2009-12-11 / Letters

Correct In School Observations

Dear Editor,

In his column, "Rockaway Beat," Howard Schwach writes that Bloom - berg/Klein and their parrots know absolutely nothing about education and the same goes for the Daily News, the NY Times, or college professors who haven't been in a classroom since they graduated from high school. He followed this up with a second column on the extinct Board of Examiners. Mr. Schwach is ab - solutely correct in his observations.

The latest change pseudo-educators Bloomberg and Klein want to enforce is that teachers' tenure should depend on test data as to how well their classes are doing. Wash - ing ton has money for education, but this is one of the qualifications a school system must enforce. Goes to show you how much Washington knows about teaching. Yes there are bad teachers and excellent teachers.

I've met them all in my professional activities as teacher, " dean, acting AP, teacher member of the Board of Examiners, grade adviser, curriculum writer, and workshop presenter. But to grade a teacher based on how well his/her students perform is ludicrous, especially for a newly assigned teacher. A class as - sign ed to any teacher is, for the most part, random. If that class consists of a majority of poor or anti-social students (of course Charter schools need not worry about the latter), the overall average test grade will be low. Conversely if the class consists of a majority of good students, the overall average test grade will be high. So what would happen (and it does) if a fairly good, willing new teacher ends up with classes consisting of poor students. It doesn't take much thought of the consequences if Bloomberg/Klein wins out regarding this qualification: teachers will just increase their teaching to the test rather than teaching to the subject.

I was lucky when I began my teaching career. My first chairman was a real "old timer" who had some 40 years experience in education. He went from teacher to Assistant Prin - cipal solely through his experience. He told me, "A student will learn be - cause of or in spite of the teacher." I always kept his advice in mind when I taught a class. There are students and then there are "students." I've taught under the supervision of other, highly qualified APs with many years of teaching experience and I've learn - ed more about teaching from them than from any college professor and, yes, I've even imitated some of their best teaching techniques. But I would find it difficult to be in a classroom today based upon what I've been told by teachers presently in the system.

As for the NYC Board of Examiners it was initiated to ensure that teachers and supervisors in the NYC school system were the very best. Pros pec - tive teachers and supervisors took tests and went through interviews before being licensed. Today this is not done and, as Mr. Schwach writes, it's a very bad mistake. I was a teach - er examiner on the Board of Exam - iners and I remember a few instances where prospective teachers were un - dergoing the oral test for biology. I asked one a simple question: "What's the difference between Darwin's Theory of Evolution and Lamark's Theory of Evolution?"

The reply was, "Who's Darwin?" Then there's the time a prospective teacher was answering questions, but his English was so poor that neither I nor the AP sitting next to me understood what he was saying. When it came time to mark the written portions of the test, specifically on the subject matter and not so much for the grammar, spelling, etc., it was difficult in some cases as the spelling and grammar were so poor that the subject matter went by the wayside. Today these applicants could end up in a classroom.

If you're not a licensed doctor, you can't practice medicine and you can't run the American Medical Associ - ation. If you're not a licensed lawyer, you can't practice law and you can't lead the American Bar Association. If you're not a licensed engineer, you can't build a bridge and you can't head the National Society of Engin - eers. If you're not a licensed pilot, you can't fly a plane and you can't run pilots associations. But if you lack any training in education, are not a licensed educator, have never dealt with kids in a formal manner, have no concept of basic child psychology, and you've never taught a class you can still run the NYC Department of Edu - cation dictating policy and curriculum in the public schools of NYC. Go figure!

STEPHEN YAEGER FORMER TEACHER BCHS

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