Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Teachers under Attack

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Teachers under Attack

Article excerpt

Whether you teach Spanish, German, or elementary school language you have probably been feeling under attack. Never before in the educational history of the United States has the public become more aware of the influence and importance of good teaching; however, like everything else in the 24/7 news cycle the facts, context, and reality of the issues are blurred and in most cases ignored. What the public becomes aware of is the accountability of teachers related to the overall performance indicators used either by the school or district. If the scores are low then all arrows point to the teacher as being the culprit. Various media outlets have underscored poor teaching as the cause of poor performance on standardized tests. Rarely are other factors that may contribute to poor student performance mentioned by the press.1

Similarly, there is a celebration of such programs as Teach for America by the media and Secretary Duncan in juxtaposition with traditional teacher education programs.2 This comparison is very complicated and merits more than sound bites. Supporters of Teach for America are quick to point out the organization's track record of attracting extremely talented recent college graduates, people whose SAT scores average around 1350, or 1.5 standard deviations above the nationwide mean. There is much evidence provided by the Teach for America organization that leaves no doubt that the novice teachers do excellent work in the schools, inspire students, and raise test scores.

Nevertheless, the notion that talented novices alone are sufficient to remedy the inequities experienced in our nation's poorest schools is a very dangerous one. The mere fact that young, energetic, and creative individuals are barely, if at all, able to outperform the average professional teacher is a weighty thing to consider. With 3.7 million teachers working across the country, we can be relatively sure that their mean SAT scores hover around 800-900. Shouldn't we expect the talented Teach for America members to simply destroy such mediocre personnel, rather than merely be ''as effective''? …

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