Letters to the Editor

Our schools, teachers should be accountable

Regarding: "Failed schools can be fixed, but are we up to the task", Auburn Reporter).

Well, Craig Groshart almost got it right in his Aug. 29 commentary. Like most who write about our schools, however, he showed outright cowardice in confronting the main cancer limiting the ability of kids to learn.

The basic problem is not that insufficient money is being passed along by the state for education. The problem is that schools, alone in our society, do not want us or anyone else to evaluate how well they are doing their job.

Anyone who works for a living, in any vocation or profession, is evaluated – usually annually – on how well they are meeting the objectives of their job. Are they meeting production goals for the number of widgets that need to be cranked out hourly or daily? Are they meeting sales goals? Are they producing the needed number of inches of copy their newspaper needs to separate the advertising?

The truth for almost all of us is that our continuing employment depends on meeting the goals and expectations of our job.

The exception is the public school system.

Teachers do not want to be evaluated on how well they are meeting the objectives of their job – namely the success of educating the children with whom they work. They argue that it's not fair to them to apply the same standard to their work that you and I have applied to us. They say that there too many other factors ... dysfunctional homes, economic disparity, the allure of electronic entertainment that affect a child's ability to learn.

We all can say the same thing about our job performances, I suppose, because we all have full lives that put demands on us that might impair or work performance. Many of us have marital discord, health issues, or the demands of an aging parent that impact our job productivity.

But our bosses continue to evaluate our effectiveness nevertheless ... and so they should.

Only teachers and the system they help to create do not take seriously the evaluation of job performance.

Certainly, the teacher unions carry too much clout in the question of evaluations, but the school districts share the blame. Administrators – many of them former teachers themselves – do little to support the public's demand for accountability in school and teacher job performance.

Who among us would not embrace the chance to set and evaluate our own job performance standards? It's a little like telling a child she can set her own bed time, without the fear of a price to be paid for the exhaustion they would feel the next day after getting insufficient rest.

School leaders are putting a lot of energy and paid time – paid for by us, of course – into spin control over the "failed school" letters that will soon be arriving at our homes. They want us to understand that their schools, despite failing to meet measurable federal standards, are really not failing.

Yes, they are.

Teaching, like child rearing, is a really hard job. I know: we've had three kids, all educated in public schools. We know that teachers are fairly well paid, have always enjoyed superior benefits, and have job security. Yet they insist the key to solving the school failure problem is to simply give them more money.

Let's try a new approach. Clearly spell out for every teacher the goal of their job for the year. Just like the salesman who has to meet his quota or the factory worker who needs to produce a minimum number of widgets, teachers need to have a goal. They need to educate the 30 or so kids before them every day, and help them become productive and responsible adults.

If there are outside influences that make the job harder, that can be noted. They can be excused, perhaps, if the schools have taken aggressive steps – like expelling bullies and ordering underperforming kids into mandatory after-school study halls – to solve the problems.

Until schools, districts and teachers embrace the idea that, like it or not, they will be held accountable for how well they do their work, I will never vote for another school levy or bond as long as I live.

Educators are no better than the rest of us. They need to be ready to be evaluated on how well they do their jobs, and then required to meet reasonable standards that are set for them by their employer – you and me.

– Steve Krueger


Craig Groshart wrote the commentary on failed schools in the Aug. 29 edition. The Reporter credited the wrong columnist in the caption.

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