Why is it so hard to improve schools within the public school system?

There were some awful teachers at the only  public school I’ve worked at. (One that comes to mind quickly was a special education teacher who spent most of the period she was supposed to be in class reading magazines in the teachers lounge.) I thought the union protected them. Now I think that the principal allowed them to be awful. That’s not a union issue, that’s a leadership issue.

There were teachers who got laid off, but subs would replace them in those classes for the whole year. Many of the issues that led to such a “bad” school were not union issues but a systems-management issues.

A fellow teacher once told me something that shifted how I thought about unions. She said that the union is the only support most teachers get. Many don’t feel supported by administrators, parents or students, and certainly not by the public these days. The union is the only thing in a teacher’s corner.

I might be over-simplifying the situation. I don’t pretend to have the answers. There are many things outside my current realm of understanding. I’m amazed that school hasn’t been shut down, turned-around, or made into a charter. I have no idea how to fix that school, but the students deserve more than what they got when I was there, and I don’t think it was the teachers who made it that way.

I left that school after my first two years of teaching. When I interviewed at the charter school I currently work at, I was asked why I left the public school system so early in my career. I replied that I left for a charter school with similar demographic of students because the charter school was able to meet more of the students’ needs. There was more support, there was more of a team atmosphere and there was a lot less red tape. There was also less money for me. In the end, that was a factor in deciding to leave.

The movie Won’t Back Down seems to play into this idea that turning a school into a charter is the only way to improve it, and as a happily employed charter teacher, that is incredibly sad to me.

I fear that the movie, like Waiting for Superman, will grossly distort the complex issues facing us today and that it may actually be detrimental to improving education in our country.

But the question still remains – Why is it so hard to improve schools within the public school system? 

I’m not advocating for more charter schools. I don’t think dismantling teachers unions will solve the problem either. I am advocating that all schools receive resources and support to be able to meet the needs of their students. This is what I believe many teachers in Chicago are fighting for as well.

As negotiations continue in Chicago for a teacher contract, I understand where many of a teacher’s frustrations come from and am glad to know that there is an organization supporting them. I believe the teachers union truly wants what is best for the students.

3 responses to “Why is it so hard to improve schools within the public school system?

  1. Pingback: There have got to be better options | Learning to the Max

  2. Pingback: Is this what you fought for? | Learning to the Max

  3. Pingback: Why I’ve just been sitting down and reading/listening | Learning to the Max

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