Monday, August 11, 2008

Why we can't keep good teachers in the classroom

This rant has very little to do with the abysmal pay most teachers receive, nor does it delve into things like class size/teaching load. Nope - those are all truly valid reasons for leaving the teaching profession but they have been covered adnausium by many more proficient at this sort of thing than I am.

This rant is a means to help those of you NOT in the current modern classroom understand just how difficult it is for those of us called to this profession to DO OUR JOBS. This is a rant about how government, in an attempt to improve our public education system, have in fact made it worse with all their rules and regulations. This is a rant that will, I hope, prove the fact that we need educators running education, not businessmen or bureaucrats.

I teach in one of the highest scoring schools in Scottsdale. According to all the media and government guidelines, this would translate to my school being one of the best schools in Scottsdale, and yet - somehow it just misses that distinction in all the areas that matter to teachers. Yes, our scores are good. Yes, we do a bang-up job of teaching to the test. Everyone goes away happy and content thinking that this is all we need to do.

What our numbers do not show, however, is the utter chaos with which our school is run, or how simply awful the regulations are that govern who is in charge of the classroom. My case-in-point: We have a wonderful, even beloved, teacher we shall call Sally. Sally has been teaching for 16 years. She has been teaching math at the middle school level for all of those 16 years. She has even taught Algebra 1 at the middle school level, not just once but for many years.

What you need to teach Math in the middle school level is: A teaching certificate and the designation of being a Highly Qualified Teacher, or HQT. In order to obtain HQT status, you either needed to take a certain number of college credit hours (regardless of how many years ago you took those classes) or you need to sit for a test. The test you need to take in middle school is, (this is so clever - how did they come up with the name) the Middle School Math Proficiency Test. Algebra is on this test. Sally passed this test.

Now - if you want to teach High School math, at any level, you need to take the High School Math Proficiency Test, which tests you in all subject you could teach in high school up to and including calculus. Just a reminder for those of you keeping score at home, Sally does NOT teach high school, nor does she ever want to teach high school.

Ok - With me so far??

So, my school wants to offer High School credit to students in Algebra 1. Note - they WANT to offer this. It is not required we offer this to students. Sally has taught this class before. But, there's a problem. Sally is not certified to teach in a high school. Even though she is NOT teaching IN a high school, she is required to take the calculus test in order to teach ONE Algebra class for a select few students that we do NOT have to offer for high school credit. So, for 20% of her caseload, she needs to take this test.

Well, guess what - she does not pass the test. By the slightest of margins, she did not pass. By the "spirit" of the law, she could be allowed to teach the class with the assurance she would take the test again.

Does that happen? Well, if it did I would not have much to rant about, now would I?

Nope - not only does she have the Algebra class taken away - She has ALL her math classes taken away - 80% of which she is perfectly qualified to teach.

So - what do they have her teaching this year? Not math... try Language Arts.

A subject she has NEVER taught in her life.

Yeah - that's HIGHLY QUALIFIED for you... and that's what is best for kids.

No comments: