Joan Whitlow, formerly a Star-Ledger editorialist and now with New Jersey Newsroom, opines that we should send teachers to summer school:
Some of what is wrong in the schools that don’t perform might be remedied by sending teachers to summer school instead of sending the kids. State Department of Education officials have been saying for years that too many teachers are not prepared to teach the subject matter, particularly math, that the state expects students to learn. A teacher should be able to ask for help and get help, not punishment or ostracism. Teachers that don’t know enough to ask for help should be required to go get some. Both school administrators and teachers unions must cooperate to create the kind of faculties that make a difference.
There’s the rub: extra schooling for teachers, technically known as professional development, is part of a district’s collective bargaining agreement. In other words, coursework for teachers is controlled by contracts. Typically, it’s about 20 hours per year on subject matter jointly agreed upon by the teacher and his or her supervisor, and it has to occur during the school year, usually September 1st through June 30th.
With all due respect to Ms. Whitlow, it’s not fear of ostracism or lack of self-awareness that prevents teachers from asking for help. It’s the NJEA code, which is informed by a rigid insistence that, once tenured, all teachers have the same needs, the same learning curve, the same gifts and deficits. Our best teachers are immune to this nonsense, or at least have a healthy resistance. Otherwise, they are vulnerable to NEA evangelists, whose gospel of clonish non-differentiation peppers NEA literature. For example, here a piece on the NEA website on why merit pay is bad, which lists “three things to avoid.” The first two are “pay based on subjective evaluations” and “pay based on student test scores.” The third is:
Extra pay for teachers in hard-to-fill subjects. This kind of idea leads to trouble and the thinking that some types of teachers are more valuable than others, NEA believes.
Isn’t there something Orwellian about intoning a mantra, ”we are all the same?” Why can’t one type of teacher be more valuable than another? What happened to supply and demand? We hope none of these teachers are economics instructors.