I was shocked to read this on the American Federation of Teachers’ official Twitter feed:
If you can’t read, you can’t Tweet. #thankateacher
Hasn’t anyone told them that holding teachers responsible for kids’ learning outcomes is teacher-bashing? That instead of talking about teacher efficacy we should be talking about poverty and segregation? No?
Of course not!
Because, look, it’s totally obvious that teachers aren’t the sole determinant of whether or not a given child knows how to read. Many parents teach kids the rudiments of reading before they start kindergarten. And throughout life questions about whether parents read to kids, encourage kids to read, have books around the house, etc. make a difference. So does the accessibility of a decent library or bookstore. So do a million other things. But when Teacher Appreciation Week comes around then of course teachers and their representatives want to emphasize the fact that one of the many things that makes a difference is the quality of teaching. Indeed, evidence suggests that quality of teaching is the most important non-demographic contributor to student learning. Acknowledging that isn’t a form of “bashing” or “blaming” teachers, it’s identical to celebrating their contributions. But once you accept that quality of teaching matters, then practices like Last In, First Out layoffs and compensation schemes based entirely on seniority and master’s degrees don’t make sense. Money to pay teachers is a finite resource and it’s important to try to allocate it to the best teachers for all the same reasons that good teachers are important in the first place.