Coalition for Excellence in Science and Math Education

Teachers are educators, not saviors

Kudos to the Albuquerque Journal for printing CESE president Lisa Durkin's editorial on March 21st, 2016. Here follows Lisa's letter.

Lisa DurkinTeachers are educators, not saviors

By Lisa Durkin / President, Coalition For Excellence In Science Education
Monday, March 21st, 2016 at 12:02am

For decades society has looked to schools for social engineering.

Legislation from IDEA to NCLB requires schools to be the remedy for poverty, apathy and dysfunction. While it is true that a student cannot choose the milieu from which they are born, it is also true that the deficiencies a student arrives with on campus are out of a school’s control.

Teachers can educate any student. That is the profession they have been certified in, and every child can learn. But teachers will always do a poor job of parenting kids, erasing their troubles and bridging economic gaps.

The assumption is that educators are the reason for poor performance in and out of school. Perceptions about teacher incompetence are based on manufactured metrics that are rigged, since they require teachers to make up for insufficiencies born of social, economic and mental strife.

Teachers and administrators are expected to be saviors, and we are failing. Our failure suits a political narrative.

Policy makers, who use educational hot buttons and sound bites to gain election, pitch one reform after another, all of which are based on the assumption that teachers are the problem.

At what point will society realize that pounding schools with accountability measures will always fail as long as it rests on faulty assumptions?

The truth is, society needs to solve its own problems.

Schools can’t fix kids, fix families or fix the economy. Schools can only educate a healthy and willing population.

It is the product of society that educators serve. Schools are merely a reflection, not the creator of society.

Communities that fill schoolhouses with economically advantaged kids from stable homes have always performed better than those tormented by social and economic strife. Statistical analysis yields these results again and again.

No one has the solution to this age-old problem, but many slick programs claim they do. Billions of tax dollars slip down that rabbit hole every year.

Accountability needs to rest on the shoulders of an American population who find it easier to shirk their responsibilities onto the schools.

It’s far easier to blame educators, and expect them to meet impossible requirements, than to hold members of society accountable.

Do schools have areas of concern? Yes, some districts would most certainly fail if they were businesses. Although, it would be prudent to hold them accountable for only that which they have control over.

It’s hard to sift through rhetoric based on agenda-born conclusions. Statistical twisting and pseudo-analysis traps many folks into counterproductive presumptions.

Here is what we know: Schools have been under a constant state of reform since 1958. Results can be attributed to a myriad of factors other than the contribution of educators. It’s time for society to face the fact that they need to look to themselves for economic and social solutions, and leave schools to simply educate.

Lisa Durkin is a science teacher at Valencia High School.