Opinion
Education Letter to the Editor

Are Students, Not NCLB, Behind New-Teacher Flight?

September 10, 2007 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

Jonathan Kozol’s latest screed, “Letters to a Young Teacher” (Commentary, Aug. 29, 2007), is a good example of why educational writers ought to actually spend some time teaching in a classroom today.

Mr. Kozol correctly identifies the problem: Novice teachers working in high-poverty urban schools leave the field at much higher rates than their contemporaries working in suburban schools. From that mundane observation, he then goes on to blame everyone but the real culprits: the students, families, and culture that devalue education.

Everyone’s favorite whipping boy, the No Child Left Behind Act, which is primarily the bad-news messenger, has, according to Mr. Kozol, cemented in place poor performance and teacher flight. The problem with that analysis is that it assumes there was a priori an Oz from which we have strayed.

Looking objectively at the different socioeconomic characteristics of the urban teachers’ charge vs. that of suburban teachers, it’s hard to understand how Mr. Kozol concludes that the problem lies with the assessment framework common to both.

Pursuing his dream will enable us to continue a quixotic quest and ensure theoreticians ammunition for many years to come as our nation’s city schools continue to turn out largely uneducated products.

Patrick Mattimore

San Francisco, Calif.

To the Editor:

Jonathan Kozol’s belief that allowing creativity in classrooms and getting rid of mechanistic mandates is the key to keeping young teachers in inner-city schools has a lot of merit. But he leaves out one of the main reasons new recruits leave: insurgent students.

These kids are totally out of teachers’ control and in effect make the school revolve around them. Beginning teachers devote most of their time and creativity to managing these students, who run around, talk, bully, steal, and vandalize whenever they choose to. Very often the administration responds by making the school the anti-Kozol type in an attempt to contain these kids. The truth is, however, that these kids are never contained, and the school becomes a monstrosity.

If Mr. Kozol and I were sitting in his living room and discussing how a school should be operated (I taught for 41 years in inner-city classrooms), and a child came into the room and started screaming and throwing things, we probably would have him removed and dealt with later. We have to do the same in our inner-city schools if we want to keep young teachers. When a new teacher goes home at the end of the school day, he or she should be thinking of how to reach each student, having the liberty to use techniques such as those Mr. Kozol advocates, and not about the kid who might throw an eraser when the teacher is working with another student.

Elliot Kotler

Ossining, N.Y.

A version of this article appeared in the September 12, 2007 edition of Education Week

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
What is it About Math? Making Math Figure-Out-Able
Join Pam Harris for an engaging session challenging how we approach math, resulting in real world math that is “figure-out-able” for anyone.
Content provided by hand2mind
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: February 7, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: January 31, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: January 17, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education In Their Own Words The Stories That Stuck With Us, 2023 Edition
Our newsroom selected five stories as among the highlights of our work. Here's why.
4 min read
102523 IMSE Reading BS
Adria Malcolm for Education Week