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The Failing Teacher and the Teachers' Code of Silence ^ | December 3, 2001 | Glenn Sacks

Posted on 12/03/2001 5:54:42 AM PST by Stand Watch Listen

Police officers are well-known for their "code of silence"--their hesitation to divulge information about the misdeeds of other officers. As Los Angeles witnessed during the Rampart scandal, this code is often the greatest enemy of prosecutors and police reformers.

Law enforcement, however, is not the only profession with a damaging "code of silence." Educators have a similar code, and our silence serves to keep failing teachers in the classroom, to the detriment of hundreds or thousands of students per teacher. Studies estimate the number of failing teachers at between 5% and 18%, and most high schools or middle schools have teachers who are failing, or close to it.

High school and middle school teachers know about failing teachers because we often have the same students and, no matter how much we may try to ignore harsh words about our colleagues, the students tell us, or tell each other in our presence. We try to ignore it because we know how hard teaching can be. We try to ignore it because any sign of agreement from us in front of the students serves to undermine the struggling teacher. We try to ignore it because we do not want to seem petty or mean, because we have to deal with our failing colleagues in meetings and on committees, and because it is "none
of our business" anyway. Countless times I have debated whether to remain silent as I listened to an earnest but out of touch parent express complete faith in a teacher whom I knew to be damaging his or her child's education.

Teachers are evaluated primarily through administrative observations, though many times overworked administrators and department chairs fail to conduct them. Even when they are done, all but the worst teacher is usually capable of surviving them if he or she knows about it in advance. The failing teacher tells the students the day before that "we are going to have a visitor tomorrow and anybody who causes problems while the visitor is here is in big trouble" and promises future reward. It usually works.

By carefully scheduling the observation times in advance, the administrator is telling the teacher "I won't be stopping by your class unannounced to see what's really going on in there because I don't want to know. Let's arrange exactly when I'll come in so you can put on the necessary show and then we're both covered."

Sometimes a failing teacher's classroom is a daily battleground. In other cases, failing teachers and their students reach an unspoken agreement--the teacher pretends to teach and the students pretend to learn. The students are given a light amount of busy work and the students use the extra time to do work for their other classes, pass notes, or chat in low voices. Everybody is happy--the class is relatively quiet (often an administrator's judge of a teacher's competence goes no deeper than the question--"is it quiet in there?"), the failing teacher survives, and the students have less work to do. When it is necessary, the students will put on a show in front of any bothersome visitors.

Failing teachers often compound their problems by refusing to refer out disruptive students. Failing teachers know that most administrators know little about what is really happening in the classroom and that, as long as they do not bring attention to themselves, the teacher will be presumed to be "doing fine." Referrals serve to draw unwanted attention from administrators.

One of the reasons that administrators often would rather not know about failing teachers is that it is frequently difficult to find suitable replacements. This is particularly true of teachers who work in crime-ridden areas where few teachers want to go, or who teach one of the many subjects where there is a shortage of qualified teachers. According to former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, 28 percent of high school math teachers and 55 percent of physics teachers have neither majors nor minors in their subjects. Over a third of all teachers in grades seven through twelve are teaching a subject that they have not studied.

More importantly, because of the union and tenure protections teachers enjoy, it is costly and time-consuming to terminate a teacher, particularly once their probationary period is over. Nationally, it takes between two and three years and costs roughly $60,000 to fire a teacher.

It is unspoken but well understood among teachers that these protections often keep bad teachers in the classroom, yet because of the trying nature of our profession we are hesitant to surrender these safeguards. That is why I am skeptical that a genuine solution to the problem will ever come from us. Failing teachers? We'd rather not talk about it.
Glenn J. Sacks

TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: educationnews
Here’s some links to some education threads (also containing numerous helpful links>


Time for outrage! Linda Bowles reports latest results in America's public schools
Source:; Published: November 27, 2001
Author: Linda Bowles

Illiterate in Boston: Samuel Blumenfeld explains U.S.'s ongoing reading problem
Source:; Published: July 20, 2001
Author:Samuel Blumenfeld

NEA - Let our children go!
Source: WorldNet Daily; Published: June 23. 2001
Author: Linda Harvey

Why Do Schools Play Games With Students' Minds ?
Source: The Detroit News; Published: April 1, 2001
Author: Thomas Sowell

The Public School Nightmare: Why fix a system designed to destroy individual thought?
Author: John Taylor Gatto

Dumbing down teachers
Source:; Published: 2/21/01
Author: John Leo

Free Republic links to education related articles (thread#8)
Source: Free Republic; Published: 3-20-2001
Author: Various

Are children deliberately 'dumbed down' in school? {YES!!!}
Source: World Net Daily; Published: May 13, 2001
Author: Geoff Metcalf {Interview}

New Book Explores America's Education Catastrophe
Source: Christian Citizen USA; Published: April 2000
Author: William H. Wild

Deliberately dumbing us down (Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt's, "The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America"
Source:; Published: December 2,1999
Author: Samuel L. Blumenfeld

Could they really have done it on purpose?
Source: THE LIBERTARIAN; Published: 07/28/2000
Author: Vin Suprynowicz

From the Littleton Crisis to Government Control link

The UN Plan for Your Mental Health link

1 posted on 12/03/2001 5:54:42 AM PST by Stand Watch Listen
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To: Stand Watch Listen
2 posted on 12/04/2001 12:15:33 PM PST by Stand Watch Listen
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To: Stand Watch Listen
In 1946 my first grade school teacher told us that within 50 years we would see a man on the moon, she also told us that there would be a shortage of oil and other energy sources. This teacher was probably getting paid about $2000 per year at the time. She is comfortabily retired at this time and just watching her former students perform. What did I learn from her? How to read, how to write, how to reason, simple logic and that life is not all about me. Thank god for this lady, she is still a pillar of wisdom.
3 posted on 12/04/2001 12:30:05 PM PST by Hardcorps
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To: *Education News
4 posted on 12/05/2001 9:54:28 AM PST by Stand Watch Listen
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To: Stand Watch Listen
Thanks for article and the links. I'd like to add that there's one thing worse than a failing teacher, and that's a bad teacher (though the two categories are not mutually exclusive!).

Two of my children seem to have a permanent aversion to 'art,' after years of classes with a slutty, vacant, arbitrary, totally irrational woman whose glazed eyes made you wonder about her chemical intake.

After the older two were practically ruined, I finally wised up and took the youngest one out of there. He is now homeschooled.

5 posted on 12/05/2001 10:48:03 AM PST by gumbo
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To: Stand Watch Listen
In my many quixotic campaigns for School Board, I tried to convince the voters of the value of an objective, fact-based education by using the following metaphor:

"Imagine your little Johnny and Mary are automobiles." Now we all know that some cars are better than others. But we also know that no one's car is going anywhere without fuel. Now think of factual subject matter knowledge as the fuel. No facts in your head=no gas in your tank. (I know what you're thinking. "Jeesh, no wonder the guy lost, today's voters cannot handle the concept!")

A car should also be shiny, have a decent heater and air conditioner, good tires, be properly tuned, and be safe. That is what public schools do when they "socialize" Johnny and Mary. That is, insofar as is possible, they want to make all the cars roughly the same, which is the educator's idea of "democracy," and "outcome-based education."

Modern educators seem to think that the socialization aspects of schooling are more important than the factual part. Look in any big city, and the ratio now looks to be 95% socialization, 5% facts. The idea started with John Dewey, but his ignorant disciples in Public Education, many of whom have never heard of him, have taken it to the extreme.In the American public schools that have worked over the ages, that ratio probably was closer to the classic 80/20; 80% subject-matter, 20% socialization.

In the best schools, both Public and Private, socialization is somehow accomplished BY MASTERY OF THE SUBJECT MATTER. (Kids from the better schools have more "self-esteem," perhaps because they actually KNOW something. But that is an ideal, and usually not possible in the public marketplace.

Today's public school teacher corps just might be the most ignorant in the history of American education. Instead of Subject Matter Knowledge, these people have meaningless degrees in "Education." Many are excellent teachers, that is they get the worthless material in dumbed-down textbooks into the students heads. Don't believe me about the books? Read one. It will only take a minute or two.

They are further rewarded by meaningless Masters and Doctorates in "Education," so they can qualify for higher salaries to supervise other Education majors, who also lack Subject Matter Knowledge. Their stated ideal is a "CONTENT-FREE MODEL.'

Answer: get History Majors to teach History. Get people who know Math to to teach Math. The "Education" part of their teacher's education can be accomplished in 6 months of internship. Sure, educational theory and "philosophy" are important, but not at the expense of Subject Matter. We have tested the theories in vogue now long enough to know they are useless. If educators were scientific, they would have gone on to find out why and corrected them.

Recently, my sister, who has a real Doctorate in History from a real university and somehow rose to the lofty perch of Department Chair of 'Social Studies' for her school district,(Working Class Blue-Collar Town of 200,000...nothing fancy). She had to hire 2 new 'Social Studies' teachers; one for the Junior High level, the other for the local HS. Since the district pays astronomical salaries, she was inundated with literally hundreds of resumes from experienced teachers, many with advanced degrees, including Doctorates.

I (naively, as it turns out) suggested that she use old New York State Board of Regents' Exams from the 30's and 40's as a qualifier for the better applicants. She invited them to sit for the exams, which were used exactly as they were created, as a MINIMUM standard for New York State High School Students of that era, with 65% as the passing grade. In those days, if you failed The Regents' exams, you might not get a diploma. Serious business. This was what you had to know to be a knowledgeable voter!

9 (that was NINE) of 100 people passed. (To my practiced, but jaundiced eye; the only likely Republicans in the group, too!) The highest grades: 100%, scored by a 60-year-old teacher. next highest 84%, with seven more between 65 and 80. Average score 55%. If you were forced to read the answers to the "essay" questions, as I was, you would have wept at the grammar and the spelling. (Certainly well below FR Standards) And these were experienced Public School Teachers! Masters Degrees, Doctorates ...phooey!

O, BTW, Sis had to retire, and the school district is STILL in court 4 years later, being sued for "discriminatory hiring practices." One point brought up over and over: "Not Marked on the Curve." Remember, this exam was the MINIMUM State Standard in its day. "Culturally Biased" was another. (OOPS, Guilty as charged there, your honor.)

Oh yeah, one minor note on Public School Budgets: my sister's final salary was $74,000/yr. She was "Supervised" in her last year of classroom teaching by a four-person team whose aggregate salary was well over $500,000, plus perks. The local Board of Education has 25 positions which pay over $65,000, the duties of most of which mystify me, e.g. "Curriculum Co-Ordinators?"

This horror story is not unusual. All over the Northeast, our tax money is supporting a boondoggling 'education' bureaucracy which is totally unaccountable for results. Which is good. Because they certainly don't get many. What they give you for the money are Politically Correct "outcomes."

6 posted on 12/05/2001 11:01:00 AM PST by Francohio
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To: Francohio
Thanks for your input...appreciate it.

Rather sad commentary on those that we entrust our children to. Too many parents allow the schools too much influence on their children's moral foundations.

For too many parents, it is easier to abrogate their parental responsibilities rather than give the time their children need.

7 posted on 12/05/2001 11:25:39 AM PST by Stand Watch Listen
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To: Stand Watch Listen
The school system is not interested in results, only in meeting ever-decreasing minimum standards for "all children" (translation: if your kid is above average, get him out of there -- they will drag him down). The objective seems to be to achieve egalitarianism by crippling those who want to learn
8 posted on 06/17/2002 2:17:47 PM PDT by SauronOfMordor
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