Is a school only as good as the teachers in it? Here’s what teachers said.
Regular Feature in the Gazette
May 1, 2008
Every month, Teachers.Net asks an education-related or just fun question of our community, and assembles the responses in the Teachers.Net Gazette. Recently the following thread took place on the Teachers.Net chatboard (teachers.net/chatboard).
I hate it when people say a school is only as good as the teachers in it. UGH!!! How I hate that!!!
~Posted by anonymous
Although I like to believe that we teachers do build a good school so to speak, the problem I see is that all responsibility is placed on the teachers and no one else.
~Posted by no name
A lousy administration combined with no parent support for even a few disruptive students can undermine even the best of schools.
~Posted by True
To the person who said, “UGH!!! How I hate when someone says that [“A school is only as good as the teachers in it.”]”!!!”
One way to respond is to ask, "If, when, a school isn't very good, who hired the teachers?" It takes a competent administrator to be able to judge good teachers to hire (or let go). It takes a good school board to know how to hire good administrators. It requires good citizens to know how to vote for a good school board.
~Posted by flowerchild
I definitely agree with this [flowerchild’s] response. In a school, as in a business, the responsibility lies in the hands of those at the top. They make the choices and must back those choices or make the necessary changes.
~Posted by lady luck
Teachers are the largest part of what makes a school.
Posted by no name
“A school is only as good as the teachers in it. UGH!!! How I hate that!!!”
You hate the truth?
If it's not the teachers, what is it?
(I would acknowledge students, too)
~Posted by Bill In Upstate NY
The principal sets the atmosphere and can make or break a school. I've seen this in real life. A lousy administrator can bring a school down; a good administrator can make that same school with the same staff a top notch place to be for everyone.
~Posted by a Ollie
Bill, even you admit that it's not JUST the teachers who make a school good or bad.
So many people use the phrase "It takes a village . . .”
Well, a good school takes more than just good teachers. It takes an all-out effort by all involved: teachers, administrators, students, and yes, even parents.
~Posted by TO Bill
I agree with Ollie. I would venture to say that the students are the least of the equation in that when teachers, administrators, and parents have high expectations (behavior and work), students will follow through. But if teachers are not backed up by administration and parents, students know it and take advantage. I would say the principal is the key element, for he or she hires the teachers and makes high academic and behavior expectations clear for teachers, parents, and students.
~Posted by No Name
It really takes a large team. I have that problem at my school. The board tries hard but none of them are educators. Only one was a teacher and he taught adults at an overseas school. The rest are professionals from other fields. This leads to the hiring of teachers who are not at the level they should be at. Also the parents expect us to raise their children. They want us (teachers) to be surrogate parents. The administration tries but they are under a lot of pressure. Up until recently we only had one principal and two secretaries to handle all administrative procedures.
Teachers are stretched thin, and they are doing jobs that they should not have to do.
In short it all matters: Board Administrators Parents Teachers AND support staff
~Posted by NYCdee
The truth is that the principal has almost all of the power. I've rarely seen a board veto anything a principal wants. He does all the initial hiring. What could be more powerful than that? Teachers don't hire themselves. Why would a principal continue to offer contracts to poor teachers? Even in states with the strongest unions - and we don't even have them in the south - cannot fight the dismissal of an incompetent teacher, if the administrator has documented properly. In addition, principals rarely are held accountable for anything. If they mess up, they are just transferred to another school.
~Posted by flowerchild
While it is a simplistic slogan, it’s a statement meant to acknowledgement the importance of teachers, and I agree more than disagree.
I believe a school can be a good one (effective) with a poor (ineffective) administration if the teachers are great. But a great administrator cannot usually overcome being saddled with poor teachers. An effective administrator can provide the environment in which good teachers can flourish. Over time, a great administrator can phase out poor teachers and bring in good ones, but the slogan isn't meant to deal in depth with all the roots and reasons behind the concept that good teachers are the core of any successful school.
I think that's what Bill/NY was saying.
~Posted by Kathleen
I agree with Kathleen and Bill. The teachers are the most important people in the school and, while it is harder to be effective with a poor administrator, it can be and IS done every day. There is a definite cause-effect relationship between teaching and learning. When the teachers are good, the kids learn more.
~Posted by Jan
I find this particular statement to have an unmistakably pejorative connotation. I can think of no other way to construe its intention other than to place the locus of responsibility for all outcomes squarely on the teacher, which eliminates the other two parts of the triad: the student/family and the school administration/board. When you eliminate any one of those three, the structure will fail.
I've worked in a school that had no formal administration for more than a year (a Catholic school) and we teachers did very well on our own...BUT...we had the opportunity to meet regularly and make group educational decisions AND we were not hampered by rulings from on high about trivial things. In that situation, the teachers were indeed heavily involved in the outcome; these days, many teachers' days are so scripted with pull-outs and push-ins and specials and plays and all the rest that they are lucky to have time to teach.
~Posted by Indigo
The school I am working at probably has the hardest working teachers I've seen in my 20 years with the district. Even though we bust our a****, our school has not met AYP EVER. We are now in the midst of restructuring. There is a huge lack of parental support and student effort. There's not much you can do when parents make comments like, "Just throw that away you know we don't save any of your work from school." And, "I'm not signing that so you will lose recess-you don't deserve it!" And, "Well, they don't teach the alphabet in Kindergarten in Puerto Rico-I guess YOU have to catch my first grader up.Why would the students want to try? We don't need NCLB-we need parenting classes from middle school through high school.
~Posted by Teech
Why do you hate it when people say that [“A school is only as good as the teachers in it”]? Aren't there studies that show that the teacher is the number one factor in student achievement? If you take 2 schools that have all factors equal: SES, class-size etc., and staff - one with exemplary teachers and the other with so-so teachers - which students will do better?
Personally, I like it when people say that. To me it acknowledges my contribution to the classroom, the importance of professional development, and proves that not just anybody can be a teacher.
I don't think it means that other influences don't matter... but when all is the same... it is the teacher that makes a difference.
~Posted by Stellaluna
I agree with those who don’t like to hear that because it takes more than good teachers. It takes parents who care. I worked at a school with extremely hardworking teachers and a great administration but the students did not care. It didn't matter how engaging the lesson was, the students didn’t try. Parents didn't care either; they never came for anything unless they were dragged in. Look at the schools that do well. They are in good areas with lots of parental support.
Teachers have a huge impact but parents even more.
~Posted by In Agreement
Good teachers set the tone and can absolutely turn aschool around. A united group of excellent teachers is SO powerful. As a group they can get things changed. I was in such a school and within 3 years the teachers turned the school completely around even though the top administrators were not cooperative until we made repeated show of force. We got parents and community behind us and that school became THE top performing school for the area after having been at the bottom.
Teachers are the key. If I were in charge of running a school I would focus STRONGLY on hiring the right people with the right attitudes. I am a can-do kind of person and don't tell me I cannot or I will show you I can. That is exactly what happened.
~Posted by anonymous
Ideally, you have dedicated, knowledgeable teachers who work as a team and truly care about students. You have parents who support their children's education both visibly and in the home, consistently providing the children's basic needs and the educational needs. And you have an administrator who is a leader both behind the scenes in the supportive roles of setting the atmosphere, providing appropriate resources and training for those resources, and a schedule that supports student learning. [That administrator] serves in the more public roles as a PR person, inspirational speaker and team builder. There is a clear mission and substantial agreement on philosophies and how to achieve this mission among all parties.
But, if you can't have it all, I think the individual teacher in his/her classroom is in the best position to inspire individual students to accomplish what they are capable of. The teacher has the opportunity to have the relationship and the rapport to care about the student and is close enough to the student to know how he/she learns best. The teacher can show the students that there is more to life than what he/she knows from home or from the neighborhood. The teacher can be a student's "safe haven," a refuge from a hard life. The teacher can be the student's inspiration and the student's role model. In almost every case of a person who has accomplished a great deal after rising from a childhood of poverty, the common denominator is a person (usually a teacher) who took the time to care, believe in the potential of the student and show the student a new path. A great teacher can make a difference to students in the worst of circumstances.
~Posted by Addie/mo
There is some truth in that statement. However, not as much as the teacher-blamers like to think
How is "good" measured by the ignorant person who says this? Where are the child's parent's and administrator's responsibilities?
Most complications that I see in classrooms are due to poor administrative decisions or poor neglectful parenting
Teacher-blamers like to think it is all the teacher's "fault," so I like to say to them, "Let us have ALL the decision making powers then, since we are THE factor in student learning.
~Posted by molly4th
I don't know the correct terms for logic, but there are two different hypotheses being presented in this thread. "A" does not equal "B" here. The teacher IS the key in a child's education. United teachers CAN turn a bad school around. But it does not logically follow that all the teachers in a mediocre or failing school are mediocre or ineffective teachers. But that is what the hypothesis says.
A good school with, say, 25-50 percent poor teachers can still remain a good school (for a while, anyway). But a bad school with 50 percent good teachers will not become a good school. It won't happen... unless the administration is very good, and even then it may not happen in a community that just is not interested in having a good school.
"All things being equal, the teacher makes the difference" is not the same hypothesis as "A school is only as good as the teachers in it."
Maybe the key is the word that someone used: "united." A united staff can turn a school around. They will not allow a poor administrator to get by with minimal effort. They will not allow within the walls of the school, parents to jeopardize their children's education. Likewise, a united community will insist upon a good school.
~Posted by flowerchild
What do YOU think? Is a school only as good as the teachers in it? Post your opinion on the discussion forum below.