Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Big Money In Education Reform

I know a lot of extraordinary teachers, so please consider applying for this award below :). 
A Major New Award for Extraordinary Teaching
Amazing teachers deserve more attention. That’s the idea behind the Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice, a new award that honors extraordinary teachers with $25,000 and the opportunity to share their expertise with educators nationwide.  Offered by TNTP, a nonprofit organization [led by Michelle Rhee for its first 10 years] led working to ensure that more students learn from excellent teachers, the prize will be given to up to five teachers each year.  Any full-time teacher working in a high-poverty public school, including charter schools, may apply. The deadline for applications is Friday, February 3, 2012. Learn more and apply online at
[COMMENTARY]  There is some big money behind some types of education reform.  Not all of that money is designed to sustain democratic public education.  
When Michelle Rhee, or others, say that "...the single most important factor determining whether students succeed in school is not the color of their skin or their ZIP code or even their parents’ income — it is the quality of their teacher...," more questions are raised than answered.  On the surface, one might think that teacher quality would imply that teachers should somehow be involved in creating the schools (and policies) that influence their effectiveness.  Yet many reformers -- conservative, neo-liberal or heavy-handed Marxist -- often overlook teachers as the experts in the room.  Quite undemocratic.  
Some messy questions to consider:
  • If students are not doing well (on standardized tests), does this imply that teachers are merely "ordinary" or just plain lousy at their jobs?
  • If teachers are not as effective as they could be, are there other in-school variables that influence student learning?  What does it mean when we isolate the teachers as a single variable and ignore the other variables that could affect student learning?  What if smart teachers are saddled with stultifying working conditions, dangerous hallways or classrooms, or children arrive at school hungry, tired and/or stressed?
  • If you take an effective teacher and move her/him from 5th grade to 3rd, and then to 4th, will her/his effectiveness be compromised year to year?
  • Why is it that under-performing schools often have higher teacher turn-over and higher rates of newer teachers?  

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