If memory serves, the old TV show Hart to Hart used to begin with the narrator intoning, ?And when they met, it was murder.? Well, earlier this week AFT honcho Randi Weingarten and I engaged in a hard-hitting but genial debate at the Fordham Institute. Within a couple hours, we experienced the most severe East Coast earthquake in sixty-plus years. A coincidence? You decide. The Oprah-style affair, titled ?When Reform Touches Teachers,? was adeptly hosted by Fordham's Mike Petrilli. You can catch the video online here or when it shows on C-SPAN.
In my experience, these kinds of ?union leader v. ?reformer'? conversations tend to go in three unfortunate directions. The first is that everyone engages in vague ?it's for the kids? banalities, agree that the kids must come first, and pledge vague, meaningless collaboration going forward (e.g. see the Denver labor summit that the U.S. Department of Education hosted in February). The second is that the self-styled reformers beat on the union leader to concede on this or that, or the unionists squeeze the reformers to utter reassuring things about how much they love and respect teachers. And the third is when everybody just screams that those on the other side are ?seal-clubbing, crypto-fascist child-haters.? Each of these does a poor job of illuminating serious disputes or identifying
If you step back from day to day vitriol that characterizes the current education-policy ?debate,? and glimpse the larger picture, two worldviews on education reform emerge. One, articulated by the likes of Linda Darling-Hammond, Marc Tucker, David Cohen, and others, obsesses about curricular ?coherence,? and the lack thereof in our nation's schools. The other, envisioned by Rick Hess, Tom Vander Ark, Paul Hill, and many more, seeks to unleash America's trademark dynamism inside our K-12 education system. Though these ideas appear to pull in opposite directions, they might best work in concert. [quote]
Let's start with the Coherence Camp. Its argument, most recently made in David Cohen's Teaching and Its Predicaments, is that America's teachers are being set up to fail by a system that is fragmented, divided, and confused about its mission. Teachers are given little clear guidance about what's expected of them. Even when goals are clear, these teachers lack the tools to succeed: Pre-service training is completely disconnected from classroom expectations, and never ending ?reform? pulls up the roots of promising efforts before they are given time to flower.
The Coherence Camp looks longingly at Europe and Asia, where many (national) systems offer teachers the opportunity to work as professionals in environments of trust, clarity, and common purpose. (Japan envy yesterday, Finland envy today?) The members of this camp praise national standards, a national (or at least statewide) curriculum that gathers the best thinking about how to reach these
In case you missed it or were distracted by, say, the D.C. earthquake, the video of yesterday's thought-provoking ?When Reform Touches Teachers? discussion between American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and the American Enterprise Institute's Rick Hess is up on our website. ?Fordham's Mike Petrilli moderated the discussion and posed some tough questions about whether reformers and educators could find common ground.? A peek at some of the lively conversation about teacher compensation, evaluation, and collective bargaining, and you watch the whole conversation or check out some of the highlights below.
How teachers are perceived and the negative tone in some education debates was a point of contention.
Weingarten: New poll says teachers are respected more than ever, but 2/3 of reporting on education is negative.
Hess:? Republican governors are making measured cases for reform and are threatened or compared to tyrants.
Weingarten:? ?Educators have a right of freedom of speech, but we have a responsibility as to how we use it.?? Both sides of the debate are guilty of ?demagoguery.?
Both speakers reflected on the value of disagreement, but came to
With Gov. Rick Perry officially stepping into the GOP presidential-candidate pool over the weekend, we thought this piece?written on June 15, 2011 for the National Review Online?timely once again.
Deep in the heart of Texas is where some education-policy lessons might best stay.
But they tend not to. Rick Perry's seemingly imminent entry into the 2012 GOP race suggests that, for the second time in less than a dozen years, we could very well see an ardent effort by a Texas governor to make the federal role in education conform to his own preconceptions and to lessons drawn from his experience in Austin.
That's what happened in 2001 when Governor George W. Bush carried with him from Texas the essential elements of policy and practice that (after much fiddling by Congress) became the No Child Left Behind Act.
And that's what could happen again in 2013 should Perry win the Oval Office and endeavor there to magnify and replay the conclusions he has reached about education during his dozen years running the Lone Star State.
Besides (and partly due to) its enormity, Texas is a proud, sometimes arrogant, and seriously self-absorbed place. One need only stand under the immense dome of the state capitol?taller than the one in Washington?and gaze at the six flags depicted in the terrazzo floor. All have
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.
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