I am really tired of education bloggers like Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post. She rants on and on about the "failed" policies of the President, rather than crediting this administration for its laser-like focus on reform. Never before has so much media attention been paid to education innovation, research, data and teacher quality and I credit "Race to the Top," The Gates Foundation, and the Obama Administration.
But clearly, Valerie Strauss and I don't agree.
In her most recent article bashing the new movie "Waiting for 'Superman'," Strauss spurns teacher evaluation and accountability, as if they have nothing to do with student achievement.
And yet data shows us that student success is tied directly to the quality of the teacher in the classroom.
If Strauss would deign to look at any of the research out of The New Teacher Project, or The Education Trust, she would see this. If she were to look further, she would see that these organizations, and innovative schools around the country, are working with teachers on how to be more effective in the classroom, in order to differentiate and meet student needs.
A great New York Times story last week details such a high school in Brockton, MA, where just a few years ago only a quarter of the students passed statewide exams and one in three dropped out. The teachers' motto was "the students have a right to fail." But after a small group of teachers provided the rest of their staff with leadership, intensified instruction, and dedicated Saturday morning meeting times to professional development, the school turned around. This year and last, Brockton outperformed 90 percent of Massachusetts high schools.
It's all about leadership and teaching quality, and the ability for teachers and unions to look at what they're doing and say "You know, this isn't working, what can I do better?"
As the NYT story details, great teachers at these levels become leaders. They know how to use data, formative assessments, connect with kids and differentiate learning for individual students. They become game changers, and everyone of us has had at least one in our lives.
So Ms. Strauss, instead of complaining about the Obama Administration, charter schools, and a business-influenced agenda, can we talk about something that DOES matter? Can we, like teachers, better inform the conversation and start talking about real issues? Like teachers who become leaders and how to support them?