Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The end of the teaching profession?

"No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up." - Lily Tomlin.

Anthony Cody has posted an interesting (and chilling) vision of the future of education, predicting that by 2018 all teaching will be strictly controlled, with frequent testing, classes monitored and taped for regular inspection, and teacher evaluation based, among other things, on value-added analyses of student test scores, and videos evaluated by outsiders.

I wonder if Anthony is being too optimistic.  There may not be any professional teachers left in the schools in 2018.  I suspect that the plan is to vilify and push out teachers, and replace them with temps, part-timers, and technology. The goal, the only goal, is to make a lot of money for the .01%.

The details:

The goal of the war against teachers is to eliminate the concept of teaching as a profession, to be replaced by temps (eg Teach For America) and eventually be replaced largely by technology (ultimate goal of flipped classrooms). The reason is 100% financial – so that the .01% can grab nearly all of the money teachers earn as well as profit from electronic/virtual teaching.

The .01% want as much of the (at least) 500 billion we spend yearly on education as they can get. 

The .01% plan
1.     Keep pressure on teachers by making their lives as difficult as possible and their task totally impossible. The common core standards and tests are a major part of this.
2.     Continue to attack the teaching profession: The message will continue to be that the US is in economic trouble because of bad education, which is because of bad teachers.
3.     The public, media, and politicians will have no sympathy for teachers’ pointing out how difficult teaching has become, This will be seen as whining, and teachers will then resign/quit in greater numbers.
4.     Continue to stress the importance of teacher evaluation, This sends the message that teachers are not doing their job and that there are a lot of bad teachers out there who must be identified and fired.
5.     Continue to push the idea that TFAs as just as good or better than experienced teachers.
6.     Do not reward teachers for experience, for years of service. This will also encourage more experienced teachers to retire/resign, creating more room for lower-paid temps in the system.
7.     Gradually increase the percentage of teachers who are temps as teachers retire and as they leave the profession because of frustration, This releases money because experienced teachers cost much more than temps. The result is more money for technology.
8.     Continue to convince the public that all technology is wonderful. Use this to push  flipped classrooms and glorify the Khan Academy.  The role of teachers will then be diminished to the equivalent of TA’s. This reduces time spent in classrooms (lowers salaries even more), and lowers the status of teachers even more, as well as saving more salary money and increasing teacher frustration.  Hire part-timers (no benefits) to serve as supplements to virtual teaching. This will be promoted as expanded opportunity for jobs, no teaching credential required.  The public will accept this because they will have lost all respect for teacher credentials.

Look for even more attacks on teachers and teachers unions. This makes sure there is no sympathy for teachers when they complain and no public outcry when teachers leave the profession and are replaced with temps and part-timers.

The above is a reasonable and likely scenario. My conjecture is that in addition, the reformers will continue to expand testing, will charge students for taking the required tests, and in fact make it illegal for students not to take the exams. 


  1. Not to worry! We will be saved through a national bar exam and/or edTPA, in which new teachers will learn to meet the demands of rubrics and outside evaluators (hired by Pearson), and be well disciplined in the mechanics of teaching and the pretense of reflection. Thus we will prove our worth as a profession and be saved. Or so we in teacher education are told. And the silence on what is happening in teacher education, except for those of us living it who recognize and speak the danger, is quite chilling.

  2. In addition, if this happens to me, I will not know what to do to earn a living, because all I know is just to be a teacher, not much, what do you think?

    1. I absolutely agree with you, at 57 I had taught for almost 35 years, never really done anything else,and knew that no one would hire me for other jobs that I would be able to do, because of my age. Then, I became a victim of being one of the "older teachers", one who is more experienced and successful, but costs the school district more. No matter how qualified one is, what growth students have shown in the past years (1.5 years reading growth is pretty good to me), you are all at once considered "ineffective." If your school district is on a mission to get rid of those who cost too much, and being so old they are not able to instantly absorb and use newer techniques, never mind if those are not successful, the admin will find a way. In my case I was deemed outstanding one year and ineffective the next. I was offered early retirement due to medical concerns, an easy cover to get rid of several of us. All of us were healthy enough to do our jobs well, and even better than many, but reasons, no matter how farfetched, were used on many of us. I discourage any young students, heading to college, from entering education, so sad, but true. Soon there will be no dedicated, hard working, talented, loving teachers left. If there is concern for our students now, the future is truly dim.

    2. I think you underestimate the value teachers bring but if we don't redefine our roles and added-value beyond delivering information - we are toast! And even if the world drastically changes - learning has never been more vital for surviving. I will always be a teacher in some form - some way - some where. But being more modern will be essential - so be part of redefining your work in the world. No technology can replace mentoring, curiosity drivers, nurturing talent - resource connecting, or inspiring - education means to unleash potential - it is sacred work that will never belong to machines. But the days of being holders of the facts - that job is zapped and already in demise.

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  4. Here's a personalized call for Hoosier Teachers:

    Are you aware that the Indiana legislature is participating in a national campaign to eliminate the career of professional, public education teacher?

    Have you pieced together why the RISE evaluation is purposely designed to discourage effective teachers?
    • This from a teacher of non-English speaking students: “I know that I cannot be categorized as a highly effective teacher...ever...because I CHOSE to teach ENL students. My primary growth measure comes from this one state test that the majority of my kids can't even read.”
    • This from one of the few teachers rated highly effective this year: “I will not get merit pay for my accomplishments this year: there is no money. I now no longer get a raise. I watch my colleagues who are wonderful, loving, caring individuals walk around with their heads hanging. It is hard to be the teacher the students deserve with the insecurity and negative forces that surround what I do and love.”
    • And this from a principal who chose retirement rather than continue on with an abusive system: “My philosophy of education and what I deem to be important for children are in conflict with the educational reforms implemented this year… During this school year, as your child’s elementary principal, there was little time to interact with your children, problem-solve, assist teachers and visit classrooms. Essentially all my days were spent typing at the computer writing up teacher observations and evaluations.”

    Have you pieced together why the Indiana State Legislature has made destroying the Indiana State Teacher’s Association through right to work [sic] laws and new legislation requiring union dues to be paid directly out of pocket?
    Have you pieced together that while Indiana legislatures have created a system where teachers will no longer receive raises or a living wage, they have diverted hundreds of millions of dollars from true educational needs to pay for the implements of public education’s destruction – Standardized testing and test prep materials, bailouts for failing charter schools, voucher programs, and infrastructure for a nationalized curriculum?
    Have you pieced together why there is no greater irony in education that telling public education teachers that their higher education degree is of no value?
    • From a fellow Hoosier teacher: “I am 36 years-old, hold two Bachelor Degrees, one Masters Degree, and have another 19 years until my student loans are paid off to do this thankless job. The system is so stacked against teachers…”
    Have you pieced together why you feel incredible pressure; why it seems impossible to do the work you want to do to help children learn?
    • “I am wasting countless hours of time creating artifacts to complete a rubric to show I am worthy of my job. Best of all, next year, I get to start the whole process over wasting even more time.”
    • When I became a teacher many years ago, I knew working beyond the contract was the unwritten rule. Helping clubs, designing high-interest units, collecting materials for a project, reading books to share. Because of the tremendous reward, this did not seem like working overtime. Fast forward to today. I have continued to work beyond the contract, but for what? To enter test scores into data clouds? To copy skill and drill test prep material? To gather artifacts to put in a binder to prove my worth?
    Have you pieced together why some schools are searching for donations to get the essentials and laying off teachers because their budgets have been slashed by Statehouse policy, but meanwhile, the same lawmakers chose to bail out failing charter schools at the cost of $74 million.
    Have you pieced together why, inside the walls of schools you hear this over, and over, and over again?
    • “I am counting down the years until retirement…”
    • “I’m leaving the profession I once so dearly loved…”
    • “Huge numbers of good teachers are leaving our district this year…”

    1. Well said, better than I could. After 34.5 years, I still needed 5 more years to have the 30 needed in my state for full retirement, 48% of the average of your last 5 years pay. I was forced to take early retirement in the guise of a medical disability, as insulting as it was to feel "damaged" and lose so much income, I find the quality of my life to be greatly improved. I would rather live on very little and sacrifice even more than previously than to continue in an environment that goes against my personal beliefs and caused me daily to become more and more clinically depressed (due to stress and pressure).

    2. John, thank you for this comment. This nightmare scenario is unfolding before our very eyes and like global warming, I am hopeful it is not too late to do something about it.

  5. I recently (in February) did a comic strip version of the scenario described above for my newspaper/web comic "Mr. Fitz." I thought these strips might be a compliment to Anthony Cody's views about where we're headed, so I posted the entire series here...

  6. I agree in large part that our profession is under siege. I just want to ask one thing. The math teacher in me can't help it. You mean 1%, right? 0.01% is "one one-hundredth of one percent", or in other words, 0.0001 of the population. As educators, we sure would carry a lot more credibility if we could at least get these simple facts straight.

    1% = 0.01
    0.01% = 0.0001

    My 2 cents ($0.02)

    1. I rather think Steve meant what he wrote...that's approximately 31,500 people--the wealthiest of the wealthy.

    2. Yes, the .01%, not the 1%.

  7. Steve, you have superbly articulated exactly what I believe. Thank you. But, as I know you believe because you constantly take action, let us not go down without one helluva fight.

  8. Nice to see classical Marxist analysis making a comeback. You are surely right that capital is the force working behind the scenes in this case. I just wonder whether it is right to put the technocratic narrative as the last of the 8 point-plan that you see underway.

    Let's imagine that the 99.99% come together at long last and seize the surplus value that has been unjustly expropriated by the 0.01%. The Gates Foundation and all the other corporations are nationalised. Will everything then be rosy? What about all these TEDx-type people who think the future is the future of technology - people for whom flipped classrooms and personalised online education are not just about creating new markets for the likes of Sal Kahn and the Bill Gates dynasty? What about all these people who, when they look to the most disadvantaged and politically disempowered areas of the world, judge that what those people most urgently need are laptops and broadband - the sort of people who leap to their feet when they hear Sugata Mitra describing his hole in the wall project? Is the technocentric imaginary (the techno-theology) just a sham ideology that would collapse were the economic base to be pulled away, or is it a force in its own right that needs to be criticised independently of the counter-attack that (quite rightly) needs to be launched against the unjust and unsustainable activities of the 0.01% (or the 1%)?

  9. This is not a debate between Marxism and Capitalism. This is a debate between ethical capitalism and unethical/greedy capitalism. And those who really think laptops etc are the way should be enthusiastic about empirical scientific tests of their ideas.

  10. It is Corporatism (the new definition) plain and simple. It's immediate profit margin, and screw anyone that gets in the way. The current push for CC$$ is the tip of the proverbial iceberg that wants to sink public education. Why else would Smarter Balance post test practice without giving a score for the practice test? First they roll put the test and when everyone fails it, then they'll roll out the answers and suggestions for improvement. then it will be time to modify the assessment, then withhold and so on... Their vision is that the teacher will be replaced by a proctor, or something like a security guard (armed if they really had their way). And we teachers, like the good doting sheeple that go along with whatever comes down from the mountain top will sit by and watch our numbers dwindle... It's past time to speak out and justify our value, or go along and let our profession die...

  11. Over 25 years ago Frank Smith in his book I"nsult to Intelligence: The Bureaucratic Invasion of Our Classrooms", wrote:

    “..The computer is the ultimate weapon of instructional programmers, and in many people’s minds at least, it is a device to take the place of teachers. Anyone who believes that students learn best from systematic instruction and tests can say goodbye to teachers. For dispensing programmatic instruction, computers are cheaper and more efficient than humans.

    ..Our schools should not remain places where the enormous potential of the human brain is systematically eroded, and possibly destroyed. The invasion of education by instructional programmers must be turned back now.”

    No one listened then and not enough people listen now.

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