Reading & Reacting: Back to School – What Lies Ahead?

By John Merrow @ Taking Note

Education reporter John Merrow is one of the best. His recent blogpost serves as a primer on the current battle being waged over education in this country. Anyone that is unfamiliar with the fierce debates about the quality of our nation’s public education system, the impending impact of the Common Core, and the schism between policymakers and the general public need only read this piece to receive a quality introduction.

What is most interesting about Merrow’s blog is that he will share opinions that he otherwise would never include in his reporting. His commentary is always informed and insightful. Here he really cuts to the core of how teachers are in the crosshairs of this debate.

The most striking disconnect between parents/general public and policymakers is in the area of teachers. Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that most policy makers do not trust teachers, and that starts at the top. The federal government’s “Race to the Top” requires states to evaluate teachers based on test scores if they want federal “Race” dollars or a waiver from No Child Left Behind. Some states have jumped on that bandwagon with alacrity, most recently Tennessee, which has created a system much like that imposed upon Washington, DC’s public schools by former Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee.

In sharp contrast, the Gallup/PDK poll reports that more than 70% of Americans have trust and confidence in the women and men who teach in public schools. And the percentage is even higher for Americans under the age of 40.

Who are our teachers? One of every 100 Americans is a public school teacher, 3.3 million in all. The average teacher will earn $56,000 this year, which–adjusted for inflation–is only 3% more than the average teacher earned 22 years ago, in 1991!

That last paragraph has the kind of statistics that I wish every single union representative on a contract negotiating committee had committed to memory. Moreover, I wish every American knew them. It might give politicians pause when attempting to shortchange teacher, but perhaps that is wishful thinking.

Merrow believes that a lot of the evidence he presents in his commentary means that the “‘war on teachers’ may have taken a critical turn in the teachers’ favor, in the hearts and minds of parents and other adult Americans.” I hope that too is not simply wishful thinking.

Image: iPad

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