The crisis in American education is really about how to find and retain and nourish ordinary teachers. They are the ones who do most of the work, have the greatest influence, and are under the greatest stress.
We have never heard more policy rhetoric about developing, recruiting and retaining strong teachers. Ironically, our policies have also never done more to ensure that good teachers have little incentive to serve and stay in those schools.
If the school reformers truly believe that teachers are the key to the success of children --- and I agree, they certainly are one of the keys --- then the reformers must reconsider the mindless application of the deadly algorithm.
We need to reward the "thankless job" of substitute teaching with better pay and chances for permanent positions. I look forward to the day when no student comes home saying, "I didn't learn much today... we had a sub."
If Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had had any idea what the latest Gates Foundation project would find, would he have gambled so heavily on test-driven policies in Race to the Top and his other "teacher quality" reforms?
The status quo in public education isn't working. Not for students -- and not for educators. Now, more than ever, our schools need a highly skilled and effective teaching force to guide students in meeting the challenges of the 21st century.
Despite the ubiquity of the "bottom third" and similar arguments (which are sometimes phrased as massive generalizations, with no reference to actual proportions), it's unclear how many of those who offer them know what specifically they refer to.
If 2010 was the year of the bombshell in research in the three "major areas" of market-based education reform -- charter schools, performance pay, and value-added in evaluations -- 2011 was the year of the slow, sustained march.
An NEA commission report released last Thursday appears to depart from union positions on seniority; tenure; performance pay; student achievement as a factor in evaluations; and the role of teachers in evaluating their colleagues.
Our teachers come from an elite group -- college graduates -- to begin with. Where they rank within this elite is the issue, and it's simply unfair to suggest that a large group of people in the top third is somehow fundamentally flawed.
We envy the academic achievement level in China. There are many reasons for their achievement. But one is that instructional time is respected. The teachers teach -- uninterrupted. Not a second is lost.
Would you believe that tomorrow we are expected to put aside our own important work and honor teachers? That's right, we're supposed to drop everything and pay homage to those lazy, overpaid, 'we've-got-tenure-and-you-don't' incompetents.
The U.S. cannot improve its education system for all or even most children by keeping its present focus on charter schools, more testing, teacher evaluation and union bashing. None of those feature in the best-performing countries.