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The beatings will continue until teacher morale improves

Teachers are facing unrivaled criticism from all sides. The education reform movement has targeted them as the culprits behind failing schools. This culture of disrespect, little support, and unrelenting demands takes a toll on teachers – and on our students.

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With so much riding on efforts to improve schools, it’s a telling commentary that it takes a front-page story in The New York Times to finally get the attention of the public about the precarious state of teacher morale in this country.

Teachers don’t choose a career in the classroom for fame, fortune, or power. The overwhelming majority teaches for the inner satisfaction of helping young people. That’s why, for veteran teachers in particular, the vitriol hurled their way has blindsided them. Their younger colleagues have handled the vituperation far better, because they have never known anything else.

It’s hard to understand what reformers expect to accomplish by their incessant attacks on what seems like all teachers in general. These reformers claim that only by holding the feet of teachers to the coals can educational quality improve. It’s this argument that led to the publication in the Los Angeles Times last August of teacher ratings in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest.

Teachers are treated worse

Yet few other large organizations aimed at improving performance participate in this kind of large-scale naming and shaming, because they realize how counterproductive it is. The military, for example, has some of the strictest standards for promotion. But the details of determining who should be moved up are done behind closed doors. The top brass has long known how important it is to maintain morale among the rank and file.

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