Hey Legislators! How Many Bad Teachers ARE There??

One of the standard crank arguments against teachers’ unions is that they protect bad teachers. Get rid of the unions, the rhetoric goes, and you can finally, finally get rid of all those terrible teachers.

That’s a great idea. Makes me think of this cartoon recently posted on Facebook: just blame all the bad teachers!

So….you want to know, don’t you? How many bad teachers are there out there?

I think you might be surprised. A 2009 report from San Francisco showed that about 1% of all teachers were bad ones, using a wide variety of evaluations (not just test scores). A recent commentator concluded, “…maybe the vast majority of teachers are doing a pretty good job.”

My personal experience corroborates this. I would even say that I’ve seen an upsurge in teacher quality since the SF report in 2009. Certainly in my experience, limited as it is by geography and circumstance, the faculty I teach with is dedicated, creative, and thorough. I’m proud to be associated with them.

We are a pretty easy target. Things not going well? Blame the teachers, not other real factors, such as “…indifferent or recalcitrant students, not poverty or hunger, not mistreated kids, not gangs or crime, not delinquent parents, not central administration, not principals, not state funding levels or the numbers game played with test scores,” as Rodger Jones, a Dallas editorialist suggests, but just blame bad teachers.

I trust that San Francisco study. My observations support it: there are really few bad teachers. If teachers’ unions support them, shame on them, but neither the very few bad teachers nor the teachers’ unions are at the root of our problems in education.

Legislators, stop taking potshots at teachers, almost all of whom are doing a good job. Things have changed in our society, and our students reflect those changes, good or bad. We all agree we want to help our kids, but blaming the teachers is certainly not the way to do it.


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