Published by Brunsell on 21 Sep 2010 at 11:42 am
Alfie Kohn was on Wisconsin Public Radio this morning talking about education reform and the lack of honest discussions about education in the U.S. It was a fantastic discussion and you really should listen to the entire show here (He takes a caller to task for supporting Michelle Rhee at the 14:30 mark).
I asked the following question (22:30 mark):
NBC is hosting “Education Nation” next week with 11 panels focused on education. Only one of the panelists has a view different than the dominant perspective on school reform. The voice of parents and teachers are completely missing. While looking at the panels, I was appalled by one… “How do we keep good teachers, throw out bad ones, and put a new shine on the profession?”
I assume that this will become a union bashing session.
(1) Why would high-quality prospective teachers want to teach in an environment like this?
(2) Is it possible to have meaningful reform without putting support for teachers at the center? How did “high performing countries” get to where they are by supporting teacher professional growth?
Right. Second point raises an interesting…even when you look at International test scores for what they are worth you find that the countries that tend to do very, very well and are impressive by that nature, like Finland have a complete different approach to education. They value teachers as professionals. They don’t give much homework. They rarely give standardized tests. They start the kids in school at age 7 instead of this drilling little kids and so on. That’s interesting.
But the first question he asks about attracting teachers is a very important element of this. In all of the tough, macho talk about rooting out bad teachers and keeping them accountable not only are we …as a professor put it in the NYT op-ed yesterday… not only are we missing what really maters but we end up with a situation where: (A) we protect bad teachers as - she [NYT Op Ed] put it - by hiding their lack of skill behind narrow goals and rigid scripts so that really bad teachers are often good at raising test scores and really terrific teachers often aren’t good at raising test scores because they are doing stuff that matters more; and (B) we make it much less likely that really talented young people will choose education as a career. Because they know they are being turned into test prep technicians and who can blame them for not wanting to do that.
Background: Related posts are Here, here, here and here. Read this about Education Nation, this about the vilification of teacher unions and this about Race to the Top. Make sure you read this too - Diane Ravitch on Michelle Rhee