Teacher bashing

Pay teachers more is the headline of Nicholas Kristof’s latest New York Times column, but the “to be sure” graph “swallows the rest of the piece,” writes Mickey Kaus in the Daily Caller, mock-accusing Kristof of  “teacher bashing.”

 According to Kristof:

(Teachers’ unions) used their clout to gain job security more than pay, thus making the field safe for low achievers. Teaching work rules are often inflexible, benefits are generous relative to salaries, and it is difficult or impossible to dismiss teachers who are ineffective

. . . 47 percent of America’s kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers come from the bottom one-third of their college classes (as measured by SAT scores).

If unions do all those bad things, Kaus wonders, why does Kristof object to Wisconsin Republicans’ move to  “emasculate” them? Does he secretly admire Gov. Walker?

Kristof denies he wants to throw money at the “low achievers” who are now teaching ineffectively. He claims the ”pay should be for performance, with more rigorous evaluation.”  Good idea! But the teachers’ unions are the people who will fight that idea tooth and nail, and probably win.  Again, it seems as if Kristof should back Gov. Walker.

BTW, Kristof is off base on the SAT issue.  High school seniors who say they want to major in education earn below-average SAT scores, but that includes many who won’t earn a degree.  Elementary teaching  attracts some who love children but aren’t into academics.  (Of course, not all elementary teachers fit the sweet-but-dim model.) Would-be secondary teachers who plan to major in English, history, science or math tend to have above-average SAT scores.

About Joanne


  1. One fix: (Of course, not all most elementary teachers do not fit the sweet-but-dim model.)

  2. I see the problem as a failure of the ed schools to wash out or remediate those prospective ES teachers who are either academically weak or uninterested. It’s one thing for kids (almost all girls) to want to teach ES because they love kids and love the artsy-crafty, touchy-feely stuff; it’s another for the ed schools to allow them to complete the program without ensuring soldid academics across the disciplines and the corresponding desire to teach same. Unfortunately, most ed programs seem to be more interested in emotions and process than content.

  3. To be quite honest, how academically superior does a kindergarten teacher have to be? I would prefer a hardworking person with an average SAT, the personality needed to deal with children, and a true love of children, then someone with a high SAT score and few skills dealing with children.

    True, in a perfect world every classroom would have a teacher from the top 10% of their class, and the exact personality needed to deal with their students, but that will never happen. We can’t fill 3.8 million teaching jobs like that. We need to make compromises at some point.

  4. Kudos to you Joanne for mentioning the oft-repeated lie that teachers are academic bottom dwellers, based on a study of high school seniors’ SAT scores.

  5. Thinly-Veiled Anonymity says:

    The reason that many educated folks tend to think of teachers as academic bottom-dwellers is because most educated folks don’t understand how deep the pool is.

  6. ould-be secondary teachers who plan to major in English, history, science or math tend to have above-average SAT scores.

    I am beaming.

  7. I don’t think that early ES teachers need to be rocket scientists, but they should have solid knowledge of the basics in the disciplines – phonics, grammar, spelling, compositon, arithmetic through algebra (above that for later ES, since many well-taught kids should be ready for algebra in 6th grade), geography, civics, history and literature (including the classic myths, fables, poetry, fiction and non-fiction and excluding popular navel-gazing and PC trash) and science (ES-suitable biology, botany, earth science, astronomy, physics and chemistry). They also should know the most EFFECTIVE and EFFICIENT ways to teach all of the above, which ed schools currently seem to ignore; things like synthetic phonics, Singapore Math, teaching kids with common learning problems. They should absolutely be INTERESTED in those areas and define their role as teaching that content and those skills to kids. I’ve had far too many notes from teachers (in one of the supposedly best systems in the country) that proved that their grasp of spelling, grammar and compostion was highly suspect and have seen far too many assignments that were 90% artsy/crafty and touchy/feely and 10% academic content – and graded accordingly. Liking kids and liking arts/crafts isn’t enough.Teachers, at all levels, should focus on academics and the associated habits and behaviors (self-control, perseverence, good speech and good manners) that enable success.

  8. It’s not the lack of academics, it’s the lack of ambition