Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Spellings Report: Are We Celebrating Yet?

My goodness. U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings surprised us with the somewhat unexpected news that it's Celebrating Teachers Week! Here's the letter that she wrote to honor America's teachers:
It is my privilege to honor this nation's outstanding and dedicated teachers during Celebrating Teachers Week. We are eternally grateful for our teachers' efforts to build character, instill knowledge, and make dreams come true.

While recognition is appropriate, it is not enough. We must support teachers in their important work. They need to be given accurate and timely data about academic performance, and the resources and flexibility to improve it. They must be encouraged in their efforts to take on the toughest assignments in the most challenging schools and communities. And they need to know that positive results will be rewarded.

The No Child Left Behind Act has brought out the best in our teachers. And they have brought out the best of this law, turning high standards and accountability into real results for our children. Across the country, test scores are rising while the decades-long achievement gap is beginning to narrow.

As we expand these successful reform principles, we must not forget the vital role our teachers play. The course they set now will determine our nation's success in the future. As Secretary of Education—and the mother of school-aged children—I see the results every day. I join all Americans in thanking our teachers for all they are doing on behalf of young people.
With noble words such as these, it's easy for one to forget the more.... eh..ahh.. more unpleasant realities of teaching in today's public school classroom. Realities such as the fact that classroom teachers in our district have had no pay increase whatsoever in nearly five years. This is true in spite of the fact that administrators have received a pay raise each and every year. While teachers are paying more out-of-pocket for their health insurance, administrators get theirs fully paid.

An even more distressing reality in this Post NCLB World is the sad fact that our class sizes have remained unchanged at 34-35 students for each and every 50-minute instructional period.

I guess then it must be little wonder that our local district's educrats mentioned nothing about this wonderful week of recognition for America's teaching corps.

And oh, before I forget, I saved the best for last:
According to Spellings and Co., schools will be held 100% accountable for getting 100% of students at or above grade-level in reading and math by 2014.

Schools must accomplish this laudable goal in spite of parents who will not return phone calls, bother to show-up to parent-teacher conferences, check to see that their child's homework has been done, or even make sure that their children arrive on time to school rested and with paper and pencil.

According to the federal government, our public schools must fulfill NCLB's mandates despite disruptive and defiant students who cannot be placed in more structured classroom environments due to federal regulations. These same students will often not even make an effort to attempt their school work. Pupils cannot even be required by teachers to get the after school help that they need.

Instead of simplistic platitudes, I heartily wish that the Secretary would for once mention the need for parents and students to also share in the responsibility for achieving their own academic success.

Educating children is a team effort involving educators, parents, and the children themselves.

Almost without fail, Spellings aims her remarks at only one component of the team: educators. A classroom teacher who is serving between 20-40 students of varying academic abilities should not cannot be reasonably expected to get 100% of his or her students at or above grade-level proficiency in reading, math, and (soon) science.

But it's so much easier for Spellings and her countless other desk-riding, office-hiding, rarely-having-actually-worked-with-children,
globe trotting, and sinecure-holding politically-appointed EduCrats to hold us teachers and site administrators solely responsible for the satisfactory academic progress of 100% of our students.

If the Secretary really was interested in helping teachers more effectively serve students and parents, she would advocate the adoption of legislation that would give teachers the classroom management and instructional tools that they need in order to do their jobs so that they would have at least a sporting chance of accomplishing the mandates set forth by the No Child Left Behind Act.
See this week's edition of The Carnival Of Education here and our latest posts over there.