Our first guest on By the Company It Keeps is Tim Daly, President of TNTP. I’m a huge fan of Tim and his organization. In addition to being a highly talented and endlessly affable guy, he’s helped lead TNTP into rarified air. It is as influential on policy and practice as any education-reform organization around.
Earlier in his career he was a TFA corps member (having taught in Baltimore) and helped establish and expand the New York City Teaching Fellows program. With TNTP CEO Ariela Rozman (another total star), he received the 2012 Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education.
If future interviews turn out half as well as Tim’s, I’ll be thrilled. We learn a great deal, and the subject’s smarts, curiosity, and humility shine through. He even enlightens us about Garry Wills and Stan Musial.
As a matter of fact, the totality is so good that I’m willing to look past his grievous error about Sandy Koufax (he only had 165 career wins!).
Ladies and gentlemen, Tim Daly.
1. How would you summarize
Relinquishment is based on three principles: (1) educators should operate schools, (2) families should choose amongst these schools, and (3) government should hold schools accountable for performance and equity.
Outside of these three principles, I hold few ironclad beliefs on education. Yet in conversation, I find that others attribute principles to Relinquishment that I don’t hold. This probably stems from a lack of clear communication on my part, so let me provide additional clarity:
Relinquishment is not anti-union
Relinquishment is a reaction against management, not labor. Admittedly, I disagree with certain policies put forth by unions and their members, but individuals should possess the right to collectively bargain with their employers. Relinquishment only posits that the government should not be a party to the bargain; rather, the bargaining parties should be union and school operator. From here, results will dictate the future of unions. If unionized schools thrive, unions themselves will also thrive. I do understand that, from an organizing standpoint, unionizing decentralized charter schools will be more difficult than signing a singular collective bargaining contract with the district—but I do not believe this issue should trump the more salient issue of academic performance.
Relinquishment assumes equity in access is not the natural state of school systems
People concerned about ensuring that all public school students have equitable access to great schools often suggest that the best solution is to (1) force all kids into one system and (2) have that one operator allocate students
Not all teachers struggle from the start.
Photo by cybrarian77
Among organizations that don’t give me a paycheck, TNTP may be my favorite.
They do two things really, really well. First, they take part in on-the-ground, let’s-solve-this-problem human-capital activities. In partner cities across the nation, they train and certify teachers, develop and implement new evaluation systems, help administrators improve observations, and much more.
Chances are, if you’re hearing about interesting, innovative teacher or leader work in an urban area, TNTP is involved.
The second is that they put out these superb little reports. They’re always short and punchy, visually pleasing, terribly informative, and, in one way or another, unexpected. Teacher Evaluation 2.0 was a valuable how-to guide for discriminating policymakers, The Irreplaceables was a teacher-retention wake-up call, and, of course, The Widget Effect was a game-changer.
The organization is at its influential-powerful best when it combines its smarts and muscle—when it can use its research and analysis to inform the field and then help implement the change. For example, TNTP’s findings on the appalling state of teacher evaluations helped shape the Race to the Top application, precipitated a wave of state-level statutory changes, and kicked off some of TNTP’s most
If you asked me that question fifteen years ago, I would have given a pat answer: incentives, or the lack thereof. In our bureaucratic education system, described most accurately as a public monopoly, nobody faced strong incentives to look for ways to build a better mousetrap. And if that mousetrap was threatening to anyone (as mousetraps tend to be), forget about it; the status quo ruled.
Why don't schools extend the reach of great teachers, as recommended by Public Impact?
Change the incentives and watch schools embrace change, I would have argued. Hold superintendents, principals, and teachers to account for raising test scores. Subject them to real competition. Then voila: They would spend night and day looking for promising innovations to improve achievement and better serve families.
Well, we know how that’s turned out. We’ve put a lot of those incentives in place, and schools (and educators) still don’t seem to embrace good ideas, even the non-controversial, inexpensive kind. Take, for instance, the following:
- Bring “departmentalization” to elementary schools by asking strong math teachers to teach math and strong reading teachers to teach reading. Don’t ask anybody to do both.
About the Editor
Michael J. Petrilli
Executive Vice President
Mike Petrilli is one of the nation's foremost education analysts. As executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, he oversees the organization's research projects and publications and contributes to the Flypaper blog and weekly Education Gadfly newsletter.
May 23, 2013
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