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Myra Blackmon, a regular education columnist for Online Athens (Georgia), “almost choked” when she read that Governor Nathan Deal’s education advisor said about the governor’s “reform” commission, “if the group doesn’t recommend doing away with paying for training and experience, then I’m not sure that we’re going to change anything about the way business is done.”
Blackmon pointed out quite correctly that experience matters in teaching as it does in every other important job or profession. So do advanced degrees, as they represent greater knowledge for the teacher of what he or she is teaching. She asks: “Who do we want teaching our children”?
She writes, with more commonsense and knowledge that either Governor Deal or his “expert” education advisor:
First, the assumption that standardized test scores are the sole measure of student achievement is wrong. Standardized tests do a lousy job of measuring in-depth learning. It is very difficult for such tests to assess how well a student understands concepts, applies them across subjects and integrates them into other learning and into everyday life.
It’s easy to assess how well students can spell and define vocabulary words, but standardized tests don’t measure how a student uses those words in conversation, helps others understand what they mean or uses them in an essay in another course.
Second is the assumption that teachers are all that matter in a child’s learning, and that if a child has trouble learning, absent diagnosed disabilities that prevent it, that is all because of the teacher. If you believe that, you know little about the realities of poor children’s lives or the decades of research and documentation about how they learn.
Everything I’ve read says that socioeconomic status is the single largest contributing factor to a child’s academic performance. Poor children start school behind in vocabulary, basic readiness measures and the social skills that kids need to learn in a classroom setting.
My own experience in public schools and my conversations with dozens of teachers in many states confirms what the researchers tell us. A child entering pre-school who has had learning-oriented day care, been read to extensively and had enriching life experiences like travel, is already way ahead of the one who doesn’t know colors, or even how to hold a book. I have seen these children struggle from the first day. It is heartbreaking.
The third assumption is that teaching is simply a technical skill that can be learned by anyone in a relatively short period of time. It is not. Teaching is a complex process that requires understanding of the different ways in which children learn, how to apply multiple teaching methods based on individual needs, how to accurately assess learning and how to respond to the needs of 20 or more children at the same time.
I reject those assumptions, so I reject the premise that we don’t really need to compensate teachers for advanced degrees or years of experience.
Do you want your child taught by the teen next door? By someone who dropped out of high school? By someone who never taught before? Or would you prefer to have an experienced and credentialed teacher?