Yeah, I know. It was a short hiatus. Yet the recent edition of the New York Teacher got my attention.
The New York Teacher, the publication arm of the United Federation of Teachers, used to be a fun read. Lately, it’s been moribund with stats, election endorsements, ads for condos in Florida, and pictures of union functions featuring teachers in all sorts of ghastly knit patterns.
What made the Teacher fun was its “outing” of what were considered bad or dangerous school administrators. Every week, the paper had a half-page expose on some dictatorial principal, a martinet superintendant, or the bewildered staff developer that lets things slide out of confusion and neglect. Comedy, as we all know, is tragedy that happens to someone else. so I got a particualr joy out of reading these, because
(a) for the most part, these guys deserved a comeuppance, as evidenced by their smug demeanor to UFT reporters; and
(b) these hapless administrators were not mine.
This week’s Teacher has returned to its muckraking roots with a vengeance, yet I’m getting a feeling that full access to both sides should be in order.
Page 5 of the December 16, 2010 issue features a particularly venomous screed against PS 14X principal Jason Kovac. According to the article, Kovac–a Leadership Academy graduate (a program created to make principals from outside the education world) who took over PS 14 in June 2008–is rude, arrogant, and intimidating to his teaching staff. He chastises and bullies teachers in front of students, ignores grievances and along with his co-principal Mildred Jones, has created an atmosphere so poisonous that this once thriving school dropped from an A to a C on its recent Progress Report.
He has made enemies of the school staff, parents, community board and the union. Yet his voice is noticeably silent from this article. I really hope the New York Teacher managed to contact his office to at least offer comment. Otherwise, its a severe breach of journalistic protocol.
Whatever the case, as much as I would like to see principals like this hung out to dry, my belief in honest journalism impels me to ask Mr. Kovac to offer his side of the story. Therefore, I am offering this space in Mr. D’s Neighborhood to Jason Kovac to present his side, with the following guidelines:
(1) no ad hominem attacks.
(2) share the improvements you have made since you took over in 2008; and
(3) address why your leadership style has generated so much alleged venom from staff, parents and the community, at least according to the article.
Anyone who’s familiar with the Neighborhood knows that it generally keeps to a pro-teacher stance. However, it bothers me that I hear nothing from the other side–it just against my good sense of journalistic integrity.
If Mr. Kovac can keep to the guidelines, he is more than willing to send me his side of the story so it can be printed here for the readers at the Neighborhood.
Anyone who works at PS 14, or knows anyone at PS 14, please send this link to Mr. Kovac, with my compliments. I hope to hear from him soon.
The Teacher “Bar” Exam is no solution to teacher quality
The Sad truth about Education programs in the US (Photo credit: brewbooks)
When a cat and a dog start howling at the moon together, something is terribly wrong.
With Randi Weingarten and Arne Duncan howling in unison over the need to overhaul teacher training, I get immediately suspicious. These two never seem to howl together for anything, and when they do…it is usually more self-serving than selfless.
Recently, Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has been touting the need for a streamlining of teacher certification, so that all teachers are held to the same standard. This new system is meant to replace the multiple certification systems in place in all fifty states, geared toward making sure that “an individual teacher walking into her classroom the first day is confident and competent.”
(Name one person who’s “confident and competent” on their first day on the job, and I’ll show you someone who’s neither.)
Part of this would be a teacher “bar” exam similar to a bar exam for lawyers or a medical board exam for doctors. According to Weingarten (a trained lawyer, not a teacher), a combination of clinical experience in the field, academic preparedness for the subject(s) in his/her license, and training in child cognitive development would culminate in a national board exam that would create a teacher ready for the first day.
Everyone seems to be on board, from Arne to Andrew Cuomo…and that really scares me. They see another silver bullet, but I know otherwise. How is a national exam going to fix—or even try to fix—a system that suffers due to its participants.
With all due respect to my colleagues, the problem still lies at the very beginning: entry into the field of education is too easy.
Years ago, I got a slew of feedback both positive and negative from my previous diatribe on teacher education. Many of you cheered my call for an admission process just as stringent as law and medical schools.
Others took me to mean education itself was an “easy” profession and took me to task—which further proves my point about ease of entry into this profession.
We all know that education is among the toughest jobs to do. I, for one, work long hours above and beyond my workday to research, plan, grade, analyze and organize for my students—work that usually gets foisted off to nurses, paralegals and first-year associates in other professions.
Yet even those in education itself agree that the law and medicine have barriers to entry that education lacks. Unfortunately, prestige and especially pay are determined largely by these barriers, whether you like it or not.
Sandra Stotsky, who oversaw teacher certification in Massachusetts, stated that “You have more problems today with ineffective teachers because we’ve had virtually open admissions into the profession.” Since the bar is set so low (no pun intended) many teachers with an education degree and a teacher’s license still lack the stills to become effective in the classroom.
Medicine and law both started as apprenticed crafts that developed professional institutions. Due to prejudices about teaching, education never reached the level of “official” professionalism of the other schools. For teachers to garner the respect we richly deserve, education programs need to catch up and develop a rigorous framework that includes high admissions standards.
Of course, the raising of admission standards is no silver bullet. Certification requirements vary widely, from state to state and even from college to college. Some colleges focus too much on academic theory, some too little. Some spend countless hours analyzing fieldwork and classroom routines at the expense of theory and concepts. Even in a field with few barriers of entry, the quality of preparation is a complete crapshoot.
The need for a new way to train teachers is important at many levels. Education programs, certification programs and school districts need to realign and synch their resources to create a useful, rigorous, and productive teacher training program.
Yet as long as anyone can be a teacher, then our schools will still be flooded with those who have no business being teachers.
Much of the god-awful education reform agenda—the data collection, the constant forced collaboration, the constant assessment to collect data—is designed with a simple premise: that most in the teaching profession are stupid. Even the collaboration, the common planning and “inquiry analysis”, is built around the supposition that in any group of idiot teachers there must be at least one person who’s competent.
Teachers in the past were never subject to such scrutiny because their word was law, in every way. Now, because of a veritable free-for-all system of hiring and licensing, competent teachers must suffer the yoke of the grossly incompetent.
It’s insulting to any hardworking teacher, and wouldn’t be necessary if the idiots weren’t allowed in the classroom in the first place.
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Tagged as American Federation of Teachers, Andrew Cuomo, Arne Duncan, Certified teacher, Commentary, Curriculum, Education, education reform, Massachusetts, Opinion, Randi Weingarten, Sandra Stotsky, Social studies, Teachers, Teaching