This guest column is by Dale Glenn of Bloomington, a former principal at Batchelor Middle School. It also appeared on August 10, 2015 in the Herald-Times.
As chairmen of the Indiana House and Senate Education Committees, state Rep. Robert Behning and state Sen. Dennis Kruse have announced formation of a study committee to determine why there is a pending teacher shortage. They seem surprised. They shouldn’t be.
They and Gov. Pence need to look into the mirror. Their destructive educational policies started us down this slippery slope, driving teachers out of the profession when they deprived them of basic rights; held them accountable for factors over which they had no control; deprived public schools of needed resources while handing tax money over to private charter schools (and forgave $91 million of their loans); narrowed the curriculum by forcing schools into high-stakes testing that is not meant to be used for performance evaluation, but is; and publicly humiliated schools, students and teachers in the inner-city with their hurtful, inane A-F grading system — a system that primarily measures poverty. Is holding these students, teachers and communities up to public ridicule going to make them better?
As a career principal, I have witnessed inner-city teachers at work. No one works harder against the most difficult of circumstances. To call them failures, deny them pay increases and take over their jobs is unconscionable. To take inner-city resources (Indianapolis, Gary, etc.) to reward “A” schools (Carmel, Zionsville, etc.), which already have abundant resources, is immoral. In other words, the competitive model of accountability does not fit in a democratic institution that cannot afford to have winners and losers.
Everyone should have the opportunity to grow and learn. Since not every child is blessed equally, it is incumbent upon policy makers to help overcome this difference by allocating resources where they are needed most. Current policies do just the opposite. Is it any wonder why inner-city schools will have the hardest time filling teaching positions?
Your solution, offering monetary rewards based on a test, is insulting to those who know the vagarious nature of such tests, and it falsely assumes teachers just need to work harder. Such extrinsic rewards miss the point. If the goal is to attract people to the profession, we should start by realizing teachers are motivated by something much more meaningful than money.
It starts with the public’s respect for their profession, their knowledge and their training; for their right to determine how they teach and what they teach, knowing the children and what they need; and for the intrinsic rewards afforded them when a student succeeds. They respond in an atmosphere that is collegial, not one that pits one teacher or school against another, competing for resources.
A teacher shortage? It was inevitable. It seems everyone saw it coming but the ones who tried making policy in a vacuum devoid of solid, authentic research and educational expertise.
So, chairmen Kruse and Behning are forming a committee to study the cause of a shortage they helped create. I have a suggestion: call a teacher — any teacher — and ask them. They’ll give you the answer.