About Franchesca Warren

For fifteen years Franchesca taught English/Language Arts in two urban districts in Atlanta, Georgia, and Memphis, Tennessee. Increasingly frustrated with decisions being made about public education from people who were not in the classroom, in 2012 she decided to start a blog about what it was really like to teach in public schools. In the last four years, The Educator's Room has grown to become the premiere source for resources, tools, and strategies for all things teaching and learning. To learn more about Franchesca Warren's work, please visit www.franchescalanewarren.com.

If I had a dollar for every person who blamed a teacher when something went wrong in a classroom,school,  or district I’d be rich. Rich enough to retire -on the spot. The trend of blaming teachers has gotten worse since we are in the “day and age” where test scores are released to the public  via the local newspaper and when educational leaders like Michelle Rhee become advocates of firing teachers  to cover up system failures. Teachers are blamed for bad test scores, their student’s behaviors and as the ultimate reason the  American education system is failing.

Teachers are not to blame for the current state public education is embroiled in with educational reformers. Despite all of the rhetoric of school districts being filled with bad teachers, the reality is that   most of the “bad” teachers leave schools quickly either through the “weeding out” process or they can’t handle the pressure and quit. Instead, what I’ve observed is that schools and districts overall are failing our students. Schools have set up systems and bureaucracies that permanently hinder what a teacher can do in a classroom. What can a teacher do with 30 plus students who all read below grade level? In addition, if  half of the population has an IEP then it may take the teachers double the time to teach one lesson. Then you have some systems that are  more concerned with their elite students and many times cut funding to programs that help their most vulnerable students.I just received word that in a school where 60% of the students were reading below grade level, their reading program had been cut.

Instead of always blaming the teacher–think about who is really in control of things at any given school.

Let me give you an example. A couple of years ago I worked with a new teacher who was teaching a brand new integrated Math course to already struggling 9th graders. These students were already behind academically and many of them failed to understand basic algebra. Despite their deficiencies,  they made it to high school (via social promotion) and she was required to teach them all. All year she taught her heart out, held tutorial and contacted parents. However, in May only 25% of her students passed the End of Course Exam for the course. According to the district, she was not a competent teacher and was placed on probation.

What isn’t mentioned is that the district had similar scores for ALL students in this integrated math course across the district. That’s right– few teachers in the district could get the students to grasp the material at a proficient rate. So is every Math teacher in the district incompetent? No, but due to the academic readiness of these students, the new curriculum, and lackadaisical parenting students could not grasp the material. Eventually, this teacher was tired of being “beat up” about her test scores and left the field altogether. That’s right –one more teacher gone from education. No administrator offered her help to develop her craft. Instead, she was made to think she was the worst teacher in the district. If given needed resources, she could have been made a master teacher.

Instead of blaming teachers, society needs to realize that in order for student achievement to rise EVERYONE has to play their role. Parents have to start parenting their children and investing time and resources in them. Children are like flowers they need attention and care to flourish. Parents have to  attend parent meetings, help with homework and become an advocate for their children. Schools have to set teachers up with resources to succeed and this starts with the “top” of the school, the Principal.

However, many schools can never be great because many times I have seen totally incompetent teachers promoted to principals due to who they knew in the district offices. Anyone in a school knows that be a good principal  you have to of been a strong teacher–not someone who took all the right  tests and knew all of the right people.Now you have incompetent principals running schools!   I’ve seen principals get rid of (or transfer) good teachers because of personality conflicts . While the students are the ones left with teachers who may have great personalities and resumes, but who could not teach their way “out of a plastic bag”.

In the end, instead of always blaming teachers, school districts need to deeply examine their practices from the school level to district level and find ways to engage everyone (parents, principals, janitors, community leaders, teachers, etc.) in the educational process. What do you think? Are teachers blamed for everything wrong in education?

 

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