It was a bit like watching tag-team wrestling. The governor of the nation’s third-largest state public education system and the mayor of the nation’s largest single school district taking turns body-slamming teacher unions; governance at its rawest.
First, on January 4 Governor Andrew Cuomo, in a bold State of the State address, promised to be the state’s lobbyist for students and “wage a campaign to put students first and to remind us that the purpose of public education is to help children grow, not to grow the public education bureaucracy.”
Then, the next week, Michael Bloomberg delivered an equally hard-hitting State of the City address, his penultimate as mayor of New York City, most of it devoted to education. He proved, as Crain’s Business Review put it, that he was “not resigned to the malaise of a lame-duck term or the limitations of a constrained budget” and “made clear his frustrations with the city's teachers' union, which has long resisted reform.”
Indeed, the Bloomberg speech made it clear that Gotham’s three-term mayor was intent on making the remaking of the city’s public education system his legacy.
Nine years ago this month, on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, I gave a speech outlining our plans to transform a badly broken school system. Back then, the graduation rate had been stuck at 50 percent or less for decades. Violent crime, social promotion, hiring based on political connections – they all plagued our schools. Parents had too few choices about where to send their children
Amidst lots of recent drama about teacher evaluations (e.g. New York’s Commissioner of Education has withheld funds to nearly a dozen school districts (including more than 30 high need schools in New York City) that didn’t complete their teacher evaluation agreements with the local teacher unions, TFA founder Wendy Kopp and NEA president Dennis Van Roekel joining hands in a USA Today essay (an essay that has befuddled Diane Ravitch), the Connecticut Education Association releasing a teacher evaluation reform package, New York state’s largest teacher union unveiling a 95-page Teacher Evaluation and Development Handbook, and news from New Jersey that teacher tenure may be ended in the Garden State this year) came a wonderful report by Sam Dillon in the New York Times: In Washington Large Rewards In Teacher Pay.
Dillon explains how D.C.’s much watched Impact Plus teacher evaluation system (introduced by Michelle Rhee in 2009, but as a collaboration with the Washington Teachers Union) is working. “We want to make great teachers rich,” the district’s chief of human capital, Jason Kamras, tells Dillon.
And, in fact, Dillon offers some brief
I gave up bashing teachers years ago, when I realized that, as with soldiers in the trenches, they had their hands full just staying alive. What I never understood, however, since this wasn't really a war, was why teachers seemed to hide behind their unions on so many school management questions, seemed to be as meek as mice on policy and pedagogy and curriculum issues, and were downright defensive about any criticism of them or their profession. And this was going to be my post, a few weeks ago, responding to Walt Gardner's letter to the editor in the New York Times, in which he opined that teachers ?deserve more than the unrelenting criticism they've endured since the accountability movement began.?
It's a worthy subject,? but I was turned from the ?unrelenting criticism? hokum by an email from New York City teacher Mark Anderson, with his announcement that ?A new school year begins! Here is the third post in my series on curriculum, in which I advocate for a unified core curriculum.?? His post is here and I read it with great joy, but I will get to that in a moment.
In times of great uncertainty for U.S. teachers, who speaks for them?
First, I must make mention of another welcome event; a trend, really, one reported on by Stephen Sawchuk in the current Education Week: ?New Groups Giving Teachers Alternative Voice.? Sawchuk leads with the obvious question,
If the country's schools of education have been one of the more prominent bulls-eyes for school reformers, this new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, ?Student Teaching in the United States,? is bound to unnerve a few ed schools; 99 of them to be exact.? The NCTQ evaluated programs at 134 of the nation's 1,400 education schools and concluded that 74 percent of them did not meet basic standards of a high quality program.? As NCTQ president Kate Walsh tells Tamar Lewin of the New York Times:
Many people would say student teaching is the most important piece of teacher preparation?.? But the field is really barren in the area of standards. The basic accrediting body doesn't even have a standard for how long a student teacher needs to be in the classroom. And most of the institutions we reviewed do not do enough to screen the quality of the cooperating teacher the student will work with.
Stephen Sawchuk at Education Week also notes that the NCTQ ?contends that colleges are preparing too many elementary-level teachers?perhaps more than double the number needed nationally?thereby taxing both the higher education institution and its partner school districts' ability to provide high-quality field experiences.?
Some of the report highlights:
- 43% of the rated schools had no criterion for the selection of mentor teachers other than some teaching experience;
- 52% of them played no role in the
- Stretching the School Dollar
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- Ohio Gadfly Daily
- Board's Eye View
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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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