Thursday, January 22, 2009

Should teachers be responsible for so much?

If you take a graduate education course, especially one focused on urban education, you will probably be inundated with data about how the most important factor that affects a child's success in a classroom is the teacher. There's a well known study about how even high performing students will suffer if a they have a teacher who is incompetent. After years of teaching various subjects and having taught lessons well and having taught lesson poorly, I can certainly say that you can confuse even the best and brightest if your lesson is poor, so--yes, of course an incompetent teacher can bring down the best and the brightest. However, often times it seems that administrators have taken this research and run with it.

Based on my personal experience and stories from other teachers in other schools, it's very common for public school administrators to affirm that no students should be failing your classes. Ok 'no students' is bit strong. But in the public schools I've worked in and several others I know about, you actually become a target of the administration if too many kids are failing your classes--regardless of the actions of the students. If you have a really low functioning class full of students with chronic absences, lateness and behavior problems....well, it's still your fault if that class has a low passing rate.

SO what's the connection between the study cited up above and public school administrators?

Only that administrators seem to have taken the responsibility of a teacher to new levels and seem to have placed the onus of student success and student effort squarely and completely onto the shoulders of teachers. Don't get me wrong. Teachers do play a critical role in the success or failure of a student. However, the expression about leading a horse to water comes to mind here, and often times when you listen to administrators you wonder if they remember what it was like being a teacher. Do they remember that even the best lessons with PowerPoints, with hands on activities, with exploration and whatehaveyou still require an active and willing participant?

I was directly told once by an administrator that 'students do not have the right to fail' And I remembered thinking Did anyone tell that to the students?

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