Will Teachers Vote in November?
It has been a long two years since President Obama was elected as our nation’s leader. Amidst hope and desperation, teachers across the country rallied behind his message of accountability for all members of our society. “Finally,” we thought, “someone who understands that it surely takes more than just a single classroom teacher to produce an effective citizen.”
Well the President’s accountability message has been strangely truncated, and while he still verbally urges all Americans to get involved in improving education, only the teachers are the ones being held accountable.
More and more, the measure of the worth of a teacher and a school is boiled down to the single, high stakes test taken once a year by students, irrespective of any budget cuts, poor leadership/management, lack of parental involvement, or student motivation factors. Anyone who tries to point out the error in judging something as nuanced as educational achievement in a superficial, simplistic way is automatically labeled as an enemy of the state, a supporter of the status quo, a selfish public servant who just wants an easy job with a pension and benefits, who puts his interests before the students’.
Well, okay. The President and his policy makers are in a position to implement education reform in the manner they see fit. After all, they were elected to do just such a thing.
But the people giveth, and the people will taketh away.
The beauty of our democratic system is that we can hold our elected officials accountable for the promises they made, or implied, during their campaigns. Teachers expected a change from President Obama. We expected an end to the misguided No Child Left Behind policy that mandated 100% proficiency by all of America’s students by 2014, including students with severe handicaps, mental retardation, and those who simply have no interest in pursuing academic careers. We expected a balancing of society, where the ultra-rich, celebrities, and athletes lost a little social capital and perhaps the status of firefighters, police officers, and teachers would be elevated a bit by the vast oratorical skills of Barack Obama.
Instead, we got Michelle Rhee sweeping teachers out of her schools with a broom. We got mass firings and competitions for scarce funding. We were told that the reason we opposed certain reforms was because we feared change. We got “NCLB on steroids,” where testing has become even more sacrosanct, schools and teachers receive virtual floggings via teacher ratings in newspapers, and exaggerated tales of success are sold to the public as evidence of the promise of the new reforms.
This wasn’t the change we wished for.
Will teachers vote in November? I think many will not, if the candidates all offer the same fallacious reform strategies that are currently sweeping the nation. We are looking closely at candidates who are actually listening to teachers’ concerns, those who value the collective expertise of those in the teaching profession. For these, our votes will be gladly cast.
What educational platform will you be supporting this November?