Monday, January 13, 2014

We Must Inspire the Teachers

Touchstone Pictures

That's our only shot.

We all want to give children an edge, if we can. Can we here?

"Our issue is equity. That's the only thing." (Pgh. Fed. of Teachers President Nina Esposito-Vargas, P-G, Elearnor Chute)

We cannot force the teachers union to accept this; we cannot browbeat them into it. We have none of those levers. We can only persuade them this a fundamentally good idea whose time has come, and one that they can make sure is implemented correctly.  We must focus on building trust in partnering with a District administration where at times, there is not much.

Only the union can make this happen: accountability in classrooms for student achievement, that is, over the long and the broad sweep.

RELATED: Comet, Too Long of a Post, May 2012. Poor timing then for community groups to have raised the issue, in the context of state cuts and sizable furloughs.


  1. I believe saying to inspire the teacher(s) is over simplifying the problem with education in America.

    We have gotten away from or watered down the old core requirements of learning (math, science, reading, writing, etc...) for the purpose of bringing in social programs that more properly belong to the parents and the communities they live/work in.

    We have watered down grading/learning standards so that everyone can feel successful.

    Many times schools/teachers feel that they almost have to teach to a arbitrary testing standards rather than a comprehension standard so that they can meet various state/federal guidelines.

    The elimination of the neighborhood schools in favor of schools had weakened the local communities attachment and input into the school.

    Many times, based on testing or even general observations, students are "branded" for their entire school career as either "honor" or "needing assistance" from kindergarten on.

    People keep wanting to throw more dollars at education and it seems that things change --- they keep getting worse in terms of results.

    This will not change until we do an honest appraisal of when and why things have changes in terms of student performance and looks at all of the variables involved --- not just "inspiring teachers".

    I would venture to say that most of our teachers are inspired to teach but are hampered by the different constraints on real learning.

    1. Anon 10:14, let me be more clear: this blog post is not arguing that we should inspire more teachers "about teaching". I too think most of them are already inspired, and the few that are not aren't going to be cheerled into it by anybody else.

      I am arguing we should inspire more of our teachers to be excited about the possibilities and upsides of using tools and measures like these to help (help!) manage our schools.

      I am also not trying to address here all the problems relevant to teaching in America. I am however suggesting that we need to start in all the places that we CAN start. There are enough things that need to be addressed, that if we are determined to stop change, we will always be able to point the finger elsewhere and all around us.

      We need to be making starts on scales and in ways that we have control over.

      And we need to be demonstrating innovations in public schools, especially urban ones, so that more parents and more voters don't opt for charters, vouchers and other ways on giving up on / crippling them.

  2. I feel for the children.

    I feel for their parents.

    I feel for the teachers.

    And the principals, and the administrators and the nation.

    And I blame everybody except the children, up to a point.

    The truth is, one early morning, about 8 years ago, I was watching C-SPAN, as a former Chairman or CEO of Hewlett-Packard was dismayed to relay that U.S. high school kids ranked 17th in math and science in the industrialized world.

    I read, last month, that US high school kids now rank 26th in math and 21st in science.

    That is a crisis for a nation whose economic greatness came from scientific, technological and industrial innovation.

    Clearly, in the modern era, many things aren't being addressed. I'll freely place poverty at the top of the list.

    Poverty creates very different problems for children than it did just 50 years ago, when LBJ focused the nation's attention upon it as an ill to society.

    I am having a difficult time hanging the rope on teachers while seeing, daily, the impacts of poverty.

    Eliminate poverty, and if the test scores don't increase, then blow up the teachers.

    Society is failing the family, and it is having a direct and negative impact in educational and health outcomes.

    We, as parents, because I do not claim to be a perfect one, have to do a better job of ensuring that our family environments are conducive to learning.

    And, yes, as taxpayers, we should spend more money educating our children. It is an investment and an obligation.

    There is no singular solution. If we do nothing but accept that as truth, perhaps we can get some meaningful improvements, across the spectrum.

    1. Shawn - Well stated. I'm with you on poverty until you emphasize "eliminated," and I'm for pursuing a raft of reforms woven into one another.

      The temperature of the nation leans not toward investing in public schools or not, but whether or not and how badly to cripple them. Trust-building measures must be undertaken and that starts with transparency. Big data is the only thing that can account for things like nesting patterns.

    2. Shawn, Citpiarks has a critical role to play in the enrichment and education of our children in real partnership and collaboration with families and communities.

      Schools go so far, and it isn't far enough. No way.

    3. Math score rankings will not change until we change from teaching children how to operate a calculator or Excel spreadsheet and ACTUALLY use their minds to learn math, algebra, calculus.

      If we pass on to our children an ability to question, think and apply --- our rankings in the world will rise along with employment and higher paying jobs to the children that gain that knowledge.

      As long as we teach them the right buttons to push to determine solution, all original thought and solutions are gone along with the employment opportunities that come hand-in-hand with it.

      A great example from right here in western PA is the graduate of the Pittsburgh Promise program that went to Penn State and is now gainfully employed as a Petroleum Engineer.

    4. His story is a great one and we should make more of them. I've got to tell you Anon 12:39 though, we feel like we've been hearing updates on Mr. Guillory in particular since 2010! His might be a precious alloy of attributes and abilities.