Keeping Teachers Off the Unemployment Line

“I don’t want teachers on the unemployment line. I want them in the classroom,” Secretary Duncan said last Friday at an American Jobs Act roundtable in Richmond, Va. “This is really a moment of truth for the country,” Arne said. Either invest in education, he added, or other countries will pass us by.

Secretary Duncan Tours in Richmond

Secretary Duncan talks with students during a tour of Richmond Community High School (official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams).

The American Jobs Act would provide $60 billion for education, in the form of jobs for educators and upgrades to schools and community colleges. Virginia alone stands to receive  $425 million for public school upgrades, and $742 million to preserve up to 10,000 teacher jobs. Richmond superintendent Yvonne Brandon said that federal money through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and additional job-saving funding had prevented teacher layoffs, but with that money now spent, Richmond faces a $16 million deficit for the next school year.

“In this budget cycle, everything is on the table,” Brandon said. “I’m afraid [teacher layoffs] may have to be part of the conversation this year.”

In addition to participating in a roundtable, Duncan toured Richmond Community High School—a 2011 Blue Ribbon School—where students and teachers showed the Secretary the need for infrastructure upgrades at their 86-year-old campus. He saw outdated science labs and leaky ceilings and heard about duct-taped textbooks and slow computers.

Arne noted the visit on his Twitter account and asked other students and teachers to join the conversation:

The American Jobs Act proposes a major investment that will modernize at least 35,000 public schools, and support 280,000 teacher jobs nationwide. See what impact the Act will have in your state, and read a complete overview of the American Jobs Act here.


  1. One of the biggest fault with education today can be summed up with 3 words..DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION. This is a useless bunch of bureaucrats that is standing in the way of education. The greed of most supertendents know no bounds by their inflated salaries (how many classroom hours do they have? have they “earned” that $300K salary?). Get back to the basics..teach the kids with no interefernce, do what you know best..TEACH. We didn’t have the DOE when I went to school and I have faired pretty well with a decent and good education for 75 years.

  2. Perhaps the biggest tragedy of the school system is the removal of experienced teachers and administrators to balance a budget. Yes you save 20 or 30 thousand dollars but the final product will cost you millions to repair. The damage to the psyche of the elder educator is also a factor. I was not recommended to return to a county that I gave my best to, rarely missing a day and staying long hours because the principal who I had only worked with for one year gave me a negative evaluation. Because of my education and age, 55, It’s been hard to get a job. Talking to an administrator in Atlanta Public Schools, I learned I cost to much. How much do the students deserve? Why tell me to get a Masters, Specialist, Doctorate degree and then not want to use me? And I know I’m not the only one. And then we wonder what’s wrong with our students. In ancient times, the elders taught the youth.

  3. the greatest flaw in this schoolsystem is very simply they dont teach how to bubble
    on the subject. Short, they dont teach you english.

  4. Schools have reformed and changed curriculum to stay on top of standardized testing results although they may be losing their identity in the process. First off, a school is not just the building that kids go to for class, lunch, and even recess, if they’re young enough. It is a community filled with children and parents from all kinds of backgrounds. Included are teachers and administrators that are not only going to their job in the morning but are shaping the young minds of the future generations to come. A teacher may not realize when they are training to become a teacher that one day they may influence someone to change their thinking only to find out that that idea changed the world forever. Think of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Obama; at one point in their life they were in a school system with teachers that influenced them every day for about 6 hours and ultimately shaped them into the men they are today. Every single one of them had to take a standardized test at one point or another that would lead them on different paths. These exams have taken over our school systems, communities, and have them by the strangle hold. Curriculum has completely transformed in every school in the US, if not the world, in my lifetime and goes all the way back to beginning of standardized testing. Everyone is trying to teach how to be proficient on the test and how to get the best results instead of trying to better students and help them think more critically. As Rod Paige points out, “For millions of children, they were given a seat in the school but not an education of the mind.” I remember in elementary school when President Bush passed the act No Child Left Behind and teachers began to tell us that changes would be made soon. The next year, I had a class teaching us techniques on how to bubble in and how to make our short answer responses sound acceptable for graders. As I progressed through school, everything in classes seemed geared to prepare us for the MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System), a standardized test given every 2 years, or the SAT, as even vocabulary lessons in my 10th grade class were from an SAT Hot Words book. Schools have lost site of what is important in teaching and shaping minds and have turned their focus completely to the tests.
    Although schools have made drastic changes to prepare for standardized testing, the system encourages it. Schools are ranked according to test results and government financial support is handed out accordingly. It’s beneficial for high achieving schools with a strong community ties with loads of financial backing, but on the other hand, weaker schools suffer and cannot compete on the same level. Many of these results, however, are unrealistic based on the “adequate yearly progress”, AYP, definition by the federal government. The Connecticut Education Association found that based on this definition that 93% of schools were considered “failing” in the state based on the AYP for standardized test scores. 93% is an astronomically high number of schools considered failing in a state. At the end of this blame are the teachers. Many are fired and replaced by new ambitious people who will conform and teach towards better test results. A solution that deserves serious consideration that could change the overall way of American education is stop blaming the teachers for what’s wrong. Instead, the government should create programs that help teacher development and give out incentives, such as cash bonuses, that reward and help teachers do what the school system intends: shape the youth of America. A study conducted by PBS concluded that classrooms in America lack the technology needed to strive in today’ society. These teachers simply need more help enhancing their lessons in class and showing students the true meaning behind concepts, so they can learn, develop, and think critically. Schools need to stick with teachers for the long run and provide them with a safe, comfortable environment to teach in. When a person feels comfortable with their job security and the workplace itself, that person will likely do their job at an elevated, efficient level. As Alfie Kohn points out, “ many educators are leaving the field because of ‘tougher standards’ and ‘accountability,’” showing that most people cannot live up to teaching the tests. From preschool throughout high school and beyond, teachers are the guiding force behind any child’s education. Anyone can remember that one teacher, who not only taught them the subject material for the course to the best of their ability, but also inspired them to go above and beyond the classroom and take all challenges head on. Teachers inspire kids each and every day with all age levels, so they need to take a step back from the tests and develop their students into the minds who will shape the future. There is an Obama, Gates, and Jobs, among others, in this generation and generations to come that will change the course of human kind forever. However, our students will lose skills necessary for our society to develop if curriculum continues to be heavily influenced by standardized tests.

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