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Why are teachers getting such short shrift?

Mar 03, 2011 9:31 am
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Why are teachers getting such guff? Journalists are starting to look into the current phenomenon."][/caption]The New York Times' Trip Gabriel has written a story that asks the great question of the day: why are teachers getting so much scorn? "The jabs Erin Parker has heard about her job have stunned her. Oh you pathetic teachers, read the online comments and placards of counterdemonstrators. You are glorified baby sitters who leave work at 3 p.m. You deserve minimum wage," Gabriel starts his piece. "'You feel punched in the stomach,' said Ms. Parker, a high school science teacher in Madison, Wis., where public employees’ two-week occupation of the State Capitol has stalled but not deterred the governor’s plan to try to strip them of bargaining rights. Ms. Parker, a second-year teacher making $36,000, fears that under the proposed legislation class sizes would rise and higher contributions to her benefits would knock her out of the middle class." Gabriel then looks around the country, where teachers are seeing similar demands to cut their income, benefits and say in how schools are run through collective bargaining as attacks not just on their livelihoods, but on their value to society. "Education experts say teachers have rarely been the targets of such scorn from politicians and voters," he notes. "Republican lawmakers in half a dozen states are pressing to unwind tenure and seniority protections in place for more than 50 years. Gov. Chris Christie’s dressing down of New Jersey teachers in town-hall-style meetings, accusing them of greed, has touched a populist vein and made him a national star." So what's really up? "Although crushing state budget deficits are the proximate cause of lawmakers’ pressure, a further justification for many of the proposed measures comes from the broad accountability movement, which aims to raise student achievement and sees teachers’ unions as often blocking the way," he writes. "Accountability, particularly as measured by student test scores, has brought sweeping changes to education and promises more, but many teachers feel the changes are imposed with scant input from classroom-level educators." He goes on to point that strong union efforts over the last half century may have worked against opinion of individual teachers, especially from those who believe student testing should be used as a means for consequences to those teaching same students.