Teachers know their classrooms best

The Garden Island

OUR VIEW - Teachers know their classrooms best

Posted: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 12:30 am

No one knows better what is needed most for students in the classroom than teachers. No one understands what it takes to get the best from their students more than teachers. And it’s likely not many of us, other than their spouses, realize how hard teachers work, how many hours they put in, how committed they are to the success of every student sitting before them each morning and afternoon.

That’s why, if so many teachers have concerns about the state’s Educator Evaluation System, we believe those in charge should listen to them and make appropriate changes. Teachers are not known to be whiners. They have completed years of education to qualify for their profession, have great responsibility and it’s not like the financial rewards are so amazing they’ll tolerate anything for their paycheck.

Consider a few of the comments regarding EES made during the recent meeting here of the Hawaii Board of Education, and it will certainly make you wonder what’s going on:

- “It’s too much change, too fast and I’m left exhausted.”

- “Thank you to the Board of Education for helping me to make my decision to retire at the end of this school year.”

- “I’m so fed up with my job, I am about ready to give up.”

- “This is the worst year I’ve had in 20 years.”

- “I am seeing exhausted, scattered teachers and administrators gasping for breath between EES …”

If you think these are just a bunch of crybabies acting like they’re overworked, then you might find this comment from Kauai Area Superintendent Bill Arakai the most telling of all: “I take full responsibility as to how EES was implemented. My heart is broken. I have no answers today. And I apologize for all the suffering. I haven’t forgotten what it was like to be a teacher in the classroom.”

So what is it, exactly, that has the teachers in such a state?
Well, teachers say it puts unnecessary and excessive demands on them and students through evaluations, testing and data collection. Teachers, naturally, aren’t wild about their raises hinging on student surveys. State officials say the goal is to create the best teachers and students. No doubt, teachers support programs that help them achieve their best. The EES isn’t on their preferred list on ways to do that.

Certainly, the state Board of Education needs to constantly be reviewing ways to improve opportunities for students to learn. The board needs to be looking at options to give teachers the tools so they can succeed in the classroom. There is too much at stake to stand still and say good enough. And as difficult as it is, with so many variables including student learning abilities, teachers need to be held accountable for their performance. There are teachers who excel at their profession, and there are teachers who don’t.
But when more than 50 educators voice their concerns — with strong convictions — about something like EES, we believe the state should listen and consider whether it is the proper program to provide the best environment for instructors and students. When it comes to what works well in the classroom, teachers know best.