The theme of the recent Education Writers Association (EWA) event at the Carnegie Corporation (which I mentioned in my post on Saturday) was ?the promise and pitfalls of improving the teaching profession.?? The event coincides with Carnegie's new initiative, called ?the Talent Strategy,? which is, as Carnegie's Michele Cahill and Talia Milgrom-Elcott put it,? about ?making sure that every student has a great teacher.??
Who would object?
In fact, as the two Carnegie researchers noted in?a Boston Globe essay about the initiative, if there is a consensus on anything in education these days it is the importance of teachers to the educational enterprise. ?So,? they ask,?why haven't we done it yet??? Meaning, why haven't we fixed the system that is producing so many mediocre teachers?
Cahill and Milgrom-Elcott, who have impressive credentials, including stints with the Bloomberg education reform administration (Cahill masterminded the city's small schools program), argue?that the reason we still have so many mediocre teachers in too many of our classrooms is not money.??They artfully stay away from the role of the unions, which some would argue is the elephant in the teacher quality room, and rightly focus their attentions ? i.e. the talent strategy ? on substance: ramping up the quality of teacher training, giving prospective teachers more ?hands-on experience,? and holding schools of education ?accountable for proving that the students their graduates teach are actually learning.?? Another big part of the strategy is getting school systems to
Okay, everyone hold hands.? Now, repeat after me:
We Will? Love -? Each Other -- And ?Educate ? All ?Kids!? ?
Or, try this: ?
You two shake hands, and don't let me catch you fighting again!?
That's a quick glimpse of schools, now and then ? and school governance, now and then.? Then, it was desks lined up (I?once visited a 19th century?Brooklyn ?school -- still in use -- where you could see the plugged holes from the days when desks were nailed to the floor); now, it's classrooms with pillows and rugs and a jumble of round tables. ??Then, it was ?top down? management, with principals ruling with rulers; now, principals spend much of their day parsing language of Codes of Conduct and labor contracts and writing up referrals and evaluations that can withstand a constititutional challenge.?
These caricatures of American public education governance are fleshed out admirably in Sam Dillon's NYT report this morning on a unique Denver conclave to bring education labor and management leaders together.? It?is being?convened by America's?Principal, Arne Duncan, who continues to work the education reform room with a stick in one hand and carrot in the other.? (I've heard he's teaming up with Doug Lemov on a new book:? Rule like a Champion!? 49 Techniques to Put Educators on the Path to Excellence. Just kidding.)
Let's hope that the two-day confab in the mile-high city is aided by the thin air. It is
Liam's post yesterday about Malcolm Gladwell's critique of U.S. News & World Report's college rankings ? ?one wonders,? wondered Liam, ?why the same education-policy types [who don't like the college rankings] can be so obtuse when it comes to identifying the just-as-glaring weaknesses in other sorts of education-related rankings and comparisons? ? was propitious.???
According to Trip Gabriel* ?in today's New York Times, the one-time third leg of the weekly news magazine industry (after Time and Newsweek) plans to take on schools of education ? with underwriting support from the likes of the Carnegie Corporation and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.?
Already under fire from just about every quarter, the nation's teacher training schools are not happy about U.S. News piling on.
Sharon Robinson, president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, told the Times that ?We have serious skepticism that their methodology will produce enough evidence to support the inferences they will make? and advised her Association's 800 member schools not to cooperate.?
Kate Walsh, head of the National Council on Teacher Quality, on whose board Checker Finn sits, calls the methodology complaint a red-herring. ?What they want us to do is hold off until a perfect assessment is in place,? she tells the Times.
The accountability movement marches on. And I hope kids are paying attention to the grading protests from their teachers' teachers.?
?--Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow
*Not Sam Dillon.
Now it's an AP report, via the Wall Street Journal, telling us that Mayor Bloomberg will have to lay off lots of teachers ?unless teacher seniority rules are changed.?
According to the AP, which said it heard the Mayor say this at a meeting at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn,? ?the city could have to lay off nearly every teacher hired in the last five years? because of the proposed ?deep cuts? in state aid to education by the new governor.
In fact, it makes sense, as Bloomberg obviously knows. The more senior teachers cost more than new hires, so any seniority-based layoffs means eliminating the lower-paid teachers first, thus cutting more teachers, increasing class size. ?Bloomberg is pushing the obvious: ?the system can keep more teachers in these hard times if doesn't have to keep the most expensive ones.
Let the negotiations begin.
?Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow
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About the Editor
Peter Meyer is an adjunct fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Since 1991, Meyer has focused his attentions on education reform in the United States, an interest joined while writing a profile of education reformer E.D. Hirsch for Life. Meyer subsequently helped found a charter school, served on his local Board of Education (twice) and, for the last eight years, has been an editor at Education Next.
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