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Wow! Talk about a surprise! Teacher Glenn Sacks managed to get an article with the title of this post in the Wall Street Journal, the newspaper that regularly vilifies teachers’ unions and praises privatization of public funds.
Yes, Sacks–a teacher in Los Angeles–contends that teachers’ unions fight to get teachers the time and support staff they need to do their jobs, so they are necessary and valuable.
The link that Sacks provided is not behind a pay wall.
The article begins:
The rookie science teacher looks at me with the same “Am I understanding this job correctly or am I crazy?” look I’ve often seen in the eyes of new teachers.
“No, you understand,” I say. “You’ve been thrown into a situation that requires an enormous amount of work and a good amount of ability, and it’s sink or swim. You might naturally expect the system to help you, or at least acknowledge the position you’ve been put in. It won’t.”
Teachers have come under considerable scrutiny in recent decades, and everybody claims to have the silver-bullet reform that will fix education. No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Common Core, charter schools, raising the qualifications to become a teacher, limiting or abolishing tenure, and countless other measures have been taken up by Congress and state legislatures since I took my first teaching position in 1989.
Yet there is little public discussion about the education system’s central problem: Teachers don’t have enough time to do our jobs properly. Teachers unions understand this and fight to protect our ability to do our jobs.
He points out that some students can be assessed more accurately with an oral exam that with a written one, but teachers don’t have the time for that.
Here are some ways to make teachers more effective:
- Reduce class sizes, an issue in both the October teachers’ strike in Chicago and the Los Angeles teachers’ strike in January.
- Provide teachers with support staff for clerical work.
- Hire sufficient staff to eliminate extraneous chores.
Limiting class size and hiring sufficient staff would save teachers’ time from being squandered. That in turn would allow us to focus more on creating imaginative lessons and interacting with students.
Seeing Glenn Sacks’ article in the WSJ gives me hope that some people in the business world might read it and pay attention.
If they do, they will understand what real education reform looks like from the perspective of those who do the work, rather than those who sit in armchairs in think tanks.