President Obama Says: Get Rid of the Bad Teachers!

A recent news story quoted President Obama as saying that we should offer “bad” teachers the help they need to become “good” teachers. [By the way, good teachers are defined as those whose students obtain high test scores.]

If those bad teachers don’t turn into good teachers–if the test scores don’t rise–well, then, our President says we should fire those bad ones. We should close down inadequate schools as well.

Oh, by the way, in the same article, President Obama says he wants to swell the ranks of teachers by 20,000 in the near future.

Does anyone see the irony here? The President wants to thin the ranks of teachers by eliminating those whose students don’t achieve high enough on the tests. Excuse me: does anyone see the illogic here? Who is TAKING tests? It’s students! Not teachers!

Already many teachers are modifying their instruction–to the detriment of students in many cases–to “teach to the test.” Many schools are truncating or eliminating PE and arts programs, electives, so that more time can be spent preparing for the tests.

Even when offered rich merit pay, teachers are not achieving different results than those who do not receive pay. And why?

TEACHERS are not taking these tests. STUDENTS are. In our little school, we didn’t make AYP because two students figured this out. They deliberately set out to do badly on the tests, and sure enough, they did.  Thus was punished the whole school.

Of course, there are bad teachers in this world, but not very many, I think. Certainly high test scores do not a bad teacher make.

I would hope that those high in government can see the logical flaws in this punitive thinking and find a better way to imagine and plan for excellent education.


15 thoughts on “President Obama Says: Get Rid of the Bad Teachers!

  1. I totally hear you! There has to be a better way. I believe accountability has to come down to a more local level, where the Principal, Sup., and school board hires and holds the teacher accountable. They need to do this by actually getting in the classroom and looking at the teacher’s assessments of their students, as well as trusting them to do their job. The administration and teachers need to work together with the parents and community to make sure the students at their local school are given all the opportunities. This is why small schools and private schools do well, the accountability is riding on everyone. It’s not just what happens in those 7 hours the teacher’s have them, but the socioeconomic situation and parental involvement of the students.

  2. One system I saw, teachers are assigned a peer mentor who observes and then the teacher observes the mentor and reflect on what made instruction affective. This method evaluates teachers and allows them to be moved out of teaching if the mentor teacher does not see improvement.

  3. Sorry see you as very wrong on this. It is the teacher’s responsibility to teach. If you can not get your students motivated enough, to score well, then you are not doing your job. Then you become one of those teacher’s just collecting a check. EVERYONE one in America at some point is held accountable for the job they do. IT is about time we hold our teacher’s accountable.

    • Perhaps it is time to rethink our understanding of teaching and of learning. According to university professor David Davenport (and many others reflect similar thinking), “Teaching is a misnomer; no one can ‘teach’ anyone anything! Individuals learn and all that anyone else can do is provide a, hopefully, conducive environment for this to happen in. . . .Learning also requires background, motivation, confidence and skills. . . ” I believe there is good teaching but test scores may or may not reflect that. My observation is that teachers generally are highly motivated to learn and practice good teaching techniques.

  4. Pingback: President Obama Says: Get Rid of the Bad Teachers! (via TeachersCount Blog) « Chasinthenews's Blog

    • I guess someone should ask the obvious question here: “Who is taking the tests?” Not teachers. It’s kids, and most students I know immediately realize that they have the power to sabotage the school scores (it actually happened in my school last year). I am not sure we need to lay blame at anyone’s feet, but I am certain that test scores are ONE measurement of teacher effectiveness, but not the only one, and probably not even the best one.

  5. Dear Chasin,
    Of course teachers need to be held accountable. The debate is about how to do it. I do agree that we need to hold our teachers accountable, as in any other job, but not to the Federal Government, and not with a standardized test. How many “real world” jobs are subject to that? And while we’re at it, we need to hold parents accountable, and the students. The local community is the best way to do this. A teacher should answer to their boss, the school board. A teacher should hold students accountable through their individualized assessment. And the community used to hold parents and children accountable though social norms. This is no longer the case. I’m not sure what the solution to this is, besides being the best parent I can be and be involved in my children’s education. Parenting, however, is one of the many roles a teacher takes on, out of necessity. Because of these extra roles, there is little time to teach, and many go straight for teaching to the test, fearful they will lose their jobs. This is a mistake, a detriment to our students, as they are not taught so many more important things that will help them with life. This is why test scores have not improved, and why they won’t.

    • You have really articulated the dilemma here, and as you say, there isn’t any particular way to address the whole problem. I hear people throwing blame around, but there’s no one particularly to blame. However, I am certain that measuring accountability by standardized test scores is limited thinking and in the long run, harmful thinking, as you say.

  6. Ok if not standardized test, how do you think it should be done? Tests have always been used to measure success for students, why not teacher’s?

    • A standardized test cannot measure the success a teacher has had in educating their students; if a teacher is doing their job. A single student at the age of 5, 10 or 16 is influenced and impressed upon by so many factors, such as biology, parenting, culture, previous education experiences and teachers, and even what they had (or didn’t have) for breakfast. This is also why teachers do not always use a test to evaluate if students have learned the material. We use projects, oral presentations, portfolios, essays, and surveys, among other creative and innovative things that help us to know when each individual student has reached their potential.

      To evaluate teachers, I suggest their boss get into the classroom to observe and evaluate at least once a quarter. I think it would also be beneficial to have peer reviews and parent reviews. The definition of an ineffective teacher needs to be determined by the community and evaluated by the community, via the school board, as well as an action plan of consequences. I realize it is very complicated given that each school community has become dependent upon the federal government financially, and has therefore made it inconceivably difficult to govern their own school and do what is right for it. Locally controlled schools, in vested communities, where a teacher is allowed to do their job and is answerable to the principal and school board, is what is necessary.

  7. Christina said much of what I had thought to say. In addition, if we do use tests to measure teacher effectiveness, we should always begin with diagnostic tests to establish a baseline for any particular kids. In connection with that, I also think that behavior should be factored in, because every teacher and every school community knows the students who are emotionally challenged (that’s a polite term for chronic bad behavior which is usually rooted in the home/community situations), and behavioral problems can influence testing. We also need to consider the obvious: only math, English and science are tested. There are good and not-as-good teachers in those subjects, but equally so in untested subjects. And all the subjects work together to provide a good education, which is the work we are doing, not just teaching for (perhaps artificially) high test scores.

  8. I just have to add: if you want to use a test to measure teachers’ effectiveness, give the test to the teachers. That sounds flippant. But when you have students taking tests, there are so many variables, as I mention above.

  9. The teachers are doing a pretty good job. Why isn’t anyone looking at all those horrible principals that are making schools a nightmare. They create a negative environment and unfairly give unsatisfactory teacher ratings because they don’t like certain teachers.

  10. We will not improve student achievement until we admit that our present educational system cannot be fixed. Education needs to be retructured to fit the needs of students, not the principals and not the teachers. Students are bored! By the 9th Grade, students should be preparing for life after high school. For the majority of urban students, this does not entail taking another English Literature class; it entails a curriculum of choice. These students need to learn a skill that will lead to a career after graducation. No teacher…regardless of how effective or knowledgeable they are, can take a 9th or 10th Grade student with a 3rd Grade reading level and make them into a college bound scholar. It simply isn’t possible. The only way that could happen is if the low achieving student has an epiphany and takes the steps to improve his education. Teachers can try to inspire students to achieve; however, the students are in the driver’s seat. It is imperative that we improve education on the elementary level. We need to find out why so many students are falling through the cracks and ending up in high school not being able to read on grade level.

    True, there are bad teachers; I have worked across the hall from many of them. In high school, the bad teachers are well liked by their students and principals. A lot of principals do not want teachers on their faculty who ask for assistance with behavior; they want teachers who are mute “rubber room” babysitters. The teachers who are wiling to be babysitters are the teachers who are not teaching or who have given up. Principals give the babysitters satisfactory and even excellent peformance evaluations because they make them look good. New more rigorous teacher evaluation procedures will not change this. Besides, some principals have found ways to change scores to make it look like their school is achieving results. Consequently, princpals retain a mediocre and ineffective faculty. Sad, isn’t it?

    • You know, in the British system, compulsory secondary education ends at 15, and many kids opt to go out and join the workforce. Further education is a choice!

      If you look at most textbooks, they are deadly; by that I mean that the writing style is deadly. Why do we keep buying these insanely expensive hardbound books that are so abysmal? I can agree with you that students need more choice in the curriculum and should be allowed to learn skills for the workplace and should have much more choice about what they study. Still, I also think that the years between 15 and 18 can be an amazing time of intellectual discovery if appropriate material could be made available–and of course if there were truly good teachers.

      And I know there are not that many really good teachers.

      One of the sad comments I hear from my husband, who teaches at a two-year college, is that students are arriving in his classes more and more unskilled. They can’t comprehend written material very well, but they also can’t focus well enough to understand spoken material, even when it is delivered by a master teacher :). They can’t do basic math either. This forces us to ask:
      What are they doing in these last few years of high school? How in the world did these kids pass those standardized tests?

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