Hello everyone! This week we’ll be taking a closer look into Module 3 of the ED100 series on the California school system. This section focuses on the problems that teachers face and possible solutions that could be implemented. It was a fairly dense section so let’s jump right in.
Unsurprisingly, the teaching profession nowadays is particularly unattractive. What makes us say that you ask? First of all the pay is severely uncompetitive in many districts. A study published in the “Economic Policy Institute” found teachers’ wages to be 1.8% lower than comparable workers in 1994 and 17% lower in 2015. This gap continues to grow. To contrast what the average salary is in CA, countries in education-focused countries such as Finland, Singapore, and South Korea pay their teachers salaries comparable to engineers and lawyers. Additionally, a study found that the teaching profession attracts the bottom third of all college graduates. Whatever solutions we try to implement in CA to improve education one idea remains clear, we need to make teaching a more sought after profession.
One way teachers can increase their pay and chance of being hired is by obtaining postgraduate credentials. There are essentially two schools of thought when it comes to hiring teachers with varying degrees of credentials. The “less is more” theory believes higher credential standards will prevent good teachers from entering the profession. “Teach for America” recognizes this idea and has made it their mission to "enlist, develop, and mobilize as many as possible of our nation's most promising future leaders...”. The “more is more” theory believes only the more qualified teachers should be given a job. However, research hasn’t been able to prove that more credentials lead to better student outcomes.
Another issue that teachers in CA face is the high job turnover rates. The turnover rate in schools with high poverty and minorities is significantly greater than others. The rapid coming and going of teachers leaves students with inexperienced teachers which often dampens their learning potential. This cycle termed “the dance of the lemons” is often a result of bad teachers being given satisfactory scores by administrators so long as the union moves the teacher to another school. The solution? Schools that provide an “induction” program which provides support and mentorship to new teachers not only lowers the turnover rate, but also saves the school money. Unfortunately very few schools in CA have tried to implement these programs.
The final issues that I’m going to discuss have to do with what happens behind the scenes of the classroom, specifically collaboration and evaluation of teachers. Looking at global leaders in education trend, the top countries set aside significant and frequent time for teachers to collaborate on lesson plans and prepare for them. As you probably expected, CA schools allocate little time to teachers doing anything but teaching due to the tight budgets and a shortage of teachers that schools are forced to work with.
Secondly, teacher evaluations may be the biggest weapon we have when it comes to playing the poor hand we’re dealt (that is, lack of funds). Interestingly enough, it appears the only barrier standing in the way of a lack of evaluations of teachers is simply that it is against the norm to do so. When evaluations happen, it is usually because the administration feels the teacher is doing a poor job and may need replacement. Teachers realize this and consequently do not often respond positively to being observed or evaluated. This norm needs to change. It is incredibly inefficient to try to get better at something without meaningful feedback. Athletes have coaches. Salesmen have supervisors. Musicians have conductors. In order for students to reach their maximum potential, it is in everyone’s best interest that teachers are optimally advised and supported.
In conclusion, many of these issues can be attributed to one major cause: CA is persistently skimpy on funding education. If this issue isn’t sorted out, those looking to enter the educational field will continue to be disincentivized from doing so; and discouraged once they find themselves in the classroom. Creating positive change in the education system will require changing the norms rather than policies. As this module as shown us, teachers play a critical role in influencing students and the success of the educational system. Identifying and resolving the problems teachers face is the first step in introducing change.