Teachers Offer the Wealthy an Escape from Poverty
A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty to the child who dreams beyond his circumstance.
We know a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000.
Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let's offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren't helping kids learn.
You cannot have it both ways. You cannot tell teachers to be creative, you cannot pretend you are "flexible," when you mandate the use of test scores for teacher and principal evaluations, and continue to use them as the basis by which schools are condemned as failures.
But the biggest burn is this. Everyone now knows that many of the wealthy have abandoned any pretense of caring about the poor in this country. They use every device to cling not only to their privilege, but to obscene levels of enrichment. The answer to poverty ought to be clear to us, as it was to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. more than fifty years ago. Poor people need a living wage. People need opportunities to work. We need a tax structure that rewards people for working and producing, not investing billions in tax havens overseas.
Of course teachers make a difference. But the idea that teachers will somehow elevate the one in four children in this country from poverty is not only wrong, it is a distraction from the real sources of poverty and inequality. In short, it lets the billionaires off the hook.
The drive to get rid of bad teachers for the benefit of the poor is a phony crusade. The use of test scores for this purpose ensures that students in high poverty schools will continue to wallow in year-round test preparation, even while Arne Duncan sails around telling everyone he is opposed to teaching to the test..
The only people who are escaping poverty as a result of this charade are the wealthy. By making teachers the source of salvation, the rest of society is off the hook. By claiming that "bad teachers" are the reason our students lag, we can, as a society, ignore the enormous opportunity and resource gap that condemns millions of our children to poor futures.
What do you think? Do teachers offer students an escape from poverty? Or is it the wealthy who are looking for the easy way out?