Saturday, May 18, 2013

Teacher Morale and Engagement Suffers

Laurie asked me to post regarding this article.
America Prospect - Teachers Left Behind

I thought this quote seemed pretty important:
"Morale tends to plummet when the pendulum swings toward stricter accountability, says Dworkin. “And then it picks up as teachers discover they’re not being fired, and then a new reform comes in and morale dips again.” What’s different this time, he says, is that teacher burnout, which he defines as “a feeling of isolation that produces a sense among educators that their work does not matter,” has escalated to significantly higher levels than he has found before and is particularly affecting veteran teachers, who had grown accustomed to being able to control what and how they taught."
Let's say that employees spent years or decades being free to teach what they want to teach.  And not only that, but they really weren't held accountable for the academic achievement of their students.  Imagine having a job where you got to do what you want and didn't have to achieve management set goals.  It sounds like a pretty good gig if one can get it. (and summers off on top of it...)

Then imagine one day your manager decides that you have to start working towards the company's goals.  And that your performance is going to be graded based on how effective your efforts are.  I think I would be pretty upset and demoralized also at losing my sweet idealistic position.

Of course since I work in a for profit business, I find it hard to generate much empathy.  I mean in my line of work I am paid to accomplish the goals that are set by managers / owners, and my reviews and raises are based on how effective I am.  If my perceived cost exceeds my perceived value, I will be demoted or lose my position.

So do you think the tax payers demanding to much from the public education system and it's Teachers?  Or are these Teachers simply suffering grief because they are becoming immersed in the real world by being held accountable?

As for this quote:
"Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that the number of people entering teaching programs has been declining, too."
Of course you know my opinion, get rid of the unions and let Teachers be paid what they are worth based on the market.  If there are too few Teachers, wages will rise.  If there are too many, wages will fall.  Also, very gifted new Teachers could go to the top of the pay scale very quickly and not have to wait for 20 years...  I sure wouldn't have entered a field where my compensation growth was limited to what steps and lanes would allow.  Thoughts?


Laurie said...

What happens when there are too few teachers is they make it easier for people to get their teaching credential.

I found the last two paragraphs among the most interesting. I think here in MN we have it better than in most other states, though I am not hopeful enough about reversing current trends (too much testing and too little $) to encourage anybody I know to go into the teaching profession.

Would you like your children to become teachers?

John said...

As I mentioned, my only concern is the "steps and lanes" concept. If they are very effective teachers, they should not have to wait decades to be fairly compensated. (ie market rate)

As for credentials, are they important if the kids are learning and passing the tests?

John said...

By saying so, I am not trying to pick on the current licensing reqts. However if Principals can find effective Teachers who get results and gain high marks from the students and parents, why would we stop them from doing so?

In my world, much of the work is done by non-degreed engineering personnel. If a person has the capability, is effective and experienced, Managers will promote the person and increase their responsibility / compensation.

Just like they will not tolerate ineffective degreed personnel. A degree may help get you an interview/job, but it will not help you keep one or advance. Which is of course the opposite of steps/lanes where one gets paid more just for getting a degree.

John said...

Here are the last few lines for convenience.

"One possibility is that “teaching will become less attractive and therefore the micromanagers will continue to create new policies to micromanage.” This, in turn, will make the economic divide even more pronounced, creating “a two-class system, one half focused on drill and kill, and the other that’s trying to hold onto the more effective ways to serve students.” Or, speculates Wise, “people will come to realize the futility of the current practice, and turn back.”"

I guess I come back to curriculum vs teaching capability. Teachers have apparently had a lot of latitude regarding what they taught the students, and have seemed to enjoy that portion of teaching. I mean I would...

Whereas it seems to me they should be more focused on and get rewards from ensuring the students learn the prescribed content. How they drive home the content is where the creativity and effectiveness is needed.

Laurie said...

at my non union charter school there is a fair amount of burnout from the difficulty of the job. We have nearly 100% low income and ELL students (English language learners) and a very low pass rate on the MCA's. So far we have been able to make AYP (adequate progress) to stay off the bad schools list. Putting more sanctions on the school would add to the stress level without improving performance. Pretty much the only subjects taught all day are math and reading, with a ton of time spent managing acting out behaviors. I think more money for an extended school day and more educational assistants would help our students achieve at a higher level. Some charter schools manage to do an extended day with the funds they have though I don't know how they staff it.

John said...

I agree that Teachers in low income and ELL schools have been given a near impossible task. And that it requires a huge amount of energy and drive.

With that in mind, should teaching in those schools be for younger Teachers or older Teachers that find ways to keep reinvigorating themselves? Maybe the "burn out" is actually a good thing for the students? Well at least if the Teacher quits and just does not rely on tenure to stay employed.

Don't these kids deserve it? (ie NCLB)

Anonymous said...

Laurie, thank you for that first-hand account. It is very helpful, though it pretty much confirms my perceptions and opinions of the situation.

That said, I know from personal experience that having the desire to teach young children and the ABILITY to do so, especially with the more challenging kids ("unlucky" in the local parlance), are not the same thing at all. I know I couldn't do it, and greatly appreciate those who can. I think "burnout" is a natural and almost desirable consequence of that reality.

What concerns me is when "the system" causes the burnout. I think better teachers should be (and could be) paid far more than they are, freed from the union contracts. We should set salary based on results, and nothing else. Let's have a "profession" in which we have apprentice-journeyman-master teaching positions, where the better teachers pass on the skills to the newcomers and get paid accordingly. Most of all I worry that some administrator (or worse, state bureaucrat) is deciding things like curriculum and tools and approach that might stifle not only teacher creativity and engagement, but actually suppress their ability to get results. That would be extremely frustrating.

J. Ewing

R-Five said...

I'm thinking what if I was a teacher. I think I'd be like John Galt saying "Get the hell out of my way!"

jerrye92002 said...

I'm pleased as punch whenever a union gets what it deserves (not the members, just the organization). The steel workers is a prime example. There are only about 5% of the original US Steel Workers still working, because of competition. The only reason the teachers union survives (and it is NOT a "professional organization" at all) is because government holds an essential monopoly on the "public schools." Sooner or later, competition WILL make that monopoly crumble, and I will laugh because the unions will have gotten what they deserve, and I will cheer that our kids will start getting the educations THEY deserve.

J. Ewing

John said...

Speaking of Unions. The states stupidity regarding early childcare unions may be enough to get my household out of early education business. Sorry kids... MPR Unions Only time will tell, and it will be the Owners decision... I am just the maintenance guy.

On the upside daycare providers who do get funding from the state will now be able to form unions, pay unions managers and negotiate for higher subsidies... And what does that mean??? Oh yeah higher taxes...

Though I am not exactly sure how these folks would ever strike. I guess they could lock the door and stop caring for the kids of the poor folks who can barely keep food on their tables.

And technically it is the Parents who are getting their childcare paid for with State tax dollars. Why in the world aren't they the ones begging for a bigger handout so they can take their kids to a higher quality day care provider?

John said...

Fox Union

These statements seem contradictory... ""This is just giving us the right to go out and ask providers if they want to join the union," said Karla Scapanski. "This is not pushing the union on anyone."

If Dayton signs the bill, union supporters would have four years to organize and vote on whether to form a union. They will need more than 50 percent of in-home day care providers to vote yes to be successful.""

Not forcing, yet they need 50+% to vote yes... Whatever.

jerrye92002 said...

Yes, but WHO is being allowed to vote, and WHO will be forced to fork over dues, whether they were allowed to vote or not? My understanding is that only about 10% would be allowed to vote, while 100% would be FORCED to join.

The best hope here is that the providers prevail in court (as they should because of the clear violation of NLRB law).

jerrye92002 said...

And how is it that these small business OWNERS can be reclassified as government employees?

John said...

I guess as government contractors??? Then can all military contractors collude when bidding?

It definitely has the childcare community all up in arms. The "hands out" owners/operators are all for it and the "capitalistic" owners/operators are all against it... Only time will tell.