My Latest Post On Huffington Post

So I wrote this recently after a strenuous day at school … then coming home to see several posts on blogs and web sites that raised my ire:

“ ‘Discussion’ About Ed Reform is Just like a Political Ad… Maybe Worse

If you haven’t noticed we are at the end of the most recent political cycle. As usual the ads for various candidates and ballot measures have continued their geometric progression into negativity and double-speak hell. However, the current blitz about ed reform just might give political ads some competition when it comes to shallowness.

The most recent example I’ve seen came as I write this – on this very blog:

There are many experts who would rather make the issue more complicated, tangled and inspire the rest of us to inaction.” Davis Guggenheim Film director and producer

Mr. Guggenheim doesn’t tell us who these “experts” that want to do nothing to improve education are, just makes a blanket unsubstantiated comment and hopes his celebrity will make you a believer. To him and too many others, having a different point of view on the possible causes and answers to our educational woes automatically means we want to do nothing – or he wants to twist it to mean that.

If you don’t fully support Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, Bill Gates, and other “reformers” then you support the “Status Quo.” This is a sound bite that media has happily and uncritically repeated, uh, repeatedly. It’s used just like, “If you are not for the war, you are against the troops,” was during the Bush administration. If you are for the more than 100 year model of sitting students in rows and having them recite lessons and only teach a narrow readin’, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic curriculum you are for real change and innovation. if you are for real change, trying different models than test, test, test, … like maybe the models being used in places like Finland and elsewhere where they actually test much less than we do … you are for the “status quo.” Note, by the way that none of the people I’ve mentioned so far would send their own kids to the kinds of schools they promote.

Charter/KIPP and KIPP-like schools are the answer, case closed. I hope no one really believes this … but rhetoric being what it will be leads too many to get this message. I think those of us that know that charter schools could be great proving grounds if they were used the way they were originally envisioned, as a way to try many new models and pedagogies, as opposed to how they have been bastardized to instead do too much of the same model – hear this, and perhaps that is unfair. But we don’t hear much or seem to learn much from the other models that are out there … because the “neo-reformers” with money and power don’t like “those” charters? I hope that’s not the reason. But I’m suspicious.

If we got rid of the bad teachers … problem solved,” - that overcomes all other issues. This is such dishonest and poor logic – you have to believe that just getting rid of the “bad teachers” would fix or very close to fix education … it is only surpassed by those those that claim teachers and unions don’t want teachers to get fired for incompetence or they make it too hard. Mr. Guggenheim even cherry picks a statistic for his movie that seems to show that lawyers and doctors get rid of their incompetent colleagues at a much higher rate than teachers … what he fails to mention is that one fourth of teachers leave the profession after 2 years and half before 5 years … I guess he assumes none of them left because they were “counseled out” by their colleagues and associations … maybe they left because they became rich?

I actually feel like maybe the “neo-reformers” are getting desperate when Joel Klein’s highly paid mouthpiece Natalie Ravitz comes out with another gem like: “Let’s Stop Pretending Poor Kids Can’t Learn” – This is the siren call of the truly desperate. No one says this, but she puts it out their like only a pseudo-ethical PR person can. This might be the most like a dishonest political ad example we have. This is what they put up as an argument to those of us that make the point that, yes, let’s do a better job of ferreting out the poor teachers, but let’s also do something about poverty and health care and parenting skills and other issues that hold students back much more so than only focusing on teacher quality (they also say that means we are for the status quo).

It isn’t about the money” – And certainly it isn’t all about the money, even though the “neo-reformers” see to it that the kinds of schools they like get extra money – sometimes lots of extra money. Odd?

We should be getting results like Finland.” This is almost laughable since what Finland does to get those results we don’t seem to want to look into here. We want to do what we (“reformers”) think makes a difference (testing, which Finland does much less of than we do) but we want to get the same results. And if we aren’t getting those results, then it’s the teachers’ fault.

There’s more, but I’ll let others add them in the comments. PLEASE, let’s have a real local and national discussion about education without the rhetoric and quick-fix nonsense. So much about what is wrong with politics has overtaken and polluted a subject that deserves and requires serious and open discussion.

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One Response to My Latest Post On Huffington Post

  1. Solveig Whittle says:

    “…let’s do a better job of ferreting out the poor teachers, but let’s also do something about poverty and health care and parenting skills and other issues that hold students back much more so than only focusing on teacher quality…”

    Amen. I think you are absolutely right that the heated rhetoric is focused on addressing the wrong variables. We were just talking about this in the lunchroom today at the public middle school where I am interning. Budget cuts are already limiting the money that can be spent on programs that actually help raise test scores – ELL, Special Education, Title I, free lunches. The current political trend toward the decentralization and balkanization (with apologies to the Balkans) of the public education system will, in my opinion, only accelerate the movement of funding away from these programs.

    As many before me have pointed out in various commentaries I have read on David Guggenheim’s movie (and the social movement behind it, or which it supports, depending on how you look at it), most of the reductionist criticism of public education seems to come from people with little actual teaching experience, like those you cited above (Rhee, Gates, etc.) Their polarizing language doesn’t help those of us in the field of teaching (or those of us who are soon to be so) to feel empowered. We want to be the best that we can be. Instead, this factionalization inspires mistrust and denial on both sides (teachers and non-teachers).

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