Bashing Teachers Doesn't Help Our Kids

Condemning the teaching profession is red meat for politicians these days

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    HOUSTON - SEPTEMBER 7: Ckaris Williams, a teacher and Hurricane Katrina evacuee, prepares her classroom at Douglass Elementary School in Houston September 7, 2005 in Houston, Texas. Douglass was closed for budgetary reasons but the Houston Independent School District reopened the facility for children of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. Williams taught at Frederick Douglass Elementary on the West Bank in New Orleans prior to the storm. (Photo by Dave Einsel/Getty Images)

    Teacher bashing -- it’s in style these days.

    Editorial writers, TV pundits and especially politicians are going after the teachers, blaming them for failing our children. Teacher bashing is closely linked to union bashing and both amount to scapegoating.

    I have visited many schools in the course of my career and found scores of teachers who are doing a fine job, who believe passionately in the ethics of their profession and are deeply involved in the future of the children assigned to them.

    Condemning the teaching profession is red meat to many politicians. They bash the teachers to cover up their own shortcomings.

    In New York, teaching to the test has become an unpleasant reality. The pressure on teachers to bring in higher and higher test scores in math and reading is intense. It comes from the top administrators and from City Hall.

    The virus of teaching to the test -- that is, anticipating what’s on the tests so youngsters can be trained to pass -- is spreading. The manipulation of test scores has been confirmed by Albany officials. It’s a disgusting example of the tyranny of which bureaucracy is capable. To stick closer to the truth, test scores have now actually been revised downward.

    The virus of inflating scores has spread across the river.

    I talked to a teacher with 14 years of experience in Union City, New Jersey. She deplored the pressure put on her and other teachers to train their children to get higher scores on tests. “Think of the kids who speak Spanish at home. Blaming them or their parents for low scores is unfair. Blaming us is unfair too.

    “I have found a wonderful spirit among most of our kids. They want to do better. They respond to our teaching with enthusiasm and a constant desire to improve.”

    The film “Waiting for Superman” has been used by some critics to bash teacher unions. Sadly, reforming education is not that simple. Administrators, politicians and parents need to pitch in. Simplistic solutions won’t solve the problems. Dedicated, idealistic teachers are vital -- and the kids need them much more than they need the bashers.