Disqus

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Two More Interesting Opinion Pieces

The Huffington Post has a whole education section and,as well, many guest bloggers.

One of these is "freelance writer, humorist and educator, Brock Cohen, who wrote a funny, biting assessment of ed reform called "The Fairy Tale of School Reform." He has a section called "Once Upon a time..." that starts like this:

There lived a group of altruists known as the public school reformists. These munificent spirits selflessly set aside their unfathomably important lives in addressing such a dire issue. What this rarefied collection of heaven-sent do-gooders lacked in basic knowledge of classroom pedagogy and actual firsthand contact with nanny-less human schoolchildren, they more than compensated for in name recognition; soaring rhetoric; and the blind, unwavering conviction that nothing less than a systemic upheaval of the current school system could salvage public education.

Yup, that's pretty much the story. Here's his second part, "Debunking the Fairy Tale of School Reform."

The other blog post I really enjoyed was from teacher, Sabrina Stevens Shupe, entitled, "How Do Successful School Systems Treat Teachers?" I was really looking forward to her describing a well-functioning district in the U.S. where teachers feel good about their work and the support they receive from their district. But she writes about what other countries do so that was a let-down. One line says it all:

One of the key things that such systems have in common is that they take teaching seriously.

Because honestly, ever read the comments in the Seattle Times after any education story? You'd think teachers were involved in devil worship except the writers seem to think they are union zombies so how smart can they be? It's ridiculous. Even Oprah, who gives a lot of lip service to teachers, let her head get turned by Gates and Rhee.

Next good part?

Recognizing that "teaching is the profession that makes all other professions possible," other nations devote considerable time and resources into teaching. Note, too, that all of these investments are based on two key assumptions:
  • That teachers should teach, develop and evaluate each other (and that every facet of education -- from teacher training to school leadership -- should be informed and led by professional educators).
  • That teachers will stay in teaching until they retire, thereby allowing them to continue the cycle of developing other teachers and leading schools, and making such extensive investments worthwhile.
I find this interesting because I always wondered if all principals have been teachers and if not, how were they trained to recognize good teaching?

Last great section:

Rather than guaranteeing teacher quality before teachers take responsibility for students, we're growing a system where we put teachers in the classroom, then try to figure out if they're good enough after the fact. This experiment-and-punish approach is remarkably cruel to both teachers and students, especially the neediest ones -- who are often subjected to strings of over-worked, under-supported, and under-trained instructors year after year. If we really want to build a world-class school system, why waste time and money on witch hunts and magic bullets?

4 comments:

Jet City mom said...

I find this interesting because I always wondered if all principals have been teachers and if not, how were they trained to recognize good teaching?

I think many of them do- but just as not all great managers have worked on the shop floor, not all principals have taught in a classroom- although I daresay most good ones have either been employed or volunteered a great deal in an educational setting.


Steve Brown for example- was getting his principal certification after his school board gig- but his previous career was in the courtroom. ( & whatever you think of his board accomplishments or lack thereof- he is a exemplary mentor to youth-my daughter had him as a coach for a decade- I could not say enough good things about him)

But the trend seems to be superintendents that don't have classroom experience ( and even when they have it....) & as I alluded to on another thread- the education sector is hiring- which will probably bring in more people iwho want to start in admin-
( but still IMO, the best principals have not only taught they still do- both my daughters have had principals that occasionally taught in the classroom & it really adds something to the school- from the parents POV, as well as the kids.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Emeraldkity, I know of Steve's work with soccer teams. He is a smart and caring person. (He was actually an okay Board member but he got taken in by Joe Olchefske and it was his downfall.)

Anonymous said...

OT but crucial-- the governor's budget just in, and plenty of cuts to education. See http://www.governor.wa.gov

Watching the $$

Maureen said...

Rather than guaranteeing teacher quality before teachers take responsibility for students, we're growing a system where we put teachers in the classroom, then try to figure out if they're good enough after the fact.

Actually, in Seattle in the current job market, if poorly trained teachers are making it into classrooms, it is because HR doesn't have a proper screening system in place. Certified grads all have classroom experience, many of them have been subbing in Seattle. There are many applicants for every position. The question is, how are they being screened? Is HR really looking into their qualifications and references? Do they have relationships with local ed schools so they can trust their recommendations? Do they know which ed schools provide the best screened and trained teachers?

Is anyone responsible for evaluating and reporting on the work of subs? Do student teacher mentors take their recommendations seriously or do they write glowing reports of all of their student teachers? These are things HR should look into if they want to improve their applicant pool.