Are teachers unfairly judged?

William T. Robinson, Jr.

William T. Robinson, Jr.

School is about to resume after the summer hiatus, and you find all is not well in the academic arena when it comes to teachers. It appears that some teachers are being dismissed because of poor evaluations or failure to bring about adequate improvement in raising their students’ standard test scores.

Inadequate and non-performing teachers should not be allowed if that is proven the case. However, are teacher evaluations subjective and biased? Many would argue that the process is skewed and highly subjective—that teachers’ overall evaluations are for the most part based on the whims of administrators or principals who may or not like them for whatever reasons.

The truth of the matter is that there are numerous factors to consider when you look at the poor performance of many of the students in the public school systems. Is it right to make the teacher the primary scapegoat in many cases? Academic performances in the public school system often depend on the support of the families and communities of the students. Many times problematic schools with low standard test scores are composed of students from economically disadvantaged communities cared for by single mothers.

You may find young parents who don’t value the importance of education or parents who are so busy trying to make a living they don’t have time to engage in their child’s education. On the other hand, you have middle and upper-class communities with college educated parents who value education and have the resources and time to make sure that their children’s schools have the necessary resources to make sure their child receive an optimal education. You have school districts so pressured to obtain federal and state monies generated by standardized test results that teachers only teach the test. Focusing on only teaching the test deprives students of creativity, problem solving, and real critical thinking.

Unfortunately, the computer has become the brain for many students, answering all their questions and leaving them void of knowing the basics for reading, writing, and mathematics. The quest to increase standard test scores has left the schools in a paradox in which an escape goat is warranted to justify the outcome. Thus (whether right or wrong), you have teachers being offered as sacrificial lambs. In plain words, if anything goes wrong blame the teachers. They are the doormats for all the social or academic ills pertaining to public education. Principals are shifted around to facilitate or implement teaching strategies in an attempt to mitigate failing standardized test scores among low performing schools—often given a short unrealistic amount of time to correct the problem. The truth of the matter is that you are running away good teachers and deterring potential young teachers from wanting to become educators.

Education is not an exact science. There is a lot of trial and error along with experience associated with finding solutions to adequately educate students. But is throwing the baby out with the bathwater the answer? There is no single designated way to educate all students equally. That is what some pundits in education seem to be advocating. Yes, there are some teachers who are ineffectual and may need to go. But the majority of teachers are dedicated and committed and only need the support of administrators who will allow them to do their jobs without micro managing or threatening them. Different teachers bring different styles and techniques that in the long run benefit the students. However, it seems someone has decided that all teachers must adhere to one particular model or they are irrelevant. Maybe we can learn from the past when teachers were given required, designated state standards and allowed the creativity and diversity to implement without being held to one standardized style—which doesn’t work for all the students.

As it stands now, the public school system seems to be grasping at straws and holding teachers accountable for whatever outcome. While many teachers are afraid to speak up for fear of repercussions or retaliation, the truth needs to be addressed. Many teachers would argue that the inability of schools to address disciplinary or behavioral problems is one the biggest problems we face. You don’t have to be a genius to know that discipline and structure provide an atmosphere conducive to learning.