As a former professor at several California (Oakland, Orange County, Berkely) and Oregon colleges, and as a +10 yr. post-grad, I can say that the burden placed on high school and now the machine-like state university systems is almost unbearable.
It is almost impossible to judge a high-school teacher’s performance under present conditions. I volunteered at Mission Dolores High in SF, CA. The conditions were horrendous. There simply are not enough teachers. That is the core problem — understaffing.
At the root of this, of course, like everything in society, is money — or simply resource allocation.
An NPR report from approx 2007 — I remember it well — claimed that in the LA PS district only 9 cents on the dollar went to instruction! Teachers are the absolute last in the fiscal pipeline. The lion’s share goes to admin. But along with that are number of non-educational auxiliary services. This latter is the great financial trough that local contractors feed out of. State institutions are perfectly happy to fund infrastructure of any sort, but when it comes to what is really needed, human beings who teach, it’s a financial war.
I have taught at one or two backwater junior colleges, and the school boards were studies in corruption. While there were freezes on hiring new faculty and even firings of faculty, boards routinely approved hundreds of thousands of dollars on cosmetic improvements to campuses.
In one instance — 100 yr old Monterey pines were cut down, new sod laid, an irrigation system installed, and sapling deciduous trees — alien to the region-were planted. All this done of course by a local contractor. Approved by the board.
But that is one among dozens of stories that go from Portland, OR, to San Diego. At UCSD, I witnessed a 1 million dollar steam cleaning of the facade of a building while there was a freeze on new hires (2009), perfectly functional street lamps taken down and replaced by ones very similar, but pink!, and then repainted! — about 15, so that would be a 300, 000 dollar contract — again a freeze on new hires in place.
I should also mention, agan from NPR, that the average cost of a public K-12 student in NYPSD is 20K/yr. That is clearly not the cost of instruction.. That figure involves a prodigious network of contracts and quid pro quos to local private interests, managed by corrupt adminstration. I say “corrupt” because there can be no other conclusion.
Again, an undue burden is placed on this country’s teachers at every level — especially in the public sector. The money that should be used for instruction — the core purpose — has been syphoned off by numerous extra-curricular interests.
It seems to be an MO operative from major universities to high schools.
It can be viewed in this way: there are too few teachers and they are paid so poorly because a contractor somewhere specializing in lawn implements or paving is getting their money.
It’s a very big problem. It’s real. And I’ve only scratched the surface.