As the Hechinger Report’s Anya Kamenetz notes in Almost 70% of Teachers Are Not Engaged. Here’s Why That Matters So Much, “there’s an intimate connection between the schoolroom engagement of students, and the workplace engagement of teachers.” She then cites the truism that has been lost on school reformers, “Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions.”
Kamenetz reviews a brilliant analysis by Gallup Education, The State of America’s Schools. My joy in reading the study, and Kamenetz’s explanation, was tempered only by a sense of regret that its main themes were not the basis of the contemporary school reform movement.
Data-driven reform, in part, was born of an ill-considered effort to sound macho. Testing, like attacks on teachers, allowed reformers to chant tough-sounding words like “accountability” and “outputs.”
Gallup explains how reform produced “a rigid set of education standards.” It created “a stranglehold on teachers and students.” Consequently, “teachers are dead last among the occupational groups Gallup surveyed in terms of their likelihood to say their opinions seem to count at work.”
As Gallup’s Brandon Busteed reports, reformers got it backwards. The path to school improvement requires a commitment to “soft” measures, such as hope, feeling valued, emotional relationships, and being engaged in teaching and learning. Busteed says, “quote unquote ‘soft’ measures move the quote unquote ‘hard’ measures, like grades and test scores.”