Wednesday, August 18, 2010

All Reform is Not Created Equal

Kevin Drum wades into the debate over the recent LA Times piece on teacher evaluation.  He quotes Democracy in America's Roger McShane at the Economist, who sees UTLA president AJ Duffy's angry reaction to the piece as symptomatic of broader union intransigence towards education-reform:
Mr Duffy's reaction fits with a broader resistance to more formal evaluation methods by teachers unions across the country. And that has coincided with extensive union efforts to defend teachers who are obviously failing our students. If the education-reform debate has come to seem like an attack on teachers, it is in large part because of the unions' misdirected passion and priorities.
This is a telling remark by McShane. He defines reform a specific way, and then argues that unions and teachers are opposed to it. Modern education-reform has essentially been based on the assumption that school failure is the fault of bad teachers. Every policy proposal has thus targeted teacher performance.

But this is completely untrue. School failure is the fault of socio-economic differences, which bad teaching only makes worse. But at failing schools, even average teachers can appear to be "bad". The idea that you can solve the achievement gap in public schools by only keeping "above-average" teachers is simply ridiculous.

What we need is education-reform that massively redistributes resources from affluent to poor schools. Every neighborhood is not equal, and thus some schools need a lot more help than others. They need extra support, smaller class sizes, longer days, after-school programs, parent counseling/classes and childcare. None of that kind of reform is happening. And that is reform that teachers will wholeheartedly embrace.

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