Holding Teachers Accountable For Decisions They Aren’t Allowed To Make

studibeerhurstbbmarieEditor’s Note: We received Karen’s guest post submission this week, and thought it made sense to share to get your take. Would love to hear your feedback in the comments below!

Holding Teachers Accountable For Decisions They Aren’t Allowed To Make

by Karen Schroeder, President of Advocates for Academic Freedom

Billions of tax dollars have been spent over decades to prepare teachers but have produced little evidence of success. States complain that they can’t identify ineffective teachers. That should tell them something!

The significance of subjecting teachers to failed teacher-training programs is lost on those who influence education. Billions of dollars from the federal Common Core Standards, Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation, and other sources will be spent to prepare quality teachers; but those programs will use recommendations from the same educational theorists who created those “failing” teachers in the first place. It is time to stop spending good money on failed policies. Let’s face some truths.

Research and logic indicate that great teachers know their subject well and can simplify complex concepts so children can understand. To achieve this level of skill, each teacher must master the subject he will teach and be prepared to employ whichever teaching method would be most appropriate and effective for a given situation. Teachers fail when the educational system neglects to provide that teacher with the basic knowledge needed to become an expert in a subject.

Grammar and syntax should be introduced early. Few adults today have a clear understanding of grammar and syntax or precise writing. English teachers need to master that knowledge to be effective. Accurate comprehension skills are based on people’s ability to recognize the relationship between basic parts of a sentence and their modifiers.

Math has been the one subject without a language barrier. Discovered thousands of years ago, most efficient mathematical processes allow any person from any country to “talk math” with a person from any other country. As a result, civilizations advanced and evolved with amazing speed. Today, teachers and parents must learn new terminology to help children learn math. No longer can Americans think or communicate using a universal mathematical language.

Few Americans recognize the relationship of math patterns to scientific discoveries, music, or art. They fail to see math as the most amazing puzzle ever created. Federally created (and handsomely-funded) programs have allowed citizens to become mathematically illiterate.

The failed Modern Math of the 1960s is similar to the math standards and curricula provided under Common Core Standards. These two programs encourage children to discover the answer to a math problem on their own, and they require teachers to accept incorrect creative answers over factually correct answers.

Basic math formulas simplify math; they help explain the relationships between patterns, and they create a universal language. Too many America children and teachers have been robbed of this basic understanding of math. Teachers are being labeled as failures when it is their K-12 and college training programs that have failed them.

Teachers are beginning to revolt against being held accountable for failed policies. They have been made invisible, and their involvement has not been sought while policies are being created that will impact their success and that of their students.

Everything Old Is New Again

Every teaching method available to teachers today was available at the time of Plato and Socrates. There are no new teaching methods. Some technologies have made the implementation of those methods more effective, and current teacher-training programs do a relatively good job of preparing teachers to implement teaching methods. The problem occurs when federally aligned curricula requires teachers to use teaching methods which are not appropriate for a specific group of students or for a specific concept that is being taught.

Teachers who object to federal interventions that limit their ability to help students succeed are often threatened with suspension for insubordination.

Teachers need the right to choose the teaching method most appropriate for any given class and for any specific concept. A teacher who chooses a teaching method that fails students is responsible for that failure. When teachers are forced to use methods that are not best for their students, holding the teacher accountable is not fair. That concept belongs in every new teacher- preparation program!

If teachers were required to know their subject, lack of knowledge could be easily identified. If teachers were required to convey that knowledge effectively to students, a five-point quiz could determine a teacher’s effectiveness. Yet, state leaders are complaining that after spending billions on teacher training, they can’t identify ineffective teachers.

Perhaps the teacher is not the problem. Teacher-preparation programs convince teachers to implement federal programs that are morally or intellectually offensive to them. For example, Common Core math standards for grade four require nine-year old children to “critique the reasoning of others.” Teachers would be reluctant to require children to critique the reasoning of classmates or to allow a child to feel bullied considering the relative emotional immaturity of students at this age.

One reason teacher-training programs fail is that educational leaders spend hours convincing teachers that making children “construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others” is educationally sound, morally and ethically necessary. Teachers are told that if this process fails the students, the teacher has failed. Teachers are then reminded that their evaluations will be based upon how well they implement this standard. I sat through many in-service and professional development days where this is exactly what happened.

When your state labels teachers as failures and wants more of your dollars to fund the same old teacher-training programs, refuse to fund any program that fails to improve the teacher’s knowledge of the subject(s) he teaches. Remind your state legislators that Georgia recently spent more than $1 BILLION dollars annually on teacher-improvement efforts with “little evidence of success.” The reason given was that the state “hasn’t figured out a way to identify and remove ineffective teachers.”

Citizens must stop this misuse of funds. We must withhold support for failed federal policies and insist that educational experts be responsible for the failures they have created.

Karen Schroeder is President of Advocates for Academic Freedom, a member of the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board, an experienced public school teacher, and an educational consultant. Karen can be reached at [email protected]net or by calling 715-234-5072; image attribution flickr user studibeerhurstbbmarie











  • I teach ESL English and have to deal with this problem on a daily basis. My students have specific needs to master the English language, and sometimes teaching to mandated objectives is putting the cart before the horse.

  • Holding teachers accountable by mandating curriculum be taught in a manner that is not suitable for students to attain learning is leading our students education in the wrong direction. Teachers know their students and teachers understand how their students learn best. I believe that it is in these circumstance that teachers must take a stand and commit to work as a team to reshape the curriculum and teach to create successful lifelong learners. Leadership in a school can result in many positive changes. Teachers are the leaders in their classroom and teachers have the power to make changes and adjustments to their curriculum. Teachers know that teaching requires planning and making adjustments when they are not succeeding and teachers know we are to be held accountable for our students success, so do what is best for the student and if we show progress and goals can be met then we are doing our job.

  • Growing up, I might have had a dozen truly talented, truly inspired teachers, teachers with the courage to put themselves on the line so we could learn. I was the autistic one, unreachable in the usual run of things, rescued time after time by wonderful people whose passion for learning blazed with a light we children would only much later recognize as love.

    I will put on a blindfold, and stick a pin on a map to mark the start of our years in the wilderness. Call it Sputnik. A talent for teaching seems to have been less important from that time on than ever more technical knowledge of theories of education; schools of education assumed the theories were correct and went into overdrive to apply them. This is the logical flaw properly called “begging the question.” They could get away with it because they certified the teachers and had no doubts.

    The more things went wrong , the more we tried to control the process. Education is, however, not
    controllable, except by making it harder, and slower, and less likely to have good results. It is a creative process that depends more on awakening the creative abilities of students than on teaching them what others have already discovered. Mine was, anyway, and thank GOD for books; books, and hands-on learning.

    I did teach anyway, despite lacking a college education. I taught electronics for four of the 21 years I was in the Army, the best years of my service, exhausting, rewarding and so addictive it was a sure road to burnout. But I can’t teach, even after a 32 year second career in electrical
    engineering (sans degree); that missing degree keeps my talent from being realized. More: I can’t even teach Middle School kids why a dropped ball bounces without a graduate degree in education.

    I know some teachers, and some professors and adjuncts too. I talk to them; they talk to me. Why
    can’t High School graduates entering college put subject, verb and object together to make sentences, sentences to make paragraphs and paragraphs together to persuade, inform and amuse? Why, when we have – technically – the best qualified teachers ever, do we get such
    dismal results? I suspect I know. It’s educational heresy these days, and Vern Ehlers seemed a little put off when I tried it on him (he wants everyone to go to College): I want everyone to have gone to Grade School.

    They might even let me teach there

  • I remember when NYS and other states took phonics out of the curriculum — giving the
    children no handle on de-coding words. Then they blamed the teachers for children not
    reading. My daughter who taught in middle school was instructed by her principal not
    to correct students written mistakes. She had to sneak it in with fear that she would be “caught” as if she were involved in some criminal activity. I’m sure other teachers can add to the list of
    anti-education policies set in place by so-called “experts” and enforced by principals who will
    declare a teacher insubordinate for teaching the way children learn.


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