While there’s been a lot of back and forth lately in the Town Crier about the value of teachers and teacher’s unions, I’d just like to say that my teachers, whether at Oroville or at Gonzaga, were some of the my best influences. Although it doesn’t always seems so at the time what we learn from our teachers goes on to influence us throughout our lives.
While some would beat up on the WEA, including our political cartoonist, I can see how teachers and their unions would not want their pay tied to the way all kids perform on standardized tests. Especially when the “tests” tend to change every year or so – there seems to be as many acronyms for these “standardized” tests as there are combinations provided by our alphabet. The standards change, but our expectations don’t. Almost everyone would agree there needs to be a way to determine how students progress while in school, but it is my experience that some kids do better on standardized tests and others not so well. It shouldn’t be the beginning and the end of the conversation, nor should it be the determining factor in how we pay our teachers.
Besides the many outside influences talked about by Oroville teacher Tam Hutchinson in two previous letters, there are several other factors besides being from a rural area, or a poor area. How about whether the parents are involved in their child’s education? That can be one of the biggest factors – most kids will step up and try harder if one or both parents really care that their child is learning.
Whether it is a public or private school it is a combination of teachers, parents, community – all influencing how a child is going to perform in school. The difference is, if you don’t perform up to standards in a private school, you can be asked to go elsewhere. If you don’t perform up to standards in a public school, well you’re certainly not going to be asked to leave. The public school district will continue to try and do its best to educate you.
What else influences performance – our school board members feel that reducing class size is important. While others say it makes no difference, I always felt it was easier to succeed when the teacher had the time to help you as an individual when you need it. When there are more students in a class then there are more people competing for individualized help.
At a recent school board meeting, Tam talked about flipping his classes – giving his students materials to study then having them ask him questions related to that material, rather than getting up and lecturing on each subject. Oroville School Board chairman Rocky DeVon agreed that this can be a valuable way of teaching.
As far as the WEA goes, while you might not agree with their lobbying efforts, they’re small potatoes compared to some of the new mega-donors out there influencing today’s political discussion. While we’ve always had big corporations out there influencing politics, unions represent a large number of people and str often the only way the little guy can have any influence on legislation. While the WEA represents thousands – their teacher members, some of these new mega-donors represent only one or two views. Which seems more fair to you?