Teachers feel their value to society is under attack

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iVillage Member
Registered: 12-22-2000
Teachers feel their value to society is under attack
Thu, 03-03-2011 - 11:25am

Mayors are threatening mass teacher layoffs, lawmakers in half a dozen states are seeking to set aside tenure and New Jersey Governor went to far as to publicly accused teachers of greed in a recent town-hall-style meeting. In Indiana, the proposed legislation would limit teacher's collective bargaining to pay and benefits and allow principals to set class size, school hours and lay off teachers based in job performance, not years of service. Many of these teachers see the demands to cut collective bargaining as not just attacks on their livelihoods, but on their value to society.

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Thoughts ... Comments?

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-05-2011

Nationally we are broke. Unions are the easiest handiest target to try and cut spending. Every time Republicans went after entitlements, Democrats handily defeated them. Bush went after Social Security and lost Congress. A decade earlier Republicans in the U.S. Senate went after entitlements and lost the Senate. Entitlements really are the 3rd rail of politics.

New York City is seeking draconian reforms that seem worse in some ways than the stuff in Wisconsin. Though there doesn't seem to be much national press coverage.

Randi Weingarten recently suggested a plan that would make a poorly performing teacher vulnerable to being fired with a 3 year process. Randi considers 3 years of unacceptable performance then risk being fired to be fast tracking removal of poor teachers. She has also said this is only a suggestion, and she isn't offering it as a concession from her union.

How many businesses can handle a poorly performing person for 3 years?

Over the past decade Wisconsin has nearly doubled it's inflation adjusted spending per student, but test scores are unchanged or down. Testing isn't perfect, or the only benchmark, but clearly more money isn't helping students. Teachers, parents, generally our culture are failing students.

Verification for claims made in the post follow:


Last week, Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, a union with 1.5 million members, proposed new rules to evaluate and fire incompetent teachers. Any teacher judged "unsatisfactory" would get one year of guidance called an "improvement plan." Teachers who fail to improve would then face a dismissal hearing within 100 days.


Two-thirds of the eighth graders in Wisconsin public schools cannot read proficiently according to the U.S. Department of Education, despite the fact that Wisconsin spends more per pupil in its public schools than any other state in the Midwest.

In the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests administered by the U.S. Department of Education in 2009—the latest year available—only 32 percent of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders earned a “proficient” rating while another 2 percent earned an “advanced” rating. The other 66 percent of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders earned ratings below “proficient,” including 44 percent who earned a rating of “basic” and 22 percent who earned a rating of “below basic.”

The test also showed that the reading abilities of Wisconsin public-school eighth graders had not improved at all between 1998 and 2009 despite a significant inflation-adjusted increase in the amount of money Wisconsin public schools spent per pupil each year.

In 1998, according to the U.S. Department of Education, Wisconsin public school eighth graders scored an average of 266 out of 500 on the NAEP reading test. In 2009, Wisconsin public school eighth graders once again scored an average of 266 out of 500 on the NAEP reading test. Meanwhile, Wisconsin public schools increased their per pupil expenditures from $4,956 per pupil in 1998 to 10,791 per pupil in 2008. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator the $4,956 Wisconsin spent per pupil in 1998 dollars equaled $6,546 in 2008 dollars. That means that from 1998 to 2008, Wisconsin public schools increased their per pupil spending by $4,245 in real terms yet did not add a single point to the reading scores of their eighth graders and still could lift only one-third of their eighth graders to at least a “proficient” level in reading.


In a 33-27 vote, the New York Senate has passed a resolution that would base New York City teacher layoffs on merit versus seniority, but the bill's passage in the Assembly is unlikely.

The legislation would reform the so-called Last In, First Out policy, which bases teacher layoffs solely on seniority and not evaluation.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been pushing to reform the practice.

"Putting great teachers in front of every classroom -- regardless of how long they have been on the job -- is the most important thing a school system can do to help its students," Bloomberg said in a statement. "Now, we urge the governor to include this critically important reform in his budget proposal on Thursday and for the Assembly to support it."

But the future of the legislation is in doubt because Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the Assembly won't touch the bill, the AP reported. Silver said his chamber prefers to let the state Board of Regents create a teacher-evaluation system that could be used in determining layoffs by the September semester.

In a statement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo indicated that he supported reforming the teacher layoff policy, but called for an overhaul of rating teachers.

"It is time to move beyond the so-called 'last in, first out' system of relying exclusively on seniority," Cuomo said in a statement. "However, we need a legitimate evaluation system to rely upon. This will help make a statewide evaluation system ready and allow us to replace 'last in, first out.'"

The governor said he is submitting legislation that would create a statewide teacher evaluation system, based on both performance and seniority, for school districts to use when weighing layoffs.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew blasted the Senate's vote, but appeared open to the governor's proposal.

"While the state Senate unfortunately bowed to pressure from Mayor Bloomberg today, Governor Cuomo put out a proposal that would lead to a set of objective standards to evaluate teachers based on a protocol we developed with the state as part of Race to the Top," Mulgrew said in a statement. "While we have not reviewed the governor's proposal in depth, it appears to be far superior to the mayor's cynical politicization of this issue and his extensive disinformation campaign."

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-07-2002
I will say that while I've heard of teachers & parents wanting smaller class sizes, our state teacher's union has never set school hours.

And while I support teachers whole-heartedly, there are some changes that need to be made. Tenure should be given only when truly earned. And teachers' performance should be regularly reviewed...but performance should not be weighted towards 'test results' either. As for principals firing teachers...not unless there's a 'review board' available.

As for setting class sizes...I'm not sure how they could do that. Would the principals have say over who or how many students the school would accept? That definitely wouldn't work in the public school system!

And setting school hours? That needs to be decided by the school district. Otherwise, can you imagine the mess created just by trying to organize buses? Heck, our district now only offers transportation to elementary level students because of the cost!

My DD was lucky & only had one 'bad' teacher from K through 12. But that woman was a total menace &, while she was once a 'good' teacher, bitterness over the years had soured her. All the principal could do was wait for her to retire.

That said, teachers aren't paid enough. They don't get enough support from the community or the parents either. Too many parents just send their kids to school & expect the schools to deal with everything.

We, as a nation, need to make education a priority too. All children should be able to have access to the same level of education. We don't value good teachers either...at least, not the way we should.