Catching up on things, the Washington Post magazine from last Sunday featured a review of the book "Who’s Teaching Your Children?" which says in the introduction "The number of good classroom teachers, and therefore the quality of teaching itself, is in perilous decline and will continue to worsen." Strong words that might just be another anti-public school teacher rant (all the really good teachers are in private school, of course :-) if they didn’t come from two experienced public school teachers.

I haven’t read the book yet but here are a few pieces from the review that are right on target.

Troen and Boles call this a "trilemma": Too few qualified students are attracted to teaching; the preparation they receive is inadequate; and the professional life of a teacher is one few grown-ups with other choices are willing to put up with. How many white-collar college graduates, for example, aren’t free to go to the bathroom when they need to?

Novice teachers quickly learn that they have few resources to draw upon as support. Their principals are usually too busy reacting to crises — a late bus, a leaky roof, a disciplinary infraction — to do anything more than observe them briefly and superficially. And their fellow teachers often see requests for help and support as signs of weakness. If they are lucky, novice teachers find expert teachers to serve as mentors and guides to school culture. But if they don’t, they often leave the job, disillusioned and discouraged.

They also call for the restructuring of the job of principal, which has too often become one of a facilities crisis manager. Hire facilities managers, they say, who will handle all the contracting, building maintenance, transportation, food service and ancillary issues that distract principals from those of curriculum and instruction.

The authors seem to concentrate primarily on the elementary grades in their book but I think the problems they discuss are even worse in middle and high schools. High school classes tend to be larger and new teachers are often more isolated, receive less support and are under more pressure due to new graduation requirements.