I’m not really sure how much more I can add to the fine criticism of Time‘s latest cover story about Michelle Rhee, DC’s Chancellor of Education (read: Jim Horn, Dean Shareski, and Chris Lehmann) … but, two things stand out for me (other than being rather annoyed by the glamorization of someone who has clearly not read The No Assh0le Rule:
1) Why are we still fixated on standardized test scores as a measure of teacher capacity? Surely there is enough debate about the validity of such tests, their negative impact on student engagement, and their contribution to passionate teachers fleeing the profession, to suggest a need to find something else. I’m all for accountability measures, but we know that an aggregated summative number doesn’t give us the full picture, either about a student or about the teacher(s) who taught that student. I have first-hand experience in well-meaning teacher merit systems as well as completely flawed teacher evaluation programs. Boiling it down to an autopsy-style test given in March doesn’t tell us how good the teaching was.
Why can’t we consider valid and reliable diagnostic assessments that encourage students, families, and teachers to partner with each other and work on a child’s individual learning needs (perhaps because we would have to give them at the beginning of the school year and spoil the newspapers’ fun of bashing poor-performing schools)? How about using thoughtful teacher evaluation rubrics that encourage educators to self-assess and focus on areas that they feel need improvement (perhaps because it’s more difficult and requires reflection and effort, rather than a spreadsheet)?
2) If it’s about teacher quality, we need to shift our culture to one that appreciates, encourages, and rewards intelligent and passionate young people to enter the education profession. We need high-quality pre-service programs that do not rely on traditional methods courses that segregate disciplines and neglect using current technology to alter the learning environment. We need high-level certification programs for elementary teachers that are willing to be content-area experts; for middle school educators that truly embrace that developmental age group (not just frustrated high school teachers); for secondary teachers that don’t spout information and ask bored teenagers to regurgitate it.
Yes, there are plenty of bad teachers out there and we should get rid of them – but who will replace them?