Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Teachers not teaching in subject areas? Why not?

One of the dumbest teacher-bashing headlines ever, appears on the front page of today's Trib. "Teachers may not know the subjects they cover". Are you kidding me?

According to the Tribune:
The assignment of teachers not properly trained and credentialed to teach a specific course — a practice that has come under fire nationwide — is facilitated by loopholes in state laws and rules as well as by district hiring practices. It has occurred even when applicants with the required qualifications were available, the newspaper found.
Teachers teaching out of their subject area? Well duh! Here's a flash for you. This isn't about incompetent teachers not knowing their subject area as the headline suggests. It's really about educational equity (not mentioned in the Trib article). It's about full and equitable school funding and an end to budget slashing. And it's about sub-contracting and privatization, including non-union, privately-run charters, where certification of teachers isn't always required.

Duncan applauds Vergara decision.
Finally, it's about official CPS policy fostered nationally, by Arne Duncan and his Race To The Top initiative which mandates the firing of thousands of experienced, certified teachers and replacing many of them with unqualified 5-week wonders from TFA. Duncan claims he wants all students to have access to "effective educators." Then he turns around and applauds the Vergara court ruling in California which essentially does away with teacher tenure and job protection and allows thousands of experienced, certified teachers to be replaced by principal and district favoritism (including racial and political favoritism).

Similar policies in Chicago have lead to a sharp decline in the number of African-American teachers. As the district's teaching force grows smaller and whiter, it is also becoming less credentialed. When Rahm and BBB fire hundreds of experienced, certified (even Nationally Board Certified) teachers, including dozens of special-ed, art and music teachers along with librarians and school social counselors and social workers, who do you think is going to perform those roles?

The Trib story continues, quoting Univ. of Penn prof. Richard Ingersoll:
The oft-cited reason officials give is that they can't find or afford educators who have the proper credentials for a particular position, in part because of teacher shortages in certain areas, Ingersoll said. Yet the practice is common even in disciplines in which shortages do not exist and in states with a surplus of teachers for available vacancies, he said. "It might be because of favoritism or poor planning or some principal who wants to get around the rules," Ingersoll said.
Ah, now we're getting somewhere. Yes, district leaders and principals are guilty of favoritism and poor planning to get around rules. What rules? Well union contracts, seniority and tenure laws to name a few. As collective-bargaining agreements are increasingly trashed, what you end up with is hiring on the cheap and the debasing and pushing-out of talented veteran teachers.

And don't forget dozens of charter schools which often pride themselves on hiring non-certified teachers or having an inexperienced TFAer filling in wherever needed.

Even if IL and other states begin an overhaul of teacher licensing to close the "loopholes" it will just mean that kids in poor communities and resource-starved schools won't have access to the same courses as those in wealthier communities. For example, a recent Sun-Times article reveals that only about half of the 577 schools run by CPS have an arts teacher for every 350 students, while less than a quarter of district-run schools even provide the recommended 120 minutes a week of arts education for every student.

Rahm's plan is to increase the sub-contracting and privatization of arts education as well as other academic areas to companies and non-profits that aren't required to hire certified instructors.

What about Segrue's credentials?
SUGRUE...What really amazes me is that this headline appears on the front page of the very paper that broke the story about Catherine Sugrue, the sister of Ald. Patrick O'Connor, who was approved by schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett as principal of a north side elementary school even after she had failed the principal eligibility assessment twice in the last 12 months, making her ineligible for the job.

Now is Sugrue supposed to enforce strict adherence to credentialing and have her teachers only teaching in their subject area?

She would have to start by firing herself.

Oh, and speaking of CPS credentialing, I almost forgot "Dr." Terrence P. Carter sent to us by Chicago’s New Leaders for New Schools.


  1. Actually, that's a very funny picture of Arne you have up there--looks like he's kissing (up to someone/thing)--Pear$on executives? Buddies from the Broad Institute? Wait, wait--don't tell me! That person would be...Bill Gates, he-who-dictates-to-Arne-&-the-U.S.D.o.Ed.-what-America's-schools-should-test-&-teach-&-test-&-teach-&-test ~

  2. You'll probably be the only one to read this, Mike (late response), but I've commented to people before that teaching is the ONLY profession where administrators would (w/o consequence to them) move teachers into positions for which either--1. They are actually neither qualified nor certified to teach or 2. They did NOT want to move into, & is not, actually, their greatest age/field of expertise. A law firm, for example, would not tell a lawyer who is in real estate law to become a criminal defense attorney. A hospital/medical practice would not put a pediatrician into a retiring dermatologist's position. However, in the education field, I have witnessed (& been a part of!) principals/education directors changing teachers' assignments--a sixth grade Social Studies teacher moved into a general ed. 2nd Grade class; an Early Childhood sped. teacher sent to be a middle school resource teacher; an Art Teacher for 15 years who taught Grades 6-8 and stayed after school almost EVERY day (Art Club, Play Set Crew, make-up work days), was extremely beloved by the students, &, furthermore knew just how to talk to kids that age to keep them from extreme mischief (which ALWAYS occurred w/a sub--thrown clay, attempted scissors attacks, etc.)--was transferred to the primary grades with no Art room, & had to teach "Art on a Cart,"
    simply because the school she'd taught in had not made AYP (Average Yearly Progress) on the IL State Achievement Tests for several years (due to the sped. subgroup some years, & the ELL subgroup other years). That school was put into "turnaround," & all of the teachers had to re-apply for their jobs--some were switched w/teachers at other schools (who were none-too-happy themselves--the new Art teacher from--you guessed it--the PRIMARY grades--was pretty stunned by the 6-8 graders &, of course, did NOT do very well w/them).
    As one student tearfully asked the 15-year veteran middle school Art Teacher who was to leave, "Mrs. X, what does Art have to do with these tests? There's no Art tests on them!" Indeed--out of the mouths of babes.
    BTW--even after the turnaround, the school STILL has yet to make AYP (again, subgroups--ELL &/or sped don't make the cut)!
    And the kids lost some outstanding teachers.


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.