Teacher shock

On Quick and the Ed, a former Teach for America teacher in Baltimore writes about the system’s dysfunction, portrayed in this season of the TV series, The Wire. The HBO series started as a cop show featuring police fighting gangs in Baltimore but now focuses on teen-agers and their schools. (The writer-producer was a teacher for seven years and a police officer for 20 years.)

The show’s premiere shows a staff training meeting that’s real to life, writes Zachary Norris.

Educational consultants with six-figure salaries rattle off clever acronyms like IALAC (I Am Loved And Competent) in steamy August auditoriums and cafeterias. I mean really, how many teachers actually use that stuff? I know I never did. As the frustration of the teachers builds to a crescendo, the professional development meeting devolves into a gripe session about the student population and the hopelessness of their situation. This in itself is destructive, perpetuating negative stereotypes of students and lending to the apathy of teachers.

EdWahoo just started his first year of teaching in Arizona through TFA. He’s discovered a huge achievement gap.

Most of my fourth graders don’t know the meaning of simple words like “show” and “pair.” Most can’t do their 2s times-tables. Most read at least a grade level behind. Most have writing skills that could charitably be called atrocious. It’s a miracle that so many of them can find Arizona on a map, because they certainly can’t find anything else (but, to be fair, 7th graders were placing “Europe” in Oregon and “Greenland” in Montana).

Then there’s the one non-special ed. nine-year-old who I last week taught to read the word “the.”

It’s not that they can’t do it. My kids are a bright, energetic, inquistive bunch. Nor is it that they have no prior knowledge — it’s just floating around in shards, unconnected to anything meaningful. I have to ask this question, though: If thirty students have gone through 4 years of many different schools and understand so little, isn’t that a sign that something has gone horribly wrong?

He also writes about the administravia that wastes teachers’ time, behavior problems, the primacy of test scores and underinvolved parents.

About Joanne


  1. Indigo Warrior says:

    I had no formal teaching experience and no real qualifications other than a college degree and a strong desire to “close the achievement gap.”

    The only way to close the achievement gap is to close the parenting gap.

  2. Since the “parenting gap” is somewhat out of the purview of the public education system anyone interested in closing the achievement gap will have to have a method that accepts the realities and tries to work with them.

    It turns out that there are some folks who’ve managed the trick already but they disappear after a mention or two in the media. Are they being put under a microscope?

  3. Indigo Warrior says:

    Allen, thanks for your comments, but I remain pessimistic. Poor urban slumdwellers have a dysfunctional tribal culture which holds them back long before any of their kids step into a school. This has nothing to do with race, BTW. Read the book Freakanomics for more info.

    As for the “folks who’ve managed the trick”, are you referring to ones like Marva Collins? If so, there are powerful forces that want them to fail. Public educators don’t want to be proven wrong. And left-wing activists for downtrodden minorities are the last people who want them to succeed and climb out of the ghetto.