(Note: I very seldom have guest posts at this blog, but I thought I’d share this piece by Bob Sickles, the President of Publisher of Eye on Education (Bob also writes his own blog). EOE publishes a wide range of books on teaching and learning, including my last one and its upcoming sequel. I think his post provides a bit more nuanced view of businesses and education than you’ll find in many of the excellent articles in The Best Posts & Articles Explaining Why Schools Should Not Be Run Like Businesses. I’d encourage you to share your reactions to his post)
What Does a Teacher Do?
By Bob Sickles, President and Publisher, Eye On Education
As my staff and I began planning a roundtable webcast on teacher evaluation, a fundamental question emerged: What does a teacher do? Examining this question might shed some light on the teacher accountability debate which had been discussed in a recent issue of Education Week.
As the founder and CEO of a profitable education publishing company, I’m all for the entrepreneurial spirit and the push for accountability. Yet I feel uncomfortable when my MBA friend argues that our educational problems would be resolved if only schools would behave more like for-profit companies in the private sector. He wants to tie teacher evaluation to standardized test scores. His sole focus on high stakes tests is grounded in his desire to equate profit growth with test score increases.
There is no doubt that teachers have much in common with business managers. Neither will succeed without high expectations for themselves and others. They both have measurable goals and objectives for which they need to be held accountable. The hard driving language of the world of competitive business also applies to students, teachers, and schools: achieve, accomplish, succeed, perform….
When observing our best teachers at work, other words also come to mind, such as caring, nurturing, motivational, inspirational. Our best teachers at all levels help students make connections, spark their creativity, stimulate their thinking, and build up their confidence. It is my opinion that these characteristics are key contributors to enduring and meaningful learning. It is sad that the teacher accountability debate seems to be dominated by people like my friend who don’t really understand what our best teachers actually do.
What is sadder still is that my MBA friend does not really understand what goes on at successful businesses either. Our best performing companies do not allow their accountants to dictate policy and strategy. The accountant’s job is to keep score, not to play the game. When I started my company, I organized it so that my accountant worked for me and not the other way around. Our best companies place high value on developing caring and nurturing relationships with their customers, vendors and the members of their staffs. Our best business leaders continuously motivate, inspire, spark, and connect. If we lose sight of these traits, neither America’s schools nor their businesses will achieve the results we need.
I’d like to ask readers of this post to send comments to help us chip away at the complexities of teacher evaluation. How can we reconcile results-based accountability with the need for teachers who nurture and inspire?