It's impossible to pick up a newspaper lately without encountering an article about issues that are fundamentally changing the profession of teaching. President Obama's Race to the Top has states looking at how their educational systems operate. Budget difficulties are resulting in real and threatened layoffs of teachers in New York and elsewhere. And teachers' unions and the seniority protections imposed by their contracts, both part of how government and teachers interacted for decades, are under pressure.
studies have shown that the most significant factor in the kind of year any child has in school is the quality of that student's classroom teacher. We don't know if the movement to set aside seniority rules and to measure teacher effectiveness (and job security) by looking at student test scores is going to help students, unless measurements of teacher effectiveness take a broader look at what makes a teacher excellent. What kind of atmosphere does that teacher create in a classroom? Does that teacher nurture independent thinking and thoughtful reasoning? Are students kind to one another and accepting of differences? Do the students want to come to school? These qualities may be difficult to measure, but they are every bit as important as the scores that students get on standardized tests.
As parents look on at the seismic changes impacting our schools and the dedicated individuals who spend hours each day with our children, we can all hope that quality teaching, and the benefits it brings to our children, are the most important consideration to policymakers at all level.