Friday, August 28, 2009

Do teachers need education degrees?

In the August 16th Room for Debate in the NY Times online edition, Robert Stolarik asks this question in a provocative piece.

According to reports and this article, President Obama is considering tying teacher salaries not to their education, but to the success of their students. This man is good - when he gets it right, he just plain gets it right.

Years ago when my kids were in school, they would, on occasion come to me to whine to me about a particular teacher who was giving them a hard time in their perception. I would invariably tell them that their job was to be a good student and to always remember that their teachers already had their education - their job was to get theirs now, too.

Obama has struck on one of the fundamental and core problems in public schools. The reason children continue to fail in inner city schools and why charter schools are on the rise is simple: Teachers continue to get paid no matter the graduation rate of their students. If their pay were tied to success, we would see a mighty change occurring in our school system.

I taught preschool in a former life, my children attended both private and public schools. I became a parent volunteer in the public schools when private school was no longer an option. I knew that it was the only way for me to truly know what was occurring in the schools and with the teachers. I was not wealthy by any means - indeed, I stocked the shelves in a 24 hour mega store in order to be at home for those times when I needed to be in the school volunteering with my children. I had great relationships with all of the teachers of my children. I worked alongside them and they trusted me. My children all did exceptionally well in school and one was even on the National Honor Roll.

When I divorced and was forced to work full time during the day, I was no longer able to be in the schools and had moved to the state in the nation with the lowest per capita student spending - Utah. Not only was student spending an issue, but the textbooks were old (President Reagan was listed as being President in my son's text book when he was 12 - he is 23 now - you can do the math) - and minority students were dropping out of school at an alarming rate. Indeed, they continue to do so with no intervention from either the UEA (Utah's teachers' union), nor the Legislature. I am convinced that if Mormon kids were dropping out at the same rates, there would be special sessions convened at the Legislature until the issue was adequately addressed.

Fortunately for me, two of my children are now in college (the oldest is on hiatus, en route to Puerto Rico and will reconvene his studies in a year when he has established residency) and the youngest is on the honor roll in his elementary school. The forgotten and left behind child is currently serving time in a Michigan state prison and is working on his GED. I raised this beloved child with the same goals and parameters, the same expectations, but he has two disadvantages - he suffers from depression and has a learning disability. No-one but the most dedicated teacher/guidance counselor could have saved him from himself.

The appeal to Senator Hatch's office is in the works and we are awaiting a decision.

No child left behind is a cute catch phrase - Obama has the guts to make it a reality.

No comments: