Respecting Teachers

food for thoughtA few thoughts about classroom accountability and the current education situation. Currently, public school employees, particularly in Orange County, are subjected to levels of scorn and derision from the media and thence from the public that do not seem to fall upon other classifications of county employees, like attorneys or political staffers. This derision does nothing to either acknowledge the substantial accomplishments of American public education, or to ensure our education system will continue to produce world class leaders in science and other fields.

And much of this scorn and derision currently focuses on an issue called classroom accountability. Broadly defined, it is a two-part notion that:

  • our public schools are failing to properly educate their students; and
  • classroom teachers alone are responsible for their students’ performance on standardized tests, independent of any variables like family, economics, or the validity of the tests themselves.

Logically, the issue of accountability extends farther up the chain of command than just the classroom. Perhaps it is an inconvenient point to bring up about upper-level education and political persons, but no one dragooned them into taking the job. They competed for it, and in some cases spent money to get the job. And now that they have obtained these leadership positions, one of the requirements is to lead. We need them to do more than wring their hands, rend their garments, and lay off teachers.

It would therefore seem reasonable to require the superintendents of our county’s school districts, many of whom are fiscal and political conservatives, to put pressure on our county’s Superintendent of Schools, a fiscal and political conservative, to collectively put pressure on our county’s state legislators, nearly all of whom are fiscal and political conservatives, to provide adequate funding for our public schools from the pre-K levels through the universities. In the rest of the world, countries in Asia and a resurgent Europe are investing heavily in their education systems in order to play larger parts in the 21st century world.

john-macmurray-1.jpgIf the goal is to improve our public education system–and there is no organization or institution that cannot be improved in some way–then the most straightforward way to accomplish this is to give the highly-trained, highly-motivated professionals in the classrooms the resources they need, and let them do the job they were hired for.

Beginning with some respect and recognition for their accomplishments.

by John MacMurray

John MacMurray teaches 7th grade language arts and social studies at Ladera Vista Junior High in Fullerton.

Published by the LA Progressive on June 21, 2010
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About John MacMurray

John MacMurray is a retired junior high teacher from the Fullerton School District. He ran as the Democratic candidate for California's 72nd Assembly District in 2006, 2008, and the Special Election/Runoff election of 2009/2010. He is active in voter registration and candidate support in his community; and in union affairs as a member of CTA/Retired. He lives in La Habra, with Ida, his wife of 37 years.

Comments

  1. Good article, Mr. MacMurray. I am also a teacher and would like to add a point or two to the discourse. I believe a serious analysis of the curriculums needs to take place. I’m speaking of elementary school curriculums mandated by the state standardized tests. Most specifically we need to think about how we are requiring students to push through lessons at a much earlier age than ever before. We don’t give children the time needed to master the basics before we move on to harder material. For example, when I teach long division to 10-11 year olds, they struggle mostly because they don’t know their multiplication and subtraction facts well enough. I teach 12 year olds algebra that I learned in high school. As a friend said to me, “We teach a mile wide and an inch deep.” We can’t keep teaching in circles. The average and lower achieving students need more time to process and retain.
    Thanks for all you do for your students.

  2. Bravo! As someone with a teacher in the family I can only applaud the thinking in this article. My son has seen his class size rise in numbers while resources have shrunken drastically. He tries to teach but it gets more difficult all the time. He is tired of being blamed in the press for the failings of a school system that conservatives have refused to support by reducing government to a size that will fit in a bath tub and then drowning it. He is good at what he does but I know from talking with him he considers quitting even though he loves being a teacher. Others of his colleagues feel the same way and when the best and brightest teachers leave the class room in disgust our nation will suffer.

  3. Lucy Sells says:

    AMEN to this brilliant analysis of the problem. Thank you!

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