Most Principals and Teachers DO work hard for schools, but that doesn’t ensure success

Recently, a representative of the New Mexico Association of Secondary School Principals wrote an opinion piece in the Albuquerque Journal defending his profession.

The most interesting part of the article comes toward the end where the author makes a clear grammatical error when he states, “Let’s not listen anymore to rhetoric that is being promoted by special interest groups that want us to believe that are schools are failing.” (emphasis added to the faulty wording which should be “our). I’ve certainly mis-typed and even mis-spelled words in my writing before, but having such a blatant error in an article written on behalf of school principals is not comforting.

More important is the sentence itself. “Special interests” want us to believe that schools are failing. I’m sure that as an educator, one gets tired of hearing about the failures of the system they are a part of, but that’s the issue, the system. As Capitol Report New Mexico reported just this week, New Mexico spends 20th most per pupil in the nation, but has some of the worst results when it comes to student achievement. Clearly something is failing.

And, yes, poverty is higher here and we have more minority students than most states, but Louisiana which has many of the same problems as New Mexicoincluding poor performance — has adopted the most robust school choice in the nation and an astonishing 91 percent of parents approve. If New Mexico’s principals really cared about their “customers” and wanted to improve the failing system they are a part of, wouldn’t they consider emulating Louisiana?

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5 Replies to “Most Principals and Teachers DO work hard for schools, but that doesn’t ensure success”

  1. I hate to criticize educators, but the ones who write letter to newspapers are tempting targets because they whine so much.

    Part of the problem is the closed-silo syndrome I used to see in in the military and some corporations: hard-working, conscientious people who have limited vision because they have never worked anywhere else. Most teachers and administrators have spent their entire careers in education and have never experienced a competitive environment. Closed-silo businesses often cope with new challenges by hiring people from other industries, as Ford did when they hired a CEO from Boeing, and it makes sense for school systems to do likewise.

    Some school systems have brought in non-educator chief executives — such as Paul Vallas,who turned around school systems in Chicago, New Orleans and Philadelphia. I’d like to see New Mexico embrace educational diversity with a fast-track certification system that will enable experienced professional and business people to pursue second careers as teachers. And there are any number of private-sector human resources executives who can design a better teacher evaluation system than the educational bureaucrats have come up with.

  2. Comes Mr. McClure to critique a letter written by a highly-qualified, hard-working, professional educator who has dedicated his life to meeting the educational needs of other people’s children

    Rather than imagining that the writer was “whining,” as did Mr. McClure, I saw an honest presentation of the astonishing and long list of tasks and responsibilities undertaken by, and/or imposed upon, an exemplary school leader.
    I should not have been surprised by the extensive list of this principal’s duties since I, as a teacher for 13 years, had the opportunity to observe several excellent school administrators “up close and personal.”

    What I am tired of is the constant whining from critics of educators and our public school system. These self-appointed “authorities” have never taught a day in their lives, but claim to have all the answers. The most distressing thing about the suggestions for improvement of public schools offered by Mr. McClure, is that he has no understanding of the many differences between running a business and educating children.

    Mr. McClure is also unaware of a program at CNM that does exactly what he sees as a solution to his “closed silo” problem. He holds people like Paul Vallas as examples of successful school management.

    Vallas was not so successful in Bridgeport, Connecticut: The leader of a Bridgeport citizens group, Lindsay Farrell says “the changes Vallas has made in the district are ‘unequivocally bad.’ Teachers and students are spending more time preparing for standardized tests, administrative costs have risen, and funding for school supplies, special education, and elective programs has been cut.”

    While being paid $1200 per day by the North Chicago school district, according to the “Chicago Sun Times,” “Vallas ushered in an era of massive expansion of standardized testing; the privatization of public schools through outsourcing and charter school expansion; and the devastating policy of school turnarounds, which resulted in the firing of scores of black and veteran teachers.” Schools are scrambling for supplies and teachers are struggling to get by but the school district somehow finds $1200 per day for Vallas and his questionable “reforms.”

    All of Mr. McClure’s “Silver bullet” reforms have been tried and have resulted in little or no improvement. If school vouchers are so great, why have citizens voted them down by 2 to 1 margins and even higher percentages in minority areas?

    School reform efforts have failed for one major reason: No one talks to educators. In fact, self-appointed “reformers” denigrate educators with the same smirking superiority as used by Mr. Gessing and Mr. McClure. “Reform” is done to teachers rather than with teachers. Only when that lesson is learned, will meaningful school reform take place.

  3. Mr. McClure states, “And there are any number of private-sector human resources executives who can design a better teacher evaluation system than the educational bureaucrats have come up with.”

    (By the way, as long as we are picking nits over minor grammatical errors, may I point out to Mr. McClure that sentences should not begin with the word “And,” nor should they end with prepositions.)

    Mr. McClure demonstrates his ignorance of what is required to create a valid evaluation system for educators. I doubt that few, if any, “… private sector human resources executives…” are capable of designing an evaluation system that removes from an educators evaluation, all the factors in a student’s educational success that are out of the educator’s control. These factors account for approximately 55% of a student’s achievement. This requires a deep knowledge of statistical processes and systems analysis, such as that which is being performed by members of the Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education. (cese.org)

    As the teacher said, “I understand that you are a successful business person (or politician, or bureaucrat) who has never spent a day in a classroom with students and you have great ideas about education reform. Let me sit down and catch my breath while you expound.”

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