In our focus on improving teachers, are we overlooking importance of principals?

In Georgia, we talk a lot about how to get and keep great teachers in the classrooms. We don’t talk nearly as much about how to get and keep great principals in the schools.

downeyart1007Principals are the linchpin of quality instruction. Their leadership matters. Yet, schools routinely lose principals. One of my kids had three principals in his three years of middle school.

The report “Churn: The High Cost of Principal Turnover looks at the impact of the revolving door, explaining, “Twenty-fi­ve thousand (one-quarter of the country’s principals) leave their schools each year. Fifty percent of new principals quit during their third year in the role. Those that remain frequently do not stay at high poverty schools, trading difficult-to-lead schools for less demanding leadership roles that serve more affluent populations.”

The study says school leadership has a direct impact on student success, noting, “When strong principals are at the helm of schools, they positively influence the school culture and the instructional quality of whole systems of teachers. Leaders’ effect on students contributes to 25 percent of the total school influences on a child’s academic performance. What does this actually mean in the lives of children? In one study, Branch, Hanushek and Rivkin found the top sixteen percent of principals realized additional two- to seven-month gains in student learning above schools with less effective leaders.”

The Hechinger Report has a good piece on the importance of principals and the pressures they face in this new age of accountability, pressures that can send them running out the door.

As the report notes: (Please read the full Hechinger story if you have the time.)

But effective school leaders also need time — usually about five years — to build trust with faculty and parents, set a vision for improvement, and hire the right people. The majority of principals who head schools that serve low-income students leave before they can make lasting changes. The ones who remain in the profession often move to schools that serve more affluent students whose needs are less overwhelming. The departure of a principal, in turn, often sets off an exodus of teachers. School culture can also be disrupted, and parent engagement wavers. Looking broadly at the effect of principal turnover on student learning, a researcher from Mount Holyoke College studied 12 years of data from North Carolina public schools. They found that when principals leave, student achievement generally declines for two years.

Anyone have ideas on how to retain good principals? Is the job becoming too demanding?

A former middle school principal told me her job had dozens of moving parts, and most had nothing to do with academics. She described a week where she had to deal with a leak in the roof over the gym, a spate of car break-ins in the teachers’ parking lot and a parent who allegedly stole funds from the booster club concession stand. All of that chaos erupted during a week when she was supposed to spend half of each day observing teachers.

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181 comments
readcritic
readcritic

It is important to note that some principals today wield the TEKS evaluation as a weapon of intimidation because that instrument allows favoritism with no recourse for the teacher. It is very true that a superintendent and school board should investigate when numbers of teachers start retiring and/or leaving for other positions. Too many principals want to rule by micro-managing. Often it is the principal's way or the highway. A principal wants agreement by "yes" people and will not support staff who dare to be different. A small-minded principal uses the power to stack the deck by giving those who are not in their posse large classes of challenging students and further manipulates working conditions to harass the teacher, then uses the evaluation system as a "gotcha" for any incident deemed as useful to tarnish the teacher's record or reputation, thus affecting Georgia State Teacher License Renewal and earnings. A truly professional principal promotes an atmosphere of trust, caring, and support for the entire staff, not just chosen members who are part of the elite clique. A school can never be great without a principal who is great.    

jazzyis
jazzyis

You are so right! That was exactly the atmosphere I left when I retired. Not to mention all the extraneous paperwork that did nothing to improve/empower my teaching!!

Antagonist
Antagonist

@jazzyis I left the career that I loved because the the tightening of the puppet screws became excruciating. I could no longer teach in such pain. My own pain was bad enough, but the pain of seeing my students being turned into robots was worse. Meaningful education is more important than the scores and points of an administrator's report to a school board.

newsphile
newsphile

The good principal is a professional who knows how to manage teachers, staff, and effectively take care of the responsibilities of the job..  He/she can determine which teachers are good, which ones should go, and then acts with professionalism to rid the system of bad teachers.  Good teachers, not pets, know they always have the principal's support.  The best principal knows how to lead his/her faculty while allowing them the space to do their jobs.  I've watched good teachers go because of an insecure principal who didn't trust teachers to do their jobs and was an ever present micro-manager  As a result, his job was left wanting and he wasn't able to hold on to the job long, but some of the best teachers had already left.  Note to superintendents:  If good teachers start leaving a school, take a close look at what's going on there.

class80olddog
class80olddog

"She described a week where she had to deal with a leak in the roof over the gym, a spate of car break-ins in the teachers’ parking lot and a parent who allegedly stole funds from the booster club concession stand. "

Call maintenance department, call police, call police. How hard is that?

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

@class80olddog 

"Call maintenance department, call police, call police. How hard is that?"

Bingo.  Could do that while enjoying the first cup of coffee of the day.

redweather
redweather

@class80olddog As if the police are going to investigate a theft of booster club funds. As for the cars, those police calls would have to involve the car owners. Finally, just because schools have janitors doesn't mean leaking roofs get fixed immediately.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Ok, here is a question for the "status quo" people - name an EFFECTIVE disciplinary reaction to the problem of a student in a classroom who disrupts the entire class and will not obey the teacher and sit down and be quiet? (what should the PRINCIPAL do?)

popcornular
popcornular

@class80olddog

Remove them, put them in the Time Out/Opportunity Room whatever you want to call it. 

Problem: When the room inevitably takes on a certain hue, you are branded racist, and must abandon it.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@popcornular @class80olddog The problem is that getting put into "ISS" in that room is JUST what they wanted - out of the classroom.  My mother had her version of "time out" - it was called "stand in the corner" - it was hard physically because you had to stand there and hard mentally because is was absolutely boring - no looking around.  The ISS is just a relaxation room.

readcritic
readcritic

@class80olddog

The principal usually blames and disciplines the teacher who does not have "good classroom management".

popcornular
popcornular

@class80olddog

It doesn't have to be relaxing, with the right teacher/drill sergeant present. But, alas, PC won't allow for hurt feelings or real discipline. Hence, the classroom chaos so present today. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

One thing about principals - ANY principal who is found guilty of fudging attendance or other figures OR telling a teacher to fudge numbers should be immediately terminated.  Any Superintendent that is guilty of TELLING principals to fudge numbers should be terminated immediately.

CSpinks
CSpinks

Over forty years ago, a south Georgia elementary school principal told me and other young teachers something I've never forgotten: "Education's the greatest profession in the world. And if you don't think so, you oughta get the Hell out."

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

The best principal I worked under was in a small rural school, about 250 kids in Kindergarten-7th grade. One of the things that made him so great was that he insisted on teaching the 7th grade math class every year.  He knew what was going on intimately.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

"If we do not "kick out" the business mind from thinking that they are the brightest, most competent, and best people to run every aspect of our society, this nation is going to lose its original vision for humanity.  Their arrogance will not allow them to self-correct their own weaknesses.  They are blind to them."

--Mary Elizabeth Sings

popcornular
popcornular

@EdJohnson 

Hmmmmm, Wow, except for the word 'business', I thought this quote was about educators. 

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

I just posted the following comments on Jay Bookman's blog.  My thoughts are very pertinent here based on some of the comments of posters:


Bookman: "Those 'false prophets' range from politicians such as Ted Cruz, radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, media outlets such as Breitbart and Fox News and activist groups such as the Tea Party and Heritage Action.  Together, they have created a perpetual frustration machine that cannot ever accept compromise or agreement because compromise and agreement would destroy their business model. . . ."

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


My thoughts: These same types would also turn public education into a business model, to the detriment of all Americans.


Boehner said, in resigning, that he knew that good would come from his decision to resign now (Oct. 30) because he had made his decision based on the right reasons (implied:  Pope Francis' spiritual influence in rousing his conscience).


If we do not "kick out" the business mind from thinking that they are the brightest, most competent, and best people to run every aspect of our society, this nation is going to lose its original vision for humanity.  Their arrogance will not allow them to self-correct their own weaknesses.  They are blind to them.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@MaryElizabethSings Again, you would have a lot more success defending against the "business model" if the current model was handling the issues effectively.  The way it is now, people are saying ANYTHING is better than what we have currently.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@class80olddog 

You have bought the propaganda.  Hook.  Line. . . and Sinker.  You have been bamboozled by corporate business interests to disparage ALL public education in order to set the chain in motion to dismantle public education for corporate run education ---- which, by definition, is not education.  Wake up. Public education in Georgia has been cut by 4 to 7 billion dollars in the past decade.  That funding drought has created many educational "problems" in and of itself.  The same people who want corporations to run schools are the same ones who have cut funding to public education.  It is a game that many are not looking deeply enough into.

Wealth looks after wealth.  That is as sure as death and taxes.  And, the wealth in the corporate world wants the public tax money for education for itself. Greed.  That is why I write so forcefully.  All I have is my good mind to contribute to saving public education.  I don't have the political contacts or the money.  But no one could care about "saving" public education more than I.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@class80olddog @MaryElizabethSings


Yes, spending has been cut and it is public record. The number of children has increased but spending hasn't. Add that to the fact that the whole testing regime that has ramped up tremendously these past 10 years or so has cost millions to implement. Here is a study that shows spending more money, especially on our poorer students, does in fact bring positive results.


http://educationnext.org/boosting-education-attainment-adult-earnings-school-spending/

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@class80olddog 

If you do not see the influence ALEC has had in Georgia on public education policies (and other public area policies) you are allowing yourself to be politically naive.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@class80olddog 

Putting both of our budget "facts" together. Read in detail, please:

"The first austerity cut was implemented in 2003, pre-Great Recession. In the years that have followed, the state’s 180 local districts have collectively been shortchanged about $8 billion, based on the formula.

As a result, many districts have raised class sizes, abandoned the traditional 180-day school calendar, dropped electives and furloughed staff in recent years.

Deal last year reduced the annual austerity cut -- which had hovered around $1 billion -- to $747 million by sending the districts collectively an additional $314 million."

http://www.politifact.com/georgia/statements/2015/apr/14/nathan-deal/deals-statement-education-funding-missing-critical/

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@class80olddog @sneakpeakintoeducation @MaryElizabethSings


@dog


It's rude to shout but since you asked for information regarding spending here it is. It would be nice to keep the conversation and tone cordial. Also, you make no mention of the fact that research shows how our poorest children do need extra resources and benefit from them. Instead of being short sighted it is sometimes best to use money to invest in the children's future rather than label the schools as failing by a metric that may not be reliable just for the purpose of turning them over to the for-profit industry who has shown little success in the business of educating our children.


This report, by the ajc, clearly shows how the children in georgia have been short changed while the testing companies have not been.


http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/get-schooled/2014/sep/04/average-state-georgia-shorts-school-districts-439-/

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@class80olddog 

The teacher furloughs, cut in pay, cut in the days of the school year, cut in medical benefits, increased class size all point to the fact that the $8 billion less than promised, or reduction of $8 billion over previous years, demonstrate a political agenda in action to dismantle public education in Georgia. Obviously, with that kind of loss, Georgia's public schools will be hard-pressed to improve.  They are doing well simply to survive before the corporations take over educational funding for charter schools to their financial benefit.

Teacher24/7
Teacher24/7

@class80olddog Eight million dollars less than the formula (developed by the state) that calculates how much spending should be to educate the children in Georgia. When the state fails to fund the education costs at this basic rate, they can hardly claim that they are supporting public education. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@MaryElizabethSings @class80olddog "Public education in Georgia has been cut by 4 to 7 billion dollars in the past decade."

No it sounds like you are swallowing the propaganda.  My data says that (state) spending on education in Georgia increased from $20.1 billion in 2005 to 26.4 billion in 2015.

But money is not the cause of the issues in public schools - look at APS - it spends more than just about anyone and has the worst results.  Look at the State of Alaska - spends over $20,000 per year per student - and is still among the bottom. 

You continually claim that ALEC and Republicans have their eyes on "destroying public education".  It makes you sound like the people seeing conspiracy in the Kennedy assassination. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Teacher24/7 @class80olddog  Thank you for your answer below about the Feds dangling RTTT money and the State deciding to jump through hoops to get it.  I have pointed out before that we spend four times what we spent in the sixties and you say that is not enough for a basic education.  The money we spend is wasted in so many areas - hoards of administrators just keeping books to fulfill Federal requirements.  Providing medical care for SPED students instead of their insurance providing it.  Legal expenses to keep parents trapped in failing school systems.  When you look at the states that spend more money per child - some are still at the bottom.  Even ones who are at the top only show a few points gain for DOUBLING expenditures.  Money is NOT the problem here - addressing key issues is the problem. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@sneakpeakintoeducation @class80olddog @MaryElizabethSings  You still have not proved that the state is spending $8 billion less in 2015 than in 2005 (which is what MES claimed) - the reason - because you can't.  You rely on "less than QBE formula" or "on a per-student basis" or "adjusted for inflation".


Here is a REAL fact - we spend FOUR TIMES what we spent in the sixties per student adjusted for inflation.  And you claim this is NOT ENOUGH.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@class80olddog @sneakpeakintoeducation @MaryElizabethSings


@dog


I cannot help the ffact that you are being deliberately obtuse when you fail to recognize that our Republican Governors, since 2003, have failed to fund schools based on the spending formula. Also, you have to consider that the number of students has increased so the money is stretched even more. Furthermore, you have to take into account inflation because, as you well know, the value of a dollar changes over time I am sure you'd agree that in the 60's, which seems to be your favorite time in history since you harp on about it in almost every post, a dollar could buy you much more than it does now. 


I know you like to state how spending has increased since the 60's but, again, you fail to recognize why when you know that schools now have to educate children with disabilities and many more ESOL children. Then there is the testing regime;it costs millions to implement and costs our schools dearly while enriching the testing companies (that also love to donate to our politician's campaigns). 


Funny, but you still haven't acknowledged the report I posted about how spending does matter, especially on our children of poverty. Instead of investing in the future of our children, you want to simply turn their schools over to for-profit management companies with their lily-gilded promises but failed record.



class80olddog
class80olddog

@sneakpeakintoeducation @class80olddog @MaryElizabethSings If you wish for me to say that the QBE formula was never fully funded - I will gladly admit that - I don't know if that was only Republican governors or if it actually started with Roy Barnes. 

Certainly I know that inflation takes a toll, but remember - the State only takes in so much in revenue - if they spend more on Education, they have to cut somewhere - I keep asking what should be cut but I get only silence.  Revenue to the State has NOT increased with inflation.

As far as the testing craze - remember what got us into it - teachers (and principals) were giving grades that were nowhere indicative of the level of mastery of the subject.  Standardized testing came about in response to the widespread grade inflation.

I read the report you posted - it referenced a study years ago that determined that additional spending DID NOT help improve achievement.  Then it went on to give a lot of anecdotal "evidence" where increased spending SHOULD improve achievement. If you look at a chart comparing state average expenditure per student versus NAEP scores, you see that the correlation is very weak - there is VERY little gain when you double spending.  And the highest spending state - Alaska, is also in the bottom on performance.  See the links below.  I know you don't want to believe this, but it ain't the dollars, dude.  It is other things.

http://californiacommonsense.tumblr.com/

http://washington.cbslocal.com/2014/04/07/study-no-link-between-school-spending-student-achievement/

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@class80olddog @sneakpeakintoeducation @MaryElizabethSings 

Sneakpeak---Bravo/a!

Olddog-- He/she is citing facts to be considered, not reasons for the facts' existence. It's irrelevant to complain about the reasons for testing when the testing is a present expense that schools have. It's pointless to dismiss inflation by saying that the state needs more revenue. Why does the state have so many business tax exemptions? So many state-funded projects like the public road to Gov. Deal's house or Gov. Purdue's "Go Fishing" project?? Why isn't more of the revenue we DO have spent on Education?


And why is it that you never seem to acknowledge necessary expenses of Education TODAY, such as educating special needs and ELL children, except to complain that we shouldn't have to educate them without federal funding.

You need to deal with the facts of the present time, not  the past of 50+ years ago that you remember.  Sometimes it seems that you must be living in a cave.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@OriginalProf @class80olddog @sneakpeakintoeducation @MaryElizabethSings Why does everyone on here only talk about STATE money, what about local money or Federal money?  For example, why not make the local communities pay for their own ELL classes?  That way the local people NEEDING ELL classes can pay higher rent and pay for the services they need.  Same with SPED students - put it onto the local homeowners - maybe when their taxes increase dramatically, they might question how much good we are getting for our money.  Of course, since the Feds created the law, maybe it would be better to lobby our Federal congressmen to fully fund their laws - or repeal them.

We could debate where the money comes from and where it goes to in the State budget - people spend lifetimes debating that.  The percentage of the Georgia budget devoted to education has stayed about constant - where do YOU want it to be?  60%? 75%? 100%? Or maybe we should just live within our means.  (BTW, I do NOT support furlough days or cutting the school year - those were measures put in place just to protect the useless administrators' jobs in the Central Palace - there were LOTS of better places to cut spending in education.  Same with textbooks)

And testing - I am just reminding teachers that you reap what you sow.  Yes, it is here now and it is an expense and we do way too much of it and the people who schedule the tests two weeks before the end of the year are utter buffoons (State people?).

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@class80olddog @sneakpeakintoeducation @MaryElizabethSings


@dog


Thank you for your reply. I think we have more in common than you think. I certainly don't think our schools are perfect and there are many ways in which they could be improved for the students entering their doors Where we might digress is how to remedy that. The link I added about spending cites an old report but provided more up-to-date and pertinent research that does, in fact, show that spending, especially on our poorer students, does make a difference. It looked at outcomes such as staying in school, graduation rates, college attendance and working to remove oneself from poverty. One of the examples shows, quite clearly, that extra spending in low income schools meant that the graduation rate increased by 10 percentage points for poor children but only 2.5 percentage points for non-poor children. A similar result was seen when it looked at the hourly rate of wages for poor children compared to the non-poor. 


The conclusion of the report is as follows:


"Taken together, these results highlight how improved access to school resources can profoundly shape the life outcomes of economically disadvantaged children and thereby reduce the intergenerational transmission of poverty. Money alone may not lift educational outcomes to desired levels, but our findings confirm that the provision of adequate funding may be critical. Importantly, we also find that how the money is spent matters. Therefore, to be most effective, spending increases should be coupled with systems that help ensure spending is allocated toward the most productive uses."


I do agree that spending should be considered carefully and I think it's wrong to throw money at the testing companies and spend the money where we know it works. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@sneakpeakintoeducation @class80olddog @MaryElizabethSings Well, for example, if you asked for additional funds to more aggressively enforce discipline and attendance, I would probably be more receptive.  Of course, if you are like DeKalb county and have set aside $2 million to fight a legal battle against a community that wishes to be annexed into APS (for what reason I cannot imagine), then I would have a problem.  My point, like you said, is that ALL school systems should carefully evaluate WHERE they are spending their money and how much "bang for the buck" they are getting.  Unfortunately, they keep the friends and family on at Central Office and go without textbooks.  Or give teachers furlough days. 

DeKalb County is in a desperate need of a forensic audit of their educational spending.

Failing school systems, in particular, need to do some root cause analysis to determine WHY their students are failing.  THEN they can target their resources to correcting that problem.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@class80olddog @sneakpeakintoeducation @MaryElizabethSings


I agree that schools should be accountable for their spending. I might not agree with your analysis of friends and family unless you are talking about the lobbyists and CEO's of the testing industry and charter industry. One of the things that some people like about charters is their claim to be non-profit. Unfortunately, that is a sham and a shell game; it's extremely lucrative for the for-profit management company that runs them and, needless to say, are circling Georgia like vultures as we speak. Much of the increase in spending in these recent years has gone to testing with little or no accountability to the public. We don't get to see the tests or have them verified for validity. It is also a very lazy but time consuming and expensive way to measure learning. 


The failing systems you talk about serve large numbers of ELL and children of poverty. We know what ails them. The fix does not lie in the sham of charter schools, which have been shown to, almost always, not increase educational outcomes for our children.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@sneakpeakintoeducation @class80olddog @MaryElizabethSings "Children of Poverty" is a cop-out - I was a "child of poverty".  But my poverty came with two parents who cared very much about education.  It is not the poverty, per se, but those things that come with the poverty - single parent homes, drug use, parents who don't care about education. 

Why not delay ELLs entry into first grade until they are fluent in English?  Keep them in kindergarten.  Or segregate them into their own track.

You know, you talk about charters and their access to billions of dollars, but you have no problem with the current crop of corrupt BOEs and superintendents and their friends and family having access to that money.  Either way, you should have GOOD accountability for the money spent and if a charter does not produce at least equal results for less money, then close them down! (or better results for the same money)

class80olddog
class80olddog

@sneakpeakintoeducation @class80olddog @MaryElizabethSings BTW, I have said this before too - I am not automatically FOR charter schools - I would prefer to see the traditional schools fix their own issues so no one would want a charter school.  But there has been no movement toward fixing these issues (not PC), so the public deserves a choice.  Remember, no one will be FORCED to go to a charter school - they will choose to go.  And right now, there are WAITING LISTS to get into these schools - pretty indicative that parents are fed up with their existing schools.  If they don't like the charter, they can go back to the traditional school, and if enough parents decide that, the charter will eventually close. I have been fortunate to be able to choose the school by moving into the neighborhood with a good school, but not everyone is that fortunate.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@class80olddog @sneakpeakintoeducation @MaryElizabethSings


What about when charter schools take over the local school and  the parents or community don't want it? Is that a choice? In Neward children are being bused over an hour to the charter school because there is no traditional public school left; only the for-profit charter system. The parents are not happy and neither are the students but there is no choice. Where is the whole scheme of things does this offer the "fixes" to the problems that you say are inherent in our schools? How does taking a public entity and giving it to a for-profit corporation that has already had over $1 billion in fraud this year alone going to solve the problems that our kids face each and every day (see link below)? Also, remember that the attrition rate for many of the "successful" charters is huge because they only want a certain type of student in their school. If the child is counseled out after the October seat count, the charter gets to keep the money while the student goes back to the traditional school. Our system is not rich enough to support two systems and it makes little economic sense either. Also remember that the waiting lists for charters are not always what they seem; some parents are listed on multiple waiting lists so they are counted more than once. 


https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/04/28/report-millions-of-dollars-in-fraud-waste-found-in-charter-school-sector/


I am happy that you were able to move out of the poverty you grew up in. That is fantastic but please don't think that because you can do it everyone can. You are what is called the outlier.  

Teacher24/7
Teacher24/7

@class80olddog @Teacher24/7 


I hate the Georgia's education system is so underfunded and underperforming that we feel the necessity to jump through these hoops for the federal money. As I responded below, I don't feel that the RTTT initiative is the appropriate way for the federal government to "support" education and "encourage" change. I agree with you that the money spent to employ administrators to oversee these federal requirements is wasted money. I support smaller central office staff and responsible use of funds. However, as many have posted here, as long as the state and feds demand accountability, we have to spend the money on administrators and the state will use education money for testing. All of the money that is spent in those areas is money that is being redirected from the students. I don't believe that money is the silver bullet to fix education. I believe that the solution is something much deeper and harder to obtain. It will take longer than a 5 year federal grant to accomplish. Educational reforms should incorporate changes to both social and economic policy. Instead, our politicians consider education reform in isolation from these systems, as if they have no bearing on each other.  Our problems in education are complex and are perpetuated by societal ills and self-centered beliefs of many members of society. In short, we need a mind shift in America. Most people are so concerned that someone else is going to get something that they don't deserve. Someone else may get something better than they have, and it's not fair. It's a me and mine mindset rather than an us and ours mindset. This is why I come to the defense of teachers and schools - the problem is so much deeper than how much we get paid, what instructional strategies we're using in the classroom, or whether or not we're too "pc". To focus on these items and ignore the big (huge) picture of everything that affects education is just shortsighted. I promise you that the teachers of today are better than they were in the past. Or at least just as good. Please stop blaming the teachers.