What happens when students are not achieving? Who should be held responsible? In the urban district where I teach, some believe that teachers are to blame, so you have to change the staff in order to improve the school and student achievement.
This is the most outrageous thing I have ever heard. I can speak from personal experience: there are so many factors that come into play when students are not doing well, and more often than not teachers have very little control over what goes on in their schools. For instance, last year one student failed because he never came to school. He missed 100 days out 180. Why is that my fault?
Research has shown that teachers only influence 10% of the changes in students’ achievement; the other 90% is directly related to parental involvement, poverty level, and other factors that are outside of a teacher’s control.
Problems with achievement must be carefully and properly evaluated in order to come up with plausible solutions. There is no guarantee changing staff will fix the problem. In Los Angeles, in an attempt to make change, a large number of experienced and qualified teachers were replaced with inexperienced teachers and long-term substitutes. This move did not help resolve issues with achievement. I have seen a total turnaround in one high school in the district where I teach, in the hopes that it would help with an achievement gap. The opposite happened. Students are still performing poorly.
I do believe it would be in the best interest of all students to look into research-based solutions. The report titled Changing the Odds for Students’ Success: What Matters Most states that there are five factors that have a positive impact on student achievement: Collaborative goal setting; non-negotiable goals for achievement and instruction; board alignment and support of district goals; monitoring; and resource alignment. Unfortunately my district has pandered to political pressure by opting for the replacement of teachers instead of focusing on research-based solutions.
Teachers have become easy prey: if students are not achieving then it must be the teachers’ fault. This kind of mindset will only make a bad situation worse. Each school community has specific needs; it would be wise to come up with a comprehensive plan unique to that particular school. At best, it is foolish to have a cookie-cutter approach to solving such a complex problem. Quick fixes will only make things worse.