Opinion: Stop trashing teachers!

Obama’s misguided policies and the overhyped documentary Waiting for “Superman” have turned America against its teachers, education expert Diane Ravitch writes for The Daily Beast—and this vitriol is dangerous to public education. “For the past week, the national media has launched an attack on American public education that is unprecedented in our history,” Ravitch writes. “NBC devoted countless hours to panels stacked with ‘experts’ who believe that public education is horrible because it has so many ‘bad’ teachers and ‘bad’ principals. The same ‘experts’ appeared again and again to call for privatization, breaking teachers’ unions, and mass firings of ‘bad’ educators. … None of these approaches works.” Ravitch notes that privately managed charter schools, on average, don’t get better results than regular public schools—and the claim that tenure is a guarantee of lifetime employment “is a canard. Professors in higher education get lifetime tenure, but teachers in K-12 schools do not have lifetime employment: They have the right to due process if the principal wants to fire them.” If educators teach children who are poor, have disabilities, or don’t speak English as their native language, they will not see large test-score gains, Ravitch notes, adding: “So, the result of this approach—judging teachers by the score gains of their students—will incentivize teachers to avoid students with the greatest needs. This is just plain stupid as a matter of policy.” Declaring war on teachers and principals “is ridiculous, outrageous,” she concludes. “No nation in the world—certainly not Finland—has improved its education system by belittling and firing teachers and principals. People who know nothing about education and whose ideas have no basis in research or practice are calling the shots. Left to their own devices, they will destroy public education.”

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