Some of America’s top advocates for teachers are distraught about a Time magazine cover launching next week which they say unfairly tears down their profession while furthering the interests of Silicon Valley business elites. At least one union is already pushing a petition campaign to demand an apology from Time.
The headline, due on newsstands October 27 but already visible on Time’s website, reads “Rotten Apples” and afterwards says “It’s nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher. Some tech millionaires may have found a way to change that.”
The cover is linked to an article by Haley Sweetland Edwards which delves into ongoing efforts by education reformers, many of them funded by wealthy businessmen, to weaken teacher tenure laws and increase accountability for poorly-performing teachers. In particular, it focuses on Silicon Valley businessman David Welch, who founded the group Students Matter and was a driving force behind the Vergara v. California decision last summer, which negated almost all of California’s laws preserving teachers’ job security.
“Nearly impossible” is an apt term for teacher firings in many states. For example, in the decade leading up to the Vergara decision, out of California’s 300,000+ tenured teachers, less than 100 were ever fired for misconduct or poor performance, a firing rate of just .003 percent. That figure is drastically less than other professionally credential fields, such as medicine and law.
Nonetheless, the cover has some teacher advocates up in arms. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), emailed the organization’s approximately 1.5 million members Thursday night to express her disgust.
“When I saw this today, I felt sick. This Time cover isn’t trying to foster a serious dialogue about solutions our schools need—it’s intentionally creating controversy to sell more copies,” she said.
Weingarten acknowledged that she is not nearly as upset about the content of the article itself, which she said “looks at the wealthy sponsors of these efforts… [and] also questions the testing industry’s connections to Silicon Valley and the motives of these players.”
Even if the article is nuanced, though, Weingarten says the damage from the cover is overwhelming, since most people will take a passing glance at the cover in newsstands and supermarkets without every reading the issue’s contents.
“[F]or millions of Americans, all they’ll see is the cover and its misleading attack on teachers,” she said.
Also criticizing Time’s cover is education historian and former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, who deplored the “poisonous” “non-stop teacher bashing” the cover allegedly represents on her website.
Both Weingarten and Revitch argue that the real threat to teacher quality is not generous tenure laws, but rather poor recruitment and retention. In recent years, enrollment in teacher training programs has dropped measurably, raising concerns in some quarters that not enough talented young adults are interested in pursuing the field long-term.
The AFT has launched a petition campaign, pressuring Time to “apologize to America’s teachers for the misleading and hyperbolic attack on your November 3 cover.”
Time did not immediately reply to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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