Throughout the twentieth century there has been an ebb and flow between two dichotomous theories of teacher supervision. One school of thought allowed for more teacher professionalism and autonomy. Teachers are trusted to teach their students in the way they perceive will be most effective, with administrative oversight to help refine techniques and address problems. The educator is a trusted professional, responding to student enquiry and curiosity to allow the students to learn in a way that suits the students’ needs and teachers’ goals, as well as facilitating higher level thinking skills.
The opposing philosophy requires more active and aggressive supervision. Schools are saddled with specific curriculum requirements and teachers are micromanaged both in terms of how they teach and what they teach. This administrative model of teacher supervision allows little room to feed students’ natural curiosity and respond to the ebb and flow of the classroom. Higher level thinking skills suffer in lieu of catechisms of standards that must be learned by rote by all students. If students are not prepared to answer these basic questions, both the teachers, schools and systems involved find themselves in danger of being labeled failures and losing resources tied to the testing. This philosophy of teacher management has prevailed since the 1983 publication of A Nation at Risk and has become the norm in the past decade with the implementation of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.
Teachers have seen their ability to fight high stakes testing and standards regimens erode during this same time frame. Teachers Unions have felt the brunt of negative public opinion, with the National Education Association viewed by the general public as the protector of the status quo and poor teachers. State legislatures, Governors and local system administrators have undermined the job security of educators by gutting tenure laws and stripping them of collective bargaining rights. Instead as a professional class, teachers are portrayed in the press and among the general public as a group of careerists, more concerned with job stability and benefits packages than educating students.
These changes to level of public respect afforded teachers and the erosion to the traditional employment security of tenure have made speaking out against aggressive administration of the classroom teacher difficult. Teachers find less support from the public due to their tarnished public images, and with a less stringent tenure system in play teachers find themselves having to comply with the latest egregious administrative oversteps into their classroom or lose their positions. Teacher have little option but to implement new polices and laws, and also take the fall when programs don’t work.