Amidst all of the education reform issues in the national news over the past few months, I’ve heard a lot about veteran teachers experiencing “reform burnout.” Well, I’m only in my second year of teaching and I feel like I’m already experiencing “reform burnout” – but probably not quite the kind you might expect.
I hear a lot about plans for education reform but I’m still waiting for significant changes to happen. At my school, we discuss our struggles and our students’ struggles at teacher meetings twice a week. As a member of the organization Teach for America, we discuss educational issues at monthly conferences. I constantly read about the potential solutions and the changes we hope will happen in our schools, districts, statewide and nationwide. But even with all the great efforts happening, the majority of the education world still seems to be stuck in a “jumping through hoops” mentality. Reform is coming, but many obstacles are standing in our way.
For example, Minnesota passed an alternative teaching certification law, but a year and a half later, talented educators with alternative licensure are still waiting for the opportunity to fill high-need positions in our state.
In Illinois, lawmakers passed an education reform package that will reform its teacher evaluations over the next four years. Illinois is one of many states that are attempting to revamp teacher evaluations and create more beneficial systems for teachers and students alike. But when Chicago teachers were set to begin the initial implementation in September, they went on strike and renegotiated their terms.
If more people witnessed the challenges today’s schools and students face, they might understand why we need to do everything in our power to make reforms happen faster. Maybe if they got to know the students who are two years or more behind in reading comprehension and math skills, and can’t get the help they need. Or if they spent a week at the schools without a library or enough textbooks for effective instruction. Or the charter schools struggling to find and retain high-quality math, science and special education teachers.
I worry sometimes that many people don’t realize the immediacy of so many education issues today. We need to seriously consider reform efforts and make them happen now because they will take years to pass through legislatures, and years more to be negotiated and implemented by school districts before finally trickling down to the classroom level. That doesn’t help the kids in my classroom today, next year or even three years into the future. We need change that will help our students today, not more hoops to jump through.
Christina Salter is a MinnCAN School Reform Blogging Fellow.