What do teachers want?


As always, remember that John’s book The Influence of Teachers is for sale at Amazon.

Readers of this blog or of my book, The Influence of Teachers, know that I believe that the harsh criticism of teachers and their unions is largely undeserved. I also believe it is hurting public education.

In the clamor, the voices of regular classroom teachers are difficult to hear, which is why I am devoting this blog to them. With apologies to Sigmund Freud, “What do teachers want?”

Some answers to that question can be found in recent surveys by Met Life and the Gates Foundation/Scholastic. I include some of those findings below.

Renee Moore, a veteran teacher who is certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, says it’s all about respect. “Highest on my list,” she wrote, “would be more respect for the professional expertise of teachers, particularly for those of us who have shown consistently, year-after-year that we are highly accomplished teachers.”

That seems to be consistent with a Met Life finding that most teachers feel they are being ignored. “A majority of teachers do not believe that teachers’ voices are being heard. Seven in ten teachers (69%) disagree with the statement that “thinking about the current debate on education, teachers’ voices in general have been adequately heard.”

Ms Moore continues: “By every means we currently have for measuring teacher performance, I am considered an excellent teacher; yet, when it comes time to decide what should be taught and how my students’ learning should be measured, I have little or no say. This is also true for teachers as a group.”

What form would respect take? “The reward for excellent teaching should be increased responsibility for the policy decisions that govern our work.”

In other words, pay attention!

The Gates/Scholastic Survey of 40,000 teachers reveals that paying attention would also entail giving equal weight to teachers’ assessments of student achievement. “From ongoing assessments throughout the year to student participation in individual classes, teachers are clear that these day-to-day assessments are a more reliable way to measure student performance than one-shot standardized tests. Ninety-two percent of teachers say ongoing in-classroom assessment is either very important or absolutely essential in measuring student performance, while only 27% say the same of state required standardized tests.”

Another Board-certified teacher, Kenneth Bernstein of Maryland, calls for an end to micromanaging: “Treat us as a profession,” he wrote. “That is, require appropriate training, which is not five weeks before turning us loose in a classroom. Give us appropriate support, which means do not overburden us with too many students in a class or too large a student load. And pay us as the professionals we are so that we do not lose so many of our gifted teachers because they cannot afford to raise a family on what they are paid.”

I also directed my question, “What do teachers want?” to Anthony Cody, a veteran teacher in Oakland. High on his list was collaboration. “American teachers get a fraction of the time our counterparts overseas get, and most of the time is filled with either top-down professional development or administrative staff meetings. We need dedicated time to look at student work, to reflect and engage in these processes.”

The Gates/Scholastic Survey emphatically supported Anthony’s point. “When asked about teacher retention, nearly all teachers say that non-monetary rewards like supportive leadership and collaborative working environments are the most important factors to retaining good teachers. Fewer than half of teachers say higher salaries are absolutely essential for retaining good teachers and only 8% say pay for performance is absolutely essential.”

Money matters less than collaboration!

According to the Gates/Scholastic survey, “Teachers are skeptical of current measures of teacher performance, with only 22% indicating that principal observation is a very accurate measure. At the same time, more than half of teachers indicate that student academic growth (60%) and student engagement (55%) are very accurate measures of teacher performance — much more so than teacher tenure, which a significant number of teachers said is not at all accurate.”

The Met Life survey reveals a crucial nuance: the newer the teacher, the more likely they are to want to collaborate. “Regardless of their specific path to teaching, new teachers are strong proponents of collaboration. Although teachers across experience levels agree on many of the topics in the Survey, new teachers (those with five years of experience or less) emerge as having a particular affinity for collaboration. New teachers strongly agree in greater numbers than do veteran teachers (those with more than 20 years of experience) that their success is linked to that of their colleagues (67% vs. 47%).”

And the newbies are ready to collaborate with anyone who shares their concern for student learning. “New teachers are also more likely to emphasize the importance of collaborating with other groups to improve student achievement. They are more likely than veteran teachers to say that strengthening ties among schools and parents is very important for improving student achievement (95% vs. 85%).”

These are hopeful signs, because our teaching force is growing younger by the year. In 1987 the modal ‘years of experience’ was 15 years. In 2007 (the last year we have data for) the mode was one year!

The comments of all three veterans indicate their agreement with another Gates/Scholastic finding: they want the freedom to innovate. Here’s how the survey put it: “To keep today’s students engaged in learning, teachers recognize that it is essential for instruction to be tailored to individual students’ skills and interests. More than 90% of teachers say that differentiated assignments are absolutely essential or very important for improving student achievement and engaging students in learning. Also, showing a clear understanding of the world students inhabit outside of school, 81% of teachers say that up-to-date, information-based technology that is well integrated into the classroom is absolutely essential or very important in impacting student achievement.”

But innovation is not high on the list of those running the show. As Anthony Cody noted, “Modern ‘education reform’ has redefined the purpose of schools to be to raise scores in tested subjects. As teachers we feel responsible for so much more, and we find other things we value — critical thinking, creativity, compassion, civic engagement, even knowledge of history and science — crowded out when we are coerced by threats of school closures, pay cuts or the loss of job security if our test scores do not rise.”

And while Moore, Bernstein and Cody did not speak directly to the question of higher and common standards, my hunch is that they tilt in that direction—as long as teachers play a significant role in their development. Here’s what Gates/Scholastic said on that point: “Teachers see the role clear common standards can play in preparing students for their future, but want clearer standards and core standards that are the same across all states. Nationwide, 74% of teachers say that clearer standards would make a strong or very strong impact on student achievement, with only 4% saying they would have no impact at all. 60% of teachers say that common standards would have a strong or very strong impact on student achievement, with only 10% saying that they would have no impact at all.”

So what do we know? What’s the answer to my question? What do teachers want?

Aretha Franklin said it best: R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

It takes different forms, but that’s what they want — and it’s what they deserve.

Your thoughts?

36 thoughts on “What do teachers want?

  1. Definitely, what most teachers want is respect. Coming from higher ed and politics, the difference in the disrespect I received as a teacher was unbelievable. I came from alternative certification so I refused to accept many of the indignities that were routinely dumped on us. But, if you want to stick it out, you have to learn to ignore the insults.

    I also came from the blue collar world. I saw as an oilfield roughneck, a ditch-digger, and packing house worker and loading trucks how little the lives of working people were valued. So, I don’t get as angry about the disrespect, even though it is upsetting that I was treated as a 58 year old the way I was treated as a 20 something “worm” in the oil patch.

    Teachers also want to teach. I don’t want to push this too far, but i found ways to teach effectively in the inner city, although it got harder as the micromanaging got worse.

    So, what I want most of all is to be a part of an effective teaching team. All of that teachers who put hundreds of hours into extracurricular activities often do so because that’s a place where they can be effective. I’d like a team where our great athletic and academic coaches, and educators who take kids to art, music, and other competitions, could teach with the same effectivness in the classroom, unhindered by the suicidal top down mandates.


  2. Good question. You covered most of it in your article.

    I guess I want what any professional wants: I want my job to MATTER. I want my opinions to be validated. I want my boss to listen and respect not only me as a person, but what I teach, as well.

    I want to be evaluated in a way that is helpful to me. I want to learn more, grow as a professional, and (maybe–yikes!) have opportunities for advancement.

    I want the very best materials and technologies for my students–and the time and training to know how to use them.

    I want my district to acknowledge that NOT all children are the same, and support me and my colleagues in finding ways to reach them.

    I want the public to stop attacking me, and the politicians to either start helping or get out of the way.

    I WANT to do this job for 20 more years…but I just don’t know if I CAN. Thanks for asking.


  3. John —

    This stat is very interesting to me: “our teaching force is growing younger by the year. In 1987 the modal ‘years of experience’ was 15 years. In 2007 (the last year we have data for) the mode was one year!”

    I’m just wondering what the source is for this information?

    Best wishes,


    • A forthcoming and stunning new book, The American Public School Teacher, coming from Harvard. Don’t miss it…


  4. Each year I work with thousands of teachers throughout the country and I believe what they want most is to be heard. They are justifiably tired of the Ivory Tower big-wigs (who have never taught) and the billionaire entrepreneurs (who also have never taught) dictating what educators should teach and how they should do it.


  5. Horace Mann, the first Secretary of Education in Massachusetts stated in the Common School Journal in 1840: (we)

    “salute, with fraternal kindness, ALL, every where, who are enlisted in the great cause of advancing human welfare, through the medium of a more thorough, enlarged and perfect education of the whole people.”

    Our nation seems to have forgotten the “great cause” of our noble pursuit.

    Instead, politicians join with others who have not taught in thinking that standards (of some other so-called reform) rather than societal support for the task of education is essential. There seems to be an attitude out there that we are all experts in teaching because we went to school.

    There is not the sense that it takes years of experience to know how to teach the basics of a discipline and also help individual students identify their strengths and affinities and passions and become experts in these areas.

    I also remember the difference I felt in observing how teachers are regarded in Italy – with respect and admiration! Of course, Italians honor children and so people grow up in an atmosphere of care and civility (even if Fellini skewered some of his teachers.)

    I was extremely luck to have had a series of humane, well-educated women and one Douglas Sands who taught me Biology in eighth grade…they were an important reason that I became a teacher myself.


  6. John,

    I was pleased that you have sought to find out what teachers want and found most of your commentary quite on target– until your final major paragraph.

    Why not ask Moore, Bernstein and Cody directly what their perspectives are regarding “higher and common standards” rather than slipping in your “hunch?”

    I personally believe that what you call “higher and common standards” are a smoke screen for a national test and for churning out a standardized student commodity.

    Thanks for listening to teachers. I wish Education Secretary Duncan and President Obama would begin to truly listen to teachers nationwide rather than “hearing” only that which they wish to hear.

    My best,



    • I, too, wondered why you didn’t ask these teacher about their thoughts on common standards.

      You wrote, “The comments of all three veterans indicate their agreement with another Gates/Scholastic finding: they want the freedom to innovate. Here’s how the survey put it: ‘To keep today’s students engaged in learning, teachers recognize that it is essential for instruction to be tailored to individual students’ skills and interests.” More than 90% of teachers say that differentiated assignments are absolutely essential or very important for improving student achievement and engaging students in learning.” Based on this statement, it is not unreasonable to conclude that there are legitimate concerns that common standards could be a constraint on innovation; especially since a testing company is helping with the design of those standards.

      Why, then, did you conclude this piece by going with your “hunch” and presuming that these teachers would support common standards? Why didn’t you ask Renee, Anthony and Ken what they thought while you had them on the phone? These teachers are my friends and colleagues and I can assure you that they are quite capable of articulating both the benefits and the constraints of common standards and assessments..

      You asked them what they wanted and Renee told you, “The reward for excellent teaching should be increased responsibility for the policy decisions that govern our work.” Anthony said, “We want to be free to innovate.” And Ken said, ” We want to be respected as professionals.” But you presumed, rather than asked experts in the field about this important issue just as so many other well intended stakeholders have done.

      Could I suggest that you call Renee, Anthony and Ken back and ask them to share their thoughts on common standards? As professionals they might be able to offer more substantive insights than a “hunch.”


    • Let me answer that directly. On that point John does not speak for me. I will not presume to speak for either of my dear friends Anthony or Renee.

      Regardless of what a students knows or can do when s/he enters my room, if s/he does not know significantly more and cannot do significantly more at the end of the year, then neither of us has fulfilled our responsibility. I am far less concerned about measuring my students against some arbitrary external standard than I am in having them learn how to learn, take charge of their own learning. For what it is worth, in general my students do quite well on external tests, but that matters far less to me than seeing the lights go on when one of them suddenly understands something that has been given him difficulty.

      I think our obsession with “standards” and “rigor” have been destructive of learning. For one thing, we cram far too many things into our “standards” which then become a mile wide and a fraction of an inch deep. We are reducing learning to memorization and regurgitation of factoids when given the appropriate stimulus in the form of the stem of multiple choice question. Life is not like that, and our teaching and learning should be to empower us to learn and to apply what we know outside of the artificial setting of the school classroom.

      I am demanding as a teacher. I know my content. But I also know my students. My task to take each of them from wherever they are when they arrive in my room and help them learn how to go well beyond that. The focus has to start with the individual student.


  7. Thanks for your insights into the importance of according teachers respect.

    I worked all week with 7th graders and their teachers. In science this week, 7th grade teams of kids designed “blood clot catchers” to capture blood clots traveling through the inferior vena cava from the legs to the heart or lungs. They put their clot catchers in clear pvc tubing representing the IVC, and tested them in fluid flow systems cobbled together from pvc pipes and valves. Their clot catchers had to meet four specific criteria (including keeping the blood flowing at a rate that would keep the patient alive). They learned to calculate flow rates in math and applied that – and they also studied proportion and ratio to help them understand the scale model in science. In fact, even in math kids were pouring water into the fluid flow system and calculating the differences that blocking percentages of the passage made on the flow rate. The kids were engaged, had a purpose for their learning. The teachers were also engaged as facilitators.

    This kind of teaching can lead to real learning, but teachers seldom have time and energy to invest in this because of the demand of test scores and standards. Several veteran teachers expressed their dismay with the current way they find themselves teaching. They feel their creativity, choices, and approaches are limited by the curriculum guides that point inexorably to The Test. When will it end?

    The article made some wonderful points.


  8. Add me to those who think your hunch maybe off, John.

    But speaking for myself, I’d say you’re right that teachers should be deeply involved in crafting standards – and that was a terrible mistake in the drafting of the Common Core. Still, the final product (on the reading side) isn’t bad.

    The major problem is implementation. The power plays by the Gates Foundation and Pearson, along with the heavy hand of the federal government coercing “voluntary” state adoption, are all reasons to be highly suspect of the whole endeavor. The potential usefulness of the standards is debatable – and I’m open minded about that. When I see what’s being done with the standards already, and consider the prospect of more and more testing, more regimentation and standardization, I have to say we’re going in the wrong direction.


    • Guilty as charged about my ‘hunch.’ I was on deadline, after having been sick and out of commission for a week, and made an unwise choice of words. Should have just written “I forgot to ask Renee, Ken and Anthony for their views on national standards. Here’s what I think…” or something like that, and then invited them to comment.

      Thanks for the careful attention to what I wrote, folks, and my apology for my carelessness.

      Now, how do we get President Obama and Secretary Duncan to read what you and I have written?


      • not mad at you, buddy. You accepted responsibility.

        On one educational list, someone pointed out that the Common Core Standards have 90 pages for Math, while the standards for Finland are only 11 pages.

        My problem with the standards movement in this country is how much we seem to insist on “covering” without leaving enough time for understanding. There are many sources for this. I remember the series of books by E. D. Hirsch of what your child should know in X grade. Even with my students, who are mainly high school sophomores, there are still wide differences developmentally. These pale in comparison to what I saw when I taught middle school, and those pale compared to the differences among elementary students.

        My primary objection to the standards movement is that rather than the focus on the individual learner and where s/he is it moves to focus to something external and seems to demand we reshape the student to that external standard.

        Think for a moment about the nature of science. If we are unwilling to think outside the preexisting boxes, how do we get scientific advancement?

        Think about other areas of human endeavor, where if we were not willing to step away from standards we might not progress. That includes in government and politics, which is what I teach. That includes in history, in our ability to understand societies that function in ways different than our own so that we can interpret the artifacts and records they leave behind.

        I think it appropriate to list goals. I dislike the idea that if someone has not yet achieved mastery of those goals that somehow that person is deficient, or, to use what would be the appropriate terminology, substandard.

        Just a thought.


    • As soon as teachers find out what and how skills will be tested, then they will only teach what is on the test. All other skills will be left behind. It’s not the teacher’ s fault. Lawmakers and those who use money to control education force teachers to shallow teaching. There is no “riger” if standards are reduced to a set of right or wrong answers that do not make student think for themselves. Simply providing predetermined answers do not show understanding of real world applications. When I began teaching in public school, I learned quickly that you do not prepare students for life. You prepare them for a test. I still remember the blow of that reality, as if it were yesterday.


  9. John–your last comment sums it up, we think. http://www.vivateachers.org was launched last year to answer the question you ask–What do Teachers Want? But not as a platform for criticism, not as a name-calling, venting place. Not even a place to talk about the injustice of it all.

    VIVA teachers is a simple idea–let the experts design the system they need to be effective at their profession. We asked teachers to put aside the commentary, roll up their sleeves and make public education policy–big picture policy that will set up a system of high expectations, strong professional standards and a higher status for the teaching profession.

    And, all the teachers who do this are busy working in classrooms across the United States at the same time.

    The 1st sets of recommendations these ordinary (and extraordinary) classroom teachers wrote blows the professional pundits, advocates and government leaders out of the ball park.

    So, your question is THE question John, but the answers we need from teachers have to come everyday, at every level. Teachers are the key to the success of the American public school system. We need to start acting on that truth.


    • Elizabeth:

      your link is an interesting project. Except for this – like many, and here I know I can speak for Anthony as well – I have about given up hope that we can get through to the current leadership of the Department of Education. That is why so many of us are involved with organizing from the grass roots up another way for teachers – and parents, and teacher educators – to have our voices heard. That is why we have organized for the end of July the Save Our Schools March and National Call To Action – both Anthony and I are on the executive committee, and you can read about it here http://www.saveourschools.org


      • While I can understand the sentiment and motivation behind giving up, I believe that we simply can’t afford to give up. Save our Schools is a rational RESPONSE to current debates but I think what we need is a PASSIONATE REDIRECTION of current debates and no more responding. We have to shift the entire frame of the discussion and get students and teachers at the center once and for all.

        Expressing frustration is important (and it worked in Wisconsin!) but we need to take back our government and show a new path. I respect the energy behind SaveOurSchools but wish to tap into it with actionable alternatives so that we can make government work again for students and teachers. I believe the authority of deliberative, pragmatic solutions directly from teachers will win the longer term day. I hope you can find motivation and will to express your indignation at the steamroll through both a Save Our Schools effort and a VIVA Project. It’s not either or, it’s both.


  10. Given the desire to be heard and respected that many people who responded have mentioned, I’m interested in what you (those who have responded) think of the comments that organizations such as NEA and AFT have made about national standards.

    Here’s a portion of what is on the AFT website, quoting a column by the AFT President:

    As stated by Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT, in a Washington Post OpEd piece:

    “Imagine the outrage if, say, the Pittsburgh Steelers had to move the ball the full 10 yards for a first down during the Super Bowl while the Arizona Cardinals had to go only seven. Imagine if this scenario were sanctioned by the National Football League. Such a system would be unfair and preposterous. But there is little outrage over the uneven patchwork of academic standards for students in our 50 states and the District of Columbia.

    Abundant evidence suggests that common, rigorous standards lead to more students reaching higher levels of achievement. The AFT has, since 1995, tracked each state’s progress toward establishing standards that meet our characteristics of strong academic content standards. While we have documented some great improvements over the years, much more work lies ahead.

    In fact, countries that consistently outperform the United States on international assessments do not have multiple sets of standards the way we do. Instead, they all have national standards….

    A broad-based group—made up of educators, elected officials, community leaders, and experts in pedagogy and particular content should work together to take the best academic standards and make them available as a national model. Teachers then would need the professional development, and the teaching and learning conditions to make the expectations of those standards a reality.”


  11. Sorry to post again so quickly, but I wanted to share a second posting from the AFT website, with the headline, “Teachers Make Their Mark on Common Core State Standards.”

    This article echoes the comments several people have made in response to John Merrow – it states teachers want to be involved in helping develop and test standards. The article also quotes (and has pictures of) a number of classroom teachers who have been involved in the Common Core State Standards. The statements from classroom teachers are compelling (at least to me).

    Here re a few paragraphs from the article cited above, which I recommend that people read:

    This effort to bring clarity, consistency and, above all, equity to the education of all children is generating well-deserved attention. And another compelling story tied to CCSSI is flying just under the radar. It’s the story of how teachers and AFT members around the nation worked both individually and collectively to bring judgment and real-world classroom experience to bear in drafts of the standards before they were up for public review—and how these educators are planning to stay involved in the months ahead.

    It was a pleasure to work with such knowledgeable teachers from around the country. It helped me grow professionally.
    Tina Newman – Elementary ELA review team

    The process is engaging teachers like Janice Mesolello, who calls the opportunity to review English-language arts standards the professional chance of a lifetime. That’s saying a lot for Mesolello, who has spent more than three decades in the classroom. “What an awesome responsibility to be part of recognizing what students should look like in the college and career-readiness stages of their lives and be able to back-map their progress throughout their educational career,” says the middle school teacher from Cranston, R.I.

    Also involved was Sandy Orth, an elementary teacher from Toledo, Ohio, who, along with Mesolello, was part of a 30-teacher panel the AFT brought together to review math and English-language arts standards. Real utility in the classroom, Orth says, was a constant focus for the teacher reviewers, who represented all school levels. “We kept asking ourselves how appropriate and useful [the standards] would be for teachers across the country, and offered suggestions that would both guide and reflect the good instruction we deliver to students.”

    “This type of collaboration is what educational change requires,” says Peggy Brookins, a high school math teacher from Ocala, Fla., who participated on the AFT’s review panel. “Without the teacher voice, the most important element of change would not be represented.”

    John Santangelo, a high school math teacher from Cranston, R.I., who also took part in the panel review, describes the experience as “refreshing and rewarding”—and meaningful. “The fact that the recommendations [the team made] are apparent throughout the common core standards makes the document a solid foundation” planning to stay involved in the months ahead.”

    Again, these are quotes from an article on the AFT website. I’m interested in other people’s reactions to these comments, and the role AFT has played.




  12. My perspective comes from nearly forty years in various classrooms; I’ve watched the recent, severe drop in respect for teachers with much consternation. Why has it become the cultural norm to disparage our profession? When I began teaching in 1970 and knew practically nothing, my principal encouraged me to develop my own reading materials and trusted my ability to succeed on my own. In 2010 when I took on an intervention reading course after six years out as a literacy coach, I was expected to use a scripted curriculum. The difference in trust in teachers is a critical issue for dedicated teachers.

    Also telling–and disappointing–was the fact that when I made the choice of returning to the classroom three years ago, several administrators at the school site and local district levels made it clear that I was “too smart” or “too good” to just be a teacher, implying that I was wasting my expertise in the classroom. So the lack of respect for our difficult work exists even within our own ranks.


    • I was appalled when all teachers at my school were mandated to use scripted curriculum.
      I grossly felt the lack respect for my knowledge as an educator. While many of my colleagues used the curriculum as prescribed, I did not. My reading scores were still very high and well above those who used the scripts. I was praised for using the curriculum as prescribed, even though I taught using my own experience and knowledge. It is degrading to all teachers who know their subject matter to read from a script that was probably authored by someone who does not have any knowledge of education. By the way, you will lose respect from even the the youngest students when you read verbatim from a script. It looks like you don’t what you are doing! Talk about undermining teachers!


  13. It’s not an intractable problem, but it is a serious one. We have an ‘army’ of 3.2 or 3.3 million teachers, meaning that better than one in every 100 Americans is a public school teacher.

    Big Questions: How many in this army of teachers are proud of the ‘uniform’ that they wear? What directions are the army’s generals trying to take the army? If it’s mostly trade union stuff, then many will desert, but if it’s focused on the needs of learners (including teachers as learners), then there’s hope.


    • We at VIVA couldn’t agree more John. And that’s exactly what the VIVA Project teachers are doing http://www.vivaproject.org. BUT, small voices can’t make change quickly, even from those who purport to be working in their interest. We need to give classroom teachers much more powerful tools to influence the system that will focus on the needs of learners. I hear so few talking about this need in a public policy context. I deeply admire those who simply make it happen in classrooms. I hope they will catch the VIVA fire and translate that no holds bar energy to innovate in policy as well as practice. When government is involved, both are absolutely essential.


  14. Teachers, as a collective, do not presently receive public regard and will not get such without undertaking three major changes.
    First, they must obtain valid professional training. Education schools are a joke and the public knows they are. Hence, to have graduated from one is to invite derision.
    Second professionals deserving of public regard and respect do not all seek the same pay. Professionals are judged individually and paid differentially. Professionals do not permit themselves to be treated as commodities, which is the current state of teachers because of the single salary schedule.
    Third, professionals police their ranks. Presently, teachers only protect their ranks.
    Individual teachers oft times earn parental respect because of hard work, commitment, and results. I applaud such. As a teacher myself, however, I understand that anything more than highly individualized regard will depend crucially upon the three changes I have described.


    • People like Jim are part of the problem. They speak in sweeping generalizations that have no research backing and seem to have no grounding in actual experience. In what ways are “Education schools a joke”? Is there any proof? Darling-Hammond has actually found the opposite, that people with training from teacher education programs have higher retention rates and somewhat higher levels of student success (as measured by the all-important test scores) than teachers who were “trained” by organizations like Teach For America.

      Teachers are paid differentially based on years of experience and education levels. Many would agree to an even more differential pay scale, but aren’t sure that the one-dimensional measure of test scores are a valid or just determining measure. Ravitch discusses the issues with this in depth in her 2010 “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.” What other professions was Jim referring to, and how are their pay levels determined? It might present a good model for educators to consider, but this isn’t possible without details.

      If Jim really understood the tenure process, he would know that educators do “police their ranks.” In every district I’ve been involved with, schools are able to not rehire first-year teachers for any (or no) reason. This allows them to get rid of teachers who obviously aren’t working out. Even with “tenured” teachers, tenure basically means due process, so there are mechanisms for removing teachers who aren’t effective. Ineffective teachers often aren’t removed, are “counseled out,” or are removed through due process. The schools of education that Jim disparages also function as gatekeepers that can fail or counsel out student teachers who are not a good fit with the profession.

      I’m sorry that Jim’s high school (or college?) teachers didn’t teach him to back up his opinions with facts or research. But what’s really unfortunate is that there are so many people like him out there, and so many of them believe this type of misinformation. To me, people like this demonstrate the real failure of our school system.


  15. Three quick points:
    1. Thanks to Jim Gutherie for making important points
    2. So far there has been no response to my questions related to the AFT (and NEA) views of national standards. John and others he quotes seem to think that as John wrote, there is a “a Met Life finding that most teachers feel they are being ignored.” My sense is that teacher unions leaders, elected and paid for by teachers, are making their views know at the state and national level. Moreover, the AFT links I’ve provided above suggest that the AFT is supporting the national core standards, and that the AFT has involved a variety of classroom teachers in helping review and comments on drafts of those drafts.
    3. It may well be that some teachers disagree with the proposed standards. But this is quite different that the complaint that teachers are being ignored.” I think at least some teacher opinions are having an impact on the national standards (See AFT material)


  16. I believe that this is such a complicated question this “What do teachers want?” question.

    It is true that we need time, it is so valauble and in such limtied supply, as it stands now. In many places, teachers have a punch in, punch out time, that doesn’t allow for the time that we need to collaborate. And I would happily work a longer day to get that time, but would my colleagues?

    I would also agree that we need innovation–from the school day to the school year to the curriculum we teach. Does it make sense to have summers off any more? After all, there are no crops to bring in any longer. Should the day be 8:30-2:30 If so why? if not, why not? Who does a common curriculum benefit and who is left out?

    I don’t claim to have all of the answers, but I think we must not be afraid to have the conversation. After all those in power ARE having the conversation and they are not letting us get a word in edgewise.

    Finally, in my 14 years as a teacher, i have always heard from poiliticians that they love teachers, just not the dreaded UNION. In some places this has been exposed for the lie it is; Wisconsin comes to mind immediately as one of those places. We teachers need to continue to use our collective voice through our unions to put forward reforms on compensation, evaluation, calendar, and every other subject that effects our profession. Doctors have the AMA, lawyers the ABA. We teachers simply must embrace the fact that we have the NEA and the AFT to help us advance our interests.


  17. 1) Manageable working conditions: 3 or more preps, new courses almost every year, and over 25 students a class isn’t teaching, it’s crowd control. How can teachers really respond to students’ writing when they have to grade over 150 papers? How can they respond to students’ individual interests and needs when they have to do this for over 150 students? How is there space to accommodate different learning styles when there IS NO SPACE in the classroom? Moreover, this is not a sustainable workload for teachers to do year after year, which is why so many teachers leave.

    2) A living wage: In communities where I’ve taught, it isn’t possible to stay in the black with even a modest lifestyle (apartment, used car, occasional professional clothes from Target or The Gap) on under 40K. I started at under 30K in 1999, during the dot-boom when everything was expensive. I had to rent a room in a house and deal with constant housemate issues on top of the rigors of being a new teacher.

    3) Professional freedom: Teachers need to be able to adjust to the needs of different students and classes. They need to have the freedom to bring in their own interests and passions and those of their students. This does NOT mean there should be no guidelines or standards, but teachers do need some flexibility. Teachers can’t teach well if they’re held to a daily curriculum guide (which often was created by bureaucrats with no regard to the needs of actual students) or when their “success” is measured by singular, arbitrary measures like standardized tests.

    4) Professional respect and courtesy: Do doctors, lawyers, or accountants have to put their workspaces in order on Monday morning because a church group used it and tore it apart over the weekend? Do they have people coming in without appointments and demanding a meeting right away? Do they get threatened with phrases like “I will come after you”? Do they get blamed when they actually do their jobs? Do they have people constantly demanding that they perform tasks that they aren’t paid for and then submitting complaints when they can’t or won’t do it? When I was a teacher, all of the above happened to me. Parents, administrators, and the public seem to give teachers less respect and courtesy than they give to the baggers at the grocery store, and then they wonder why there’s a turnover problem.

    If I’d had these four things, I would still be in the classroom. Now that I’m a Teacher Educator at a college, how am I supposed to bring students in a profession where these elements too often don’t exist?


  18. I am reading your book, The Influence of Teachers, and in it you disparage a teacher who states she chooses to teach at the school that is closest to where she lives. The fact is we have very little idea what I school will be like before we start teaching there, so choosing the closest school makes a lot of sense. It would be nice if there were an “Angie’s List” for schools from which we could learn things like which schools enforce discipline, facilitate collaboration, have meaningful professional development, etc. With that kind of information we could choose a school for reasons other than its proximity. With that kind of system, good teachers would gravitate to well-run schools, forcing other schools to examine their own policies and characteristics.


  19. I understand that teachers want more respect and want to be treated as professionals. However, I find that teacher’s unions typically work very hard to ensure that these goals are not reached. Teacher contracts typically treat teachers as interchangeable widgets in some kind of 19th century education factory; not because that’s what school districts want, but because it’s what teacher’s unions want.

    – All teachers must be paid on the same lockstep schedule based on seniority and degrees
    – Assessment and accountability are more or less non-existent. 97% of teachers get “satisfactory” assessment, the highest possible in most systems.
    – Contracts specify exact working hours and requirements
    – Dismissing a poorly performing tenured teacher costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.
    – Frequently, a school with a 10% passing rate for it’s kids will have high 90% top evaluation for the teachers at the school. Frequently, these schools take kids in at higher passing rates and they lose ground every year.
    – This predictable, ridgid work environment is at least partially responsible for the fact that teaching disproportionately attracts 2nd quartile students from noncompetitive colleges.

    I could go on, but don’t teachers see that some of the lack of respect and professionalism is self-inflicted? It’s these “pillars of mediocrity” that keep teaching where it is. Teachers and their unions need to work on assessment, improvement, and doing what works for student achievement to gain this back. For the most part, unions have to be dragged kicking and screaming, away from institutionalized mediocrity.


  20. Hmm.. Nice site but I disagree with the info you wrote here.. And I’m sure that I am not the only one who is feeling like this right now. Call me crazy but I think the total opposite of what you’re saying lol.


  21. Andy, thanks for dropping by. Currently, I am focusing on building mini-sites. I agree that building mobile apps is a hot trend and has a lot of potential. It involves a lot of time, focus, and technical effort to make it happen. In case you have anyone up on the store, please kindly ping me and I love to get those myself.


Leave a Reply to Beverly Clore Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s