rheeForm

January 12, 2011 | Blog


Proposed education reforms that do not imagine that current and beginning teachers can become more effective while on the job should be considered null and void. This postulation, if accepted, would direct Michelle Rhee’s new StudentsFirst agenda to the nearest paper shredder.

To be blunt, it is just plain naive and short-sighted to think that we can maximize teacher effectiveness purely by firing more teachers and marginally changing the cadre of incoming teacher candidates. Is supporting and strengthening the teaching practice of our veteran educators not worthy of our focus and investment?

StudentsFirst’s “Elevate Teaching” policy objectives are limited to evaluating teachers and principals, reforming teacher certification laws, reforming teacher compensation, “exiting” teachers, and eliminating teacher tenure. Specifically, the objectives are:

  • State law must require evaluation that is based substantially on student achievement. Evaluation tools should measure at least half of a teacher’s performance based on student achievement, using a value-added growth model. The other aspects of a teacher’s evaluations should derive from measures that align with student results, including high-quality observations and student evaluations of teacher practice.
  • To avoid all teachers being ranked as effective without meaningful assessment, evaluations must anchor effectiveness around a year’s worth of growth.
  • State law must require principal evaluation that is based on student achievement and effective management of teachers. Districts should evaluate at least half of a school administrator’s performance based on student achievement, and the remaining portion should mostly relate to their ability to attract, retain, manage, and develop excellent teachers.
  • State law should give districts the autonomy to develop teacher evaluation systems apart from the collective bargaining process. Evaluations should be a matter of district policy.
  • States must reduce legal barriers to entry in the teaching profession, including complicated credentialing or certification schemes that rely upon factors that do not clearly correlate with teacher effectiveness.
  • State law should not be structured to penalize districts financially for recruiting teachers from alternate certification programs.
  • States should adopt a clear process by which alternative certification programs are authorized, continually evaluated, and decommissioned if not producing high-quality educators.
  • State law must facilitate digital learning by allowing certification for online instruction and modifying or eliminating mandatory “seat time” laws.
  • State law must require pay structures based primarily on effectiveness. Teacher contracts must allow for individual performance-based pay.
  • State law and district policy should not mandate higher salaries for master’s degrees or additional education credits.
  • State law should require staffing decisions (transfers, reductions, placements) be based on teacher effectiveness.
  • State laws must prohibit forced placements and allow district control in staffing. Districts should ensure that teacher contracts require mutual consent placements. Districts should have the flexibility to offer defined grace periods, severance, or other options for teachers who have effective ratings, but do not find a mutually agreeable placement. Teachers rated ineffective should be exited from the system.
  • State law should not grant, implicitly or directly, tenure or permanent contracts for PK–12 education professionals.

There is evidence (from sources such as IES and AIR) that shows that high-quality approaches to new teacher induction and professional development pay dividends in terms of student outcomes. Why would a “student first” agenda utterly ignore initiatives that work in favor of some that have a paltry or non-existent research base?

To keep it brief, please read some of my most relevant past posts arguing why a focus on teacher support and development makes sense and why it should be at the centerpiece of every education reform agenda.

With regard to the StudentsFirst plan, to use a Twitter construct, #edreformfail.

1 Comment

  1. Reply

    Michael Paul Goldenberg

    January 12, 2011

    It doesn't matter if Rhee's proposals don't make sense: she's anointed. Anointed by the media; by Oprah; by Bill Gates; by her fellow educational deformer Joel Klein, by the think tankers from the education right (and likely other points on the party spectrum, given that just about no prominent American politician appears to care about meaningful reform).

    Further, it doesn't matter if her proposals WORK. In fact, they're almost certainly not going to work and I suspect that's not exactly a coincidence. Because the goal of the entire education deform movement, along with that of the neo-conservative and neo-liberal push on education, is the FAILURE of US public schools.

    One might well take the words of the fraudulent, 'the sky is falling' battle cry from the age of Reagan, A NATION AT RISK, and apply them to the current crop of deformers. They are indeed an invasion force dedicated to destroying American democracy and putting our schools and our children firmly in the grasp of Wall Street.

    In that regard, this isn't a political fight and Rhee's isn't a political agenda. It's much simpler: it's about M-O-N-E-Y. Public education is a multi-billion dollar cash cow waiting to be milked (until it runs dry) by corporate greed-heads. High-stakes tests advocated for by the publishers of those tests? Curriculum driven by those tests? Content determined by committees dominated by testing companies and publishers?

    As a good friend of mine said decades ago when he worked for McGraw-Hill (and later, Harper-Collins) in educational publishing: there's no educational philosophy at work here; only what sells.

    Rhee knows about as much about teaching and learning as she does about running a nuclear power plant (and I'm not sure she's any LESS dangerous given the power to run a classroom, let alone a school, a district, or, Darwin forfend, our nation's educational policies). Her claim to fame, in her own words, as far as actual teaching goes, was her putting tape on the mouths of "noisy" students at an inner-city Baltimore public elementary school.

    Need we really analyze the idiocy contained in her screeds? The only news would be if she said something useful or insightful. That would be a real 'woman bites dog' story indeed.


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