50 Myths & Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools: The Real Crisis in Education by David C. Berliner, Gene Glass, and Associates

Responsibility, Competition, and Merit Pay

  • Modern reform and accountability systems lay the entire responsibility for academic success at the feet of the teachers when research shows that outside of school factors are at least twice as responsible. Now teachers have no control over curriculum or available resources. Current policies serve to lower teacher moral and push talented people away from the profession. Studies also show that US teachers make less than teachers in other countries and less than people with similar education. Teacher pay as a percentage of our GDP has steadily fallen since 1970. Reforms have also pushed merit pay based on unreliable test scores. Competition between teachers leads to less collaboration and even cheating. Competition is useful in some businesses, but competition between teachers is a bad idea.

Teaching the Poor, Teach For America, Subject Matter Knowledge, Teacher Unions, and Rating Teacher Preparation Programs

  • Poor kids do get teachers with less experience and if you believe like I do that experience matters, they get less capable teachers. Teachers generally don’t want to live in poor neighborhoods, but beginning teaching jobs are more available in these schools. Teacher training courses seldom focus on teaching the type of child showing up in poor schools. Poor schools are a gold mine for wealthy districts looking for experienced teachers so the rich tend to get richer.
  • Teach For America was founded on the myth that if you take the brightest graduates from Ivy League schools, they would be better teachers for the most part than our existing teachers during their two-year obligation after five weeks of teacher training. The data on their effectiveness are incongruent and contradictory but they fail to support the myth. Anyone who has taught can tell stories of many mistakes made during their first few years. Imagine going to a school, as some do, where all of your teachers are rookies.
  • If you had to pick between someone who had strong subject matter knowledge or someone who lacked it but had the other skills you want in a teacher, which would you choose? Any teachers struggle at first, but those with better class management skill along with passion and a genuine love for students will most likely struggle less. If you can motivate and design and act on formative assessments, the subject matter knowledge part will take care of itself.
  • Unions are often the boogyman when it comes to education’s problems. The public has heard things like unions protect bad teachers and hurt students from so many angles that many believe it. What unions provide teachers is due process once they have tenure. This means that they can be fired, but the process is still too expensive and time consuming. States and countries with unions perform better, and in the US, only 35% of teachers are protected by unions. Having due process protection allows good teachers to challenge administration in the interests of the students.
  • Using state test scores to rate teacher preparation programs is foolishness squared. Ironically, if this were put in place, Ivy League schools would rank low as they provide the Teach for America teachers who get low grades due to their inexperience and working in poor schools. Among the many problems with this plan is that even large institutions graduate a fairly small number of students in specific programs like math or English education.
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One Response to “50 Myths & Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools: The Real Crisis in Education by David C. Berliner, Gene Glass, and Associates”

  1. […] These aren’t easy problems to solve. But we need to think about how to tackle them now. Otherwise, our children’s standard of schooling will be rapidly sliding downhill. […]

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