Why no educational malpractice?

Many people come to me with complaints about their teachers.  They say their teachers didn’t know the subject, were more interested in discussing their personal lives than their subjects, had spotty attendance, or were always unprepared.  Sometimes for technical classes, they say that the classrooms lacked the basic equipment needed to learn the subjects, such as no servers in a class for computer techs.  They say that teachers singled them out for unfair treatment, gave them failing grades at the same time they passed students who never attended classes, and wouldn’t respond to their questions.  They say that that teachers quit or were fired, leaving them with no consistency in either the teaching method or the program.  Without doubt, students get a raw deal when they have teachers like this.

What is there to do about it?

Usually, nothing, I’m sorry to say.  Most states give schools wide latitude in how they deliver their educational programs, including how they choose and evaluate their teachers.  Courts will not substitute their judgment for the judgment of school administrators in this regard.

I think this is a huge cop-out.  Schools have a duty to deliver the education they promised, and they do that through teachers.  If the teachers are inadequate, the school has failed that duty and should be responsible for its failure.  Most professionals are subject to malpractice claims – lawyers, doctors, accountants, etc. – but not teachers or schools.  Why do we hold them to a lesser standard in the context of something as important as education?  Education is essential to our society and our democracy, and to a person’s chance for upward mobility.  Make schools and teachers accountable, and end the free pass they get from malpractice claims.

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