care. Teachers who go above and beyond what they are required to do. So many suffer from burn out because of the nasty little punks they have to put up with every day, and they know that they aren't allowed to grab the kid up, drag them in the hallway, and give them a much needed smacking around without getting sued because of some idiot parent whining about the emotional distress to their "baby".

        It's the parents who need to be held to the hot seat. If they were more supportive and backed the teacher up, along with discipline used, then we would see results.

        October 12, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • literatureIsForSissies

      My children attend excellent public schools in MA. The teachers are members of a union.

      I attended garbage schools in NC (about 30 years ago.) The teachers tried but the situation was hopeless. The teachers were non-union.

      If you look across the country you will see that states where teachers are not unionized have poorer performing schools.

      October 12, 2012 at 10:46 am |
      • anon

        Unions, or lack of unions, do not dictate the performance level of a school. The old time, one room school houses that had one teacher for SIX grades is a perfect example. From those generations, the country brought up some of the most brilliant minds who did revolutionary things for our society. Home schooling, charter schools, private schools, and yes, even some union run public schools have produced achievers. Unions came into public schools about the same time the government did, and even back then, successful leaders were produced. Not so much now, but back in the day, YES.

        It's ALL about teachers and PARENTS who care and have the proper mindset to put something into the mind of a kid OTHER then just book learning. An intangible something of character that is hard to describe.

        They have taught their children not to let an education get in the way of their ability to THINK.

        October 12, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • JC

      I notice that you didn't offer any suggestions. But I have a feeling that if someone proposed asking teachers for theirs, you'd scoff. Teachers know what changes need to be made. They are no strangers to the system problems in the profession. But you and people like you don't want to hear from teachers. Instead, you harangue politicians and they, in turn, impose changes that will make absolutely no difference to what happens in classrooms. If you really want to see change, listen to the people who really know from experience what needs to be changed. I promise you that higher salaries won't be at the top of the list.

      October 12, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • TeachersRpeople2

      Public education is not in shambles. What is in shambles is the funding for public education. When the government decided to make each state have a standardized test, but allowed each state to develop their own, to judge whether or not a district was doing well, created the impression that public education was in shambles. When it was decided that 100% of students should be able to pass the test, everyone should have screamed "That is impossible!" but instead school districts were required to test their students- students who had learning disabilities, students who were non-verbal, students who did not speak English, students who were in jail, as well as everyday students- and were judged "failing" because students who were federally protected and in special classes had to take the same test as everyone else. On Ellis Island, in the late 1800's, those who could not speak English were given IQ tests and determined to be "retarded" because they could not speak English; judging a school by the test results of students who cannot read and write on grade level due to a disability or because they are still learning the language is just as ridiculous. Rather than help "failing" schools do better, many states took funding from those schools. In PA, the governor has taken over $1 billion away from public education but talks about how the districts need to do more to meet the needs of the students. Public school teachers must teach more in less time than when I was in school. Teachers need to prepare students for a world of technology but do not have the tools to do that nor do they have enough instructional time to teach the basics in the given 180 school days. The computers in my classroom are seven years old and falling apart but there is no money to buy more; however, I am expected to teach my students how to create powerpoints, wikispaces, blogs, on-line research and upload videos. When a school district needs money, the first thing the public cries about is the teacher pay. Guess what, the money that goes into education is more than teacher pay. It is the equipment, the tools, the facilities, the supplies, the heating, the water, the lockers... Educating a student today costs more than 30 years ago. You cannot properly educate students today with the same funds 30 years ago; technology alone makes it more expensive.

      October 12, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Katie

      Teachers are held accountable for everything and much of it is beyond their control. It's easy and lazy to blame unions. It's ignorant to assume the problem needs more money.

      October 13, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  47. ziegfeldf

    The quality of the grammar and punctuation in some of these posts, many by actual teachers, is appallingly bad. "[H]er and a few other teachers refused...", your for you're (why not guess "yore," too?), "Most of the kids did pretty good", "I wouldn't do that these kids can't write".

    October 12, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  48. Jt_flyer

    Apparently they left my school before I starting attending it.

    October 12, 2012 at 8:43 am |
  49. Richard

    Most school districts are also missing out on a large pool of talent. There are many folks who have worked in science, engineering, business or have a passiion for literature, history etc that can bring be a wealth that experience plus the experience of the working world to the classroom. The problem is most school districts or state laws make it exceedingling difficullt for anyone who may want to take up teaching later in life. If you do not come up through the various teaching/college education programs you are out of luck. The whole way we train and recruit teacheers needs to be thought out.

    October 12, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • NoMoreReoric

      The reason there are laws and requirements is that just because someone is an expert does not make them a good teacher. Good communication skills and training required for class room management including effective material presentation are not something this is obtainable in the job field. Of course there are exceptions but that is not the norm. There brilliant people out there but all too many can't communicate or lack the social skills for the classroom.

      October 12, 2012 at 8:44 am |
      • Richard

        I should have been more specific. I agree that just knowing a topic does not make you a good teacher, and I don't disagree that someone coming into the teaching field does not need any training or some specific education. I still feel that there is talent out there if and effort was made to find it.

        October 12, 2012 at 8:56 am |
      • Julia

        Actually, some of the best teachers in our district are our alternatively certified teachers. Teachers who took the certification exams without ever having had any coursework in classroom management or teaching fundamentals. As a matter of fact, our Teacher of the Year is an alternatively certified teacher. For that matter, my husband was TOTY at his school and he is an alternatively certified teacher certified in mathematics and special education and he had absolutely no teaching background prior to becoming certified. Working as a recruiter for a large urban district, I have been to numerous college teacher interview events, and to be honest, many of those colleges are doing such a poor job preparing their teacher students for the realities of teaching in an urban environment that the teachers coming out of those programs don't make it past 5 years in the profession. They are just not at the same level as many of the alternatively certified teachers that I've interviewed. That's not to say that they are bad teachers, but rather colleges and universities are falling far behind in being able to train teachers for what the landscape in urban education looks like now in this country. Because of that, many alternatively certified teachers now have a much better teaching skill set due to their experiences in the "real world" than many teachers coming through the more traditional college route.

        October 12, 2012 at 9:32 am |
      • JLS639

        I would say the ability to communicate with those not in your field. Teaching a course for people with advanced degrees in the subject is completely different than teaching for school children. Many of these people are excellent at explaining to experts, but terrible with lay people.

        October 12, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • That's because

      That's because knowing the content and knowing teaching strategies aren't the same thing. There's a reason we have novice and student teaching prior to being certified. There's a reason why teachers often go on to get master's degrees in EDUCATION rather than content. Teaching as a skill, is far, far more complex than just knowing the content and having a seating chart. While I agree with you that professionals with real world experience could be great teachers - if they want to practice the art, they have to learn the procedures. It's NOT that difficult to get certification.

      October 12, 2012 at 8:46 am |
      • TeacherLady

        Most independent schools do not require teachers to have degrees in education, rather higher degrees in their field of expertise. Reputable independent schools usually have at least 85% of their faculty with MA/MS or PhDs. Once you find and hire someone who knows their field well and wants to teach, they can learn the pedagogy of teaching through mentors and professional development opportunities that do not result in a degree in education. I have friends in both public and independent schools, and the best teachers are the ones who have higher degrees in their field of interest and expertise, not education.
        Just to clarify – I am writing specifically of secondary schools. I dont know too much about primary school teaching, so I can't opine on that.

        October 12, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • SillyMan1

      From my personal experience (and this may be specific to the way I learn) I respond much better to experts that teachers. I almost failed high school, and did fail chemistry and had to repeat. I now have a PhD in chemistry, and only really started to learn in University. None of the Profs had teaching credentials, but they all had passion and interest (as well as active research) in their subjects. For myself, this was much more important than good teaching skills.

      October 12, 2012 at 9:05 am |
  50. Ari

    I would love to teach math, specifically algebra and calculus, but the horror stories out there are so terrible I would never want to put myself in that position.

    October 12, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  51. Beavis

    A greyscale portrait? Really? This article's already a joke.

    October 12, 2012 at 8:24 am |
  52. pgh

    Then insist that the unions accept layoffs on reasons other than lack of seniority..... DUH!

    October 12, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • Josh

      The article says the chance of replacing a very good teacher with one of similar quality is 1/11. That's a way of saying only 1/11 teachers are very good. So that means 10 out of every 11 votes at the union meeting are cast by other than very good teachers. Their motive is to keep their jobs, not for the jobs of the very good teachers. Therefore the Union will not act in the interest of the very good teachers. And consequently not in the interests of the students.

      October 12, 2012 at 8:17 am |
      • MD Hoyt

        Josh, I totally agree with your comment, however as a teacher I can assure you that that statement was
        "Soliloquy of Arrogance" . A very embarrasing remark I will add.

        October 12, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • WCW Teach

      Stop making everything a union issue. Unions protect the irreplaceable teachers from being let go to satisfy budgetary needs.

      October 12, 2012 at 8:18 am |
      • pgh

        irreplaceable =/= those with the most number of years served

        October 12, 2012 at 8:26 am |
      • JP

        My kids are in the DC public schools, we have had many graet teachers and some who should have been fired decades ago. Clearly the unions are far from the only problem with our schools equally clear is the fact the they are #1 on the list of problems.

        October 12, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • Katie

      So your answer to the loss of good teachers is layoffs? And that helps this situation how, exactly?

      October 13, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  53. David

    Unfortunately there are a few bad teachers, and even more unfortunately people classify ALL teachers as bad because of these. I guess it is easier to lump them all together and point your finger and say "BAD TEACHERS" then it is to acknowledge that there are many many good teachers out there trying hard every day and being successful. If all these teachers were as bad as everybody likes to complain, for so many years, and nobody learning anything, then our society would have already fallen apart...yet as a society we continue to grow and evolve. One would think that if teachers were so good in the good ol' days we would have made greater strides in the past than we are now with all the dummies the schools are supposedly spitting out. But I think people are smarter as a whole than we were back in the 50's & 60's.

    October 12, 2012 at 8:06 am |
  54. APB

    Now it is more difficult than ever to get potentially good teachers to even consider becoming teachers, in addition to losing good teachers already in place. I got out 20+ years ago. Now I work in a job where half my coworkers didn't even finish high school yet I make nearly twice as much for not even half the work and in a far safer environment.

    October 12, 2012 at 8:01 am |
    • Mom of 3

      AMEN!! I was frankly apalled to find out how little the people charged with educating our future are paid–far less than I pay the teenager who occassionally babysits for me, and certainly less (per child) than every day care in my area charges. And yet teachers don't just keep the child from killing themselves and from burning the house down (which is pretty much what I expect from my babysitter). They must also educate, not just in academics but also in social skills. They have to be alert for signs of abuse or neglect. They have to do mountains of paperwork. If you want the best medical care, you tend to go to a more expensive doctor. Same with hair stylists, mechanics–we as a country tend to believe that we get what we pay for. heck, even the people who deliver our mail get paid more than most teachers! So if we're paying our teachers less than $2 per hour per child, why on earth do we expect our children to have a quality education? Higher teacher salaries would not only help retain the irreplaceable teachers we have, but would also attract more highly qualified people to the field. Which would in turn make it easier to weed out the bad teachers. It's a win-win for everyone.

      October 12, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  55. geeeno

    Ellenville, NY: Person nearing retirement has a buddy in school administration so he gets hired as a science teacher even though he doesn't even know how to write a lesson plan. After a year or two he gets tenure and lifetime health coverage. Bada bing! True story, that's where your tax money is going.

    October 12, 2012 at 7:56 am |
    • Sam Crow

      I find that hard to believe unless it is a private school. Teaches need proof of certification to be hired....maybe not in Cali, but the 49 other states you need to be certified. So I do not believe you at all.

      If your story is true, the principle and the super intendant faked his resume, certs, and experience to hire him. Not saying that is impossible, but unlikely. you also do not get tenure after two years. He must be the Governers son to get away with all this.......and do not label all teachers b/c of this

      October 12, 2012 at 8:32 am |
      • Dan

        California has the strictest credentialing requirements in the nation. FYI

        October 12, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • Kelly

      I am a teacher and have never heard of someone getting tenured after a year and lifetime health insurance. Sounds fishy.

      October 12, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • Guest

      Give me a break!!. I taught 10 years in Minisink and Florida NY. The minimum is 3 years for tenure and 8 years to be vested for full benefits on retirement.

      October 12, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Dan

      Lifetime health coverage? Unlikely. Districts would go bankrupt quickly if that benefit was extended to all teachers. I am a teacher and I get health coverage while I am teaching. Given the number of teachers I have worked with who quit in their first five years (47% nationally/FYI), no district could afford such a generous benefit. Recheck.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:28 am |
      • Nelba

        Lifwtime health covereage is routine on Long Island. Those underpaid teachers should come to the NY City suburbs, where teacher salaries are excellent. Median salary for the 2009-2010 school year was $90,914. For one average district, Lindenhurst, the lowest 5% are paid $59,000 and top 5% $107,999. And how about those inner city areas of Brooklyn: lowest 5% =$48434, median 50%= 72194, top 95%= 100,049. Need to check it out yourself? Just google this: "New York" "Salary Percentiles for Full-Time Classroom Teachers"

        October 12, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
  56. angryersmell

    Education: the business, is doing better than ever. Education: the experience, is failing your children miserably.

    October 12, 2012 at 7:50 am |
  57. Mike

    I quit teaching because I made twice as much for half the work bartending.

    October 12, 2012 at 7:48 am |
  58. My experience

    As a new teacher who can't find a job, because all of the teachers who have been around 25-30 years are hanging on to their jobs, let me tell you the biggest problem I've seen are older teachers who just don't care.

    During my student teaching (1 year unpaid BTW, not exactly a great way to excite older mid career people to change professions), I remember wanting to give a writing assignment to a 10th grade class in an inner city school in NJ. The teacher of that class, who had been around FOREVER and a day, told me "I wouldn't do that these kids can't write. Your going to be wasting your entire weekend"

    THAT is the response I got!! I gave them the assignment anyway, and DID spend all weekend grading papers and checking to see who copied their entire paper. Most of the kids did pretty good, some plagiarized their entire 4 page paper.

    Now these are the people who can be let go OR replaced because they have been around so long, but worse than that, some of these people take on student teachers and make it seem like that is acceptable behavior for a teacher! Granted it wasn't an English class, but kids in 10th grade should be able to write a 4 page double spaced paper on a topic.

    Yet here I am with no job prospects this year and a huge school loan coming due, not to mention I had to quit my job to student teach and take a P/T job after school to even provide for my family, but this person is still gainfully employed (as are many who shared her ideas about how to "teach" the kids in that school).

    Until you solve this problem and the lack of caring and are actually able to get rid of some of the dead weight, I'm afraid some of these situations just won't change.

    October 12, 2012 at 7:22 am |
    • Marc

      When I had been teaching only a few years I saw the older teachers as a detriment too. After 32 years in the classroom I see it a bit differently. Pups tend to be full of energy and excitement about their new experiences, but a lot of old dogs still know how to hunt well. Your experience was clearly not what it should have been, but not every older teacher is dead wood.

      October 12, 2012 at 8:20 am |
      • my experience

        Certainly not lumping all "older" teachers together. I'm sure there are great teachers who have a decades of experience and still enjoy what they do, are there for the kids and not their pension, and don't mind challenging kids even if it's an inconvenience to them.

        I can only speak on what i saw at the inner city school I was placed at in NJ. As someone who is trying to get their foot in the door, it's not only frustrating for me, but I'm sure it's frustrating for the good teachers in the school who have to make up for the students deficiencies in certain areas because they are not getting what they need out of certain classes and teachers.

        That's my only point, certainly not lumping all experienced/old teachers together.

        October 12, 2012 at 8:42 am |
      • JC

        This "old dog" agrees with you. I"m not in the classroom anymore because I knew when it was time for me to move on, and fortunately that coincided with an opportunity to teach in the teacher education program at the college level, and to take on a new challenge within my district to coach struggling teachers.

        We're not flashy but a lot of old dogs can still hunt. On the other hand, there are undoubtedly a lot of older teachers who should leave but can't because they need health insurance. If we had universal health insurance in this country, that was not provided by an employer, millions of jobs would open up in many fields because health insurance is keeping a lot of people in jobs they'd rather leave.

        October 12, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Bobby Boy

      Most of the kids did pretty good? or Most of the kids did pretty well? Are you sure you would know?

      October 12, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • withoeve

      "Most of the kids did pretty good, some plagiarized their entire 4 page paper."

      I just love student teachers. First of all, the word is "well" not "good," and "4" should be typed out. If you can't handle writing well in an extremely brief piece that is reaching a national audience, you shouldn't be assigning students to write four pages for you.

      Secondly, you obviously failed to scaffold the assignment sufficiently given the plagiarism issue. It is quite likely that your cooperating teacher knew that you had failed to do so and did not wish to punish the students with your failing. The cooperating teacher should have explained this to you, but perhaps already understood that you were merely there to judge and not to actually learn.

      Yes, there are some teachers that are burned out. Some were candles that lit hundreds if not thousands of other candles but are now melted away; I have seen powerful and energetic student teachers come to them and learn and in return give these vetrans new wax. I also, sadly, know a few – a very small minority – teachers who burned out long ago and can only now count the months until they retire. I also know a few – a significantly larger minority – teachers who have decades in the classrooms and halls and lunch rooms and still burn like blow torches, lighting hundreds each year.

      Only a great fool discounts experience so easily. Those who hold to their jobs so desperately in your opinion are, perhaps, holding on because they know that they are the only ones capable of protecting their children from the inexperienced and inexpert hands of those that think they have the answer.

      October 12, 2012 at 8:42 am |
      • my experience

        It's interesting how defensive some of you are. I didn't realize a typo on a forum is an indicator of someone's writing ability, but apparently it is. I didn't realize I would be "tested" on what and how I typed. I guess the story itself means nothing to anyone.

        Secondly you talk about "scaffolding" the assignment. Where did I mention how the assignment was even given, yet you are going to critique it? Interesting on your part...I guess spending 2 days (yes 2 not typed out because this isn't an academic paper and is basically the "back page" of cnn) in the library going over research methods, how to find good sources, how to cite their work, and showing them exactly how I was going to check for plagiarism wasn't good enough.

        Yes, please, make more assumptions about me and my student teaching. Something you have no information about but seem to have no trouble speaking on as an expert.

        October 12, 2012 at 9:18 am |
      • gunnaBuhTeechur

        No need for the "ly" at the end of numbers that are spelled: second, third, fourth, fifth...

        *man... shredding someone's perspective due to a speeling error is FUN!* ;P

        October 12, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
      • gunnaBuhTeechur


        Furtherly... nextly... moreoverly...

        *adding "ly" borders

        October 12, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • Anon

      Your opinion would've carried more weight had you not had so many gramatical errors. Your shows possesion; you're= you are. Check the one 'Guest' pointed out as well.

      October 12, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Stacys mom

      you are bitter. plain and simple. I am a teacher of 21 years, and there is no way just because you are YOUNGER, does that make you better than me.EVER. If you, as a teacher, colonize your students the way you just did OLDER teachers, you will have a very challenging career ahead of you.

      October 12, 2012 at 9:28 am |
      • my experience

        Where did I say I was "better" than every older teacher. I was simply relaying a story as to MY EXPERIENCE WITH ONE teacher and what the atmosphere was like in this ONE school. Perhaps you should re-read the part where I wrote

        "but this person is still gainfully employed (as are many who shared her ideas about how to "teach" the kids in that school)."

        That amount of bitterness and anger by some of you here toward a simple story is, frankly, astonishing to me. I hate to break it to some of you but not every teacher who has been around 20 years is good, just like not every teacher who has been aro0und 20 years is bad.

        October 12, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • Jim

      Might I suggest going into anything but teaching. As a public school teacher of 13 years, I have seen this "dumbing down" of expectations by veteran-teachers since because of tenure, they are "untouchable". Maybe learn basic computer skills. There is an oversupply of jobs and your family will have better financial security. I left last year and I'm already excited about the future in IT. I will start "low" but my salary won't be "set" by some ridiculously petty teacher contract and in time, will rise to easily surpass a teacher's salary.

      October 12, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Athena6515

      May I suggest moving. Loudoun County is #1 in job growth in the country right now because of all the NEW SCHOOLS opening.

      October 16, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  59. mark

    Teaching in a state (georgia), who's elected officals refuse to fully fund the basic education funding formula, that they developed, leaves many in my science dept looking to get out. We have 8 furlough days this year (8 days without pay) along with a contract that reads about our pay "if funds are available". As an "irreplaceable" teacher; 8 years experience at an alternative school (discipline issues, students who are at risk) teaching physics, chemistry, earth science, environmental science, nutrition and child development, and some times acting principal all in same day, I too am looking for an exit. At the height of the "great recession" I had an opening for chemsitry teacher, I had 3 applicants. The one I hired was not rehired the next year. I am still looking for a teacher, who can teach social skills, chemsitry, physics, biology, love, desire to learn, goal setting, career planning, all in the same day.

    October 12, 2012 at 7:20 am |
  60. uckermanf

    I can get paid far more as a private tutor than I did as a teacher. It doesn't seem quite right.

    October 12, 2012 at 7:19 am |
  61. uckermanf

    I know why I left the teaching profession–it simply didn't pay enough for the amount of work I was doing. I had a great time working with students, and had I actually had free time to pursue other financial endeavors, I might have made it work. But it simply wasn't possible. The detractors always complain that you "can't throw money at the problem." I see no reason why good teachers shouldn't be paid a salary commensurate with their performance and the vital importance of what they do. Why do we require our teachers to be financial martyrs? I'm fine with getting rid of teachers unions...just pay good teachers what they are actually worth–a salary which encourages them to remain in teaching rather than going into the private sector (if they have that option).

    October 12, 2012 at 7:17 am |
    • ES71

      I agree, good teachers should be paid 2 time that of a regular avaerage techer. But this cannot happen in public schools.
      The onlyb answer is to encourage and support more of private options so that both teachers and students can pick what suits them and pay for what suits them.

      October 12, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • Jim

      Well said.....teachers are financial martyrs. I also left the field (after 13 years) because I realized late that there is no opportunity for advancement within the public school K-12 teacher-track – nor is there any real stability. Also, there is a pay-ceiling which after you reach it, is no longer sufficient income in today's economy. Not only that....if you try to leave to another district but w/ significant work experience, a district is wary of hiring you because you are "too high" on their pay-scale. How ridiculous a notion! Because districts are "strapped for cash" already they would rather not hire you. In business, experience is an asset and for the most part, remunerated accordingly. That is why I'm leaving this unrewarded, thankless profession.

      October 12, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  62. Irrational Exuberance

    I would love to leave a thought out comment. But CNN's word filter doesn't tell you what it is rejecting a 100% profanity free comment for, and I am unwilling to guess and fight with this system to figure out which word has run afoul of their system by trail and error.

    A word like consti.tution should not trip your filters.

    I would love to take part in a lively discussion, but not if it requires trying 10+ times to get thoughtful responses posted.

    October 12, 2012 at 7:07 am |
  63. Jared

    I know why a large number of good teachers left my old school in droves. Horrible administrators chased them off with petty power struggles, playing favorites to the ones who kissed up to them the most, and taking insult to suggestions of how to make the school function better for students. Most of those administrators were more concerned with how they or the school looked than anything to do with the students.

    October 12, 2012 at 6:59 am |
    • David

      You named it. I never knew the answer to any of these questions about education until my wife started teaching. She started out as a TFA (failing program) teacher in an innercity school. After a couple years she simply resigned because of her school's administration doing these things and being more obsessed with corporal punishment in their power trip. Of course, her and a few other teachers refused to participate and were either fired or forced into the fear of being fired versus resigning.

      The kids are wonderful and even some of the parents still surprise me. A few called her within a week asking what happened, and they want her to tutor them outside of school.

      October 12, 2012 at 7:24 am |
      • Jared

        It was why I left. I had positive growth my first year teaching in both science and math and every year after that for 5 years. I was one of the only teachers in the building with positive growth in a school falling apart. When I didn't let an administrator tell me "I teach too much. My class isn't fun enough" and called him on it I became his personal target. He said it in front of my class in an attempt to get the kids to like him. Amusingly they couldn't stand him and could tell he was a fake. He made my life miserable. Yet teachers who couldn't even pass their licensing tests who sucked up to him were amazing teachers even as their scores became more negative every year.I handed in my resignation and left that place behind. It's been five years and I couldn't be happier at my new job, actually using both my degrees and getting paid what I should be for my education.

        October 12, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • Art

      Jared.... BINGO! You said it.

      October 12, 2012 at 11:28 am |