Bad Teachers across the Nation

Published October 1, 1998

Ineffective teachers are preventing students from learning in schools in Kansas City, Missouri, according to a recent report from a team of education consultants. There are teachers who bore students, those who ignore students, those who misinform, and those who yell. But even worse, there are principals who aren’t doing enough to improve the performance of the teachers.

The evaluators cited numerous examples of poor teachers, ineffective instruction, and a belief among teachers that not all children are capable of high-level learning. Too many students are not challenged, they wrote, citing repeated instances of monotonous lectures and uninspiring teaching techniques. Discipline problems abound in such classrooms, with students either sleeping in class or wandering around the room, being rude to students and teachers.

“There is no apparent connection between what the teacher is saying and doing and student learning of any kind,” wrote one evaluator, Professor John George of the School of Education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Lackluster in New Jersey

A recent Coopers & Lybrand audit of schools in Passaic, New Jersey, reported that classroom activities in the 10,000-student district were “lackluster,” despite being more engaging than other inner-city school districts the reviewers had studied.

“These activities included low-level verbal questions and answers, silent reading, turn reading, and low cognitive level worksheets,” wrote the auditors. “The reviewers observed very few classrooms where students and teachers demonstrated excitement and enthusiasm for learning.”

Unidentified in California

California legislators blew an opportunity to identify good and bad teachers in their state when they failed to specify the name of the teacher as one of the data elements that are now collected and associated with each student’s score on the Stanford-9 test.

While the test score data show how students performed, it would have taken very little extra expense and no extra effort to measure the “gain score” achieved by each teacher, according to Steve Rees, editor and publisher of the San Francisco-based School Wise Press.

“By looking at test results for the same students across two years, you can measure how far a teacher advances each of her students,” says Rees, pointing to the “value-added” analyses of University of Tennessee statistician William L. Sanders. If we believe good teachers matter, we should make it possible to identify them, says Rees.

George A. Clowes is managing editor of School Reform News. His email address is [email protected].