De-professionalization for Profit: “Leery of teachers”

In Common Core’s unintended consequence?, Jonathan Sapers examines a report from the Center for Education Policy (CEP), self-described as “a national, independent advocate for public education and for more effective public schools.”

CEP has discovered “that in roughly two-thirds of districts in Common Core states, teachers have developed or are developing their own curricular materials in math (66 percent) and English Language Arts (65 percent). In more than 80 percent of districts, the CEP found that at least one source for curriculum materials was local — from teachers, the district itself or other districts in the state.”

As has been the pattern throughout roughly thirty years of public school accountability—one characterized by a revolving door of state standards and high-stakes testing—new standards and tests mean profit opportunities for education-focused businesses.

Sapers reports:

However, Jay Diskey, executive director of the PreK-12 Learning Group of the Association of American Publishers, said publishers are pulling their weight. “We have more than 150 members in our PreK-12 Learning Group. And the ones I’ve seen over the past several years or more have tried very hard to align with Common Core standards in reading and math.”…

Some teachers and districts are viewing the dearth of materials as an opportunity, but experts and even some educators say putting the job of creating curriculum materials into the hands of teachers may not necessarily be a good thing [emphasis added].

And this is where the article takes a troubling turn, as highlighted here:

leery of teachers

“Leery of Teachers”

My career as an educator includes 18 years teaching English in a SC public high school throughout the 1980s and 1990s, followed by the most recent 13 years as a teacher educator in higher education.

Those experiences and in my work teaching future teachers, I note that a powerful and problematic difference between a K-12 teacher and a college professor is the locus of authority in terms of the content of any course.

Historically and currently, the authority over content for K-12 teachers has too often been textbooks, curriculum guides, standards, and high-stakes tests.

For college professors, the single most important element of teaching authority is that professors are the locus of authority of the content they teach; in fact, many if not most college professors have little or no formal training in pedagogy, how to teach.

The great irony of this distinction is that between K-12 teachers and professors, K-12 teachers have the greater expertise in teaching, but a far reduced status as a professional when compared to professors.

Along with the locus of authority over the content, the status of professional is strongly related to autonomy and respect—which brings me back to the “unintended consequence” above.

The attitude toward K-12 teachers not having time to create curriculum is valid, but the reason they do not have time includes the incessant changing of bureaucratic mandates that consume their time and that K-12 teachers do not have professional schedules (which professors do) in which to conduct research and create curriculum (which are often related at the university level).

However, the “leery” as well as the unsubstantiated claim that teachers do not have the “professional background” to create curriculum is a genuinely ugly example of the de-professionalization of teaching—a process aided by a historical marginalizing of teaching (significantly as an element of professional sexism), the bureaucratizing of teaching, and the union-busting momentum in recent years.

We should be exploring the real intended consequence of Common Core: billions are to be made off the standards and testing charade, and teachers creating their own curriculum and materials infringes on that profit.

Teaching at all levels includes curriculum, instruction, and assessment, but central to those elements are the unique set of students each teacher faces every day.

Curriculum, instruction, and assessment mean almost nothing without the context of students, and the only person qualified to make those decisions is the teacher.

If we must be leery, let’s be leery about think tanks, publishing companies, and mainstream media who all seem to have little respect for the professionalism of teaching.

See Also

Teaching: Too Hard for Teachers, Peter Greene


5 thoughts on “De-professionalization for Profit: “Leery of teachers”

  1. Am amazed there are no comments.
    Perhaps I shouldn’t be.
    This is not a new phenom, actually, although it’s more blatant than before, I think. I have never understood why teachers want books and plans and sheets and all that; it’s so much more fun and challenging to work it out oneself. Then, it may be time to look at others’ materials, colleague and publisher. At a state prof conference, I visited a panel of administrators (a panel I’d suggested), and one said, in effect, that it was the job of curriculum directors/et al, to provide materials for teachers. I couldn’t help myself and blurted “But that’s most of the fun!” Silence.

    Perhaps this came from necessity b/c I began in a middle school that used multi-texts; no kid had A book to take home every day. Then, I worked in a newly integrated 7-9 where there was NO guide at all. Then, in a high school where we truly did write our own curriculum for the writing and literature strands. My later work with the NWP seemed natural. When I taught my first SI section, there was nothing in writing and I was far away from the Bay!

    “spose I sound as though I’m bragging. You are right, that content does lend authority. And satisfaction for the professor/teacher.

  2. Pingback: De-professionalization for Profit: “Leery of teachers” | My BlogThe Philosopher's blog.

  3. I create and search for good curriculum across a spectrum of sources… I am leery of what textbook and “official” curriculum designers produce, as much of what I find is badly written, contains multiple errors, does not align with the standard it is purporting to support, and does not give a student anything to struggle with that would support and enforce learning – I teach HS math.

  4. Great article. Teacher-made curriculum is superior to corporate for-profit ventures in curriculum building, and it’s the nuances that testify to this, usually. What I wonder about is the role of teachers or schools willingly creating curricula for edu-conglomerates free of charge. How much of what’s in classroom textbooks is regurgitated teacher-made material appropriated and distributed en masse?

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