What's Next, #EdReform?

Wile E. CoyoteAccountability. Standards. Highly Qualified. Our Children Deserve… {insert platitude here}.

It really doesn’t sound so unreasonable, does it? Why is it that teachers – and let’s be honest, their LABOR UNIONS – are so afraid of a little accountability? They’re paid by our tax dollars, after all. Entrusted with our children. We try to be supportive, of course, but sometimes…

Well, sometimes it really does seem like they just don’t want to be held to any expectations or standards at all. I’m sorry they don’t make a lot of money, but is that any reason to let the lazy ones slide, or the stupid ones stay? I’m sure most of them are very hardworking and caring and educated people – but they’re not the ones who should be worried, right? So why so much whining every time the state or some other interested party tries to figure out who’s doing their job and who’s not?

That’s more or less the narrative inculcated by most “education reformers”. It’s usually laid on top of lofty rhetoric and trite faux-speration, but these are the basic questions planted in the minds of legislators, business leaders, parents, and – perhaps most importantly - the ethereal ‘public at large’. 

I’ll spare you the reasons so many of my peeps distrust the instruments generally used to measure teacher effectiveness. They’ve been well-covered elsewhere, by people much smarter than myself. But… I’m not sure their arguments resonate with many outside the world of public ed.  

Don’t misunderstand – I think their refutations are absolutely correct. Accurate and insightful. I’m just not sure they’re convincing to the folks who most need to be convinced. 

Knowledge LaunchSo I’d like to add a question of my own to the edu-pile. It’s a biggie, but one reformers somehow manage to avoid repeatedly. There are enough proverbial elephants in the #edreform room to keep one’s attention scrambled, but this one is larger than the rest. And neon orange. With eleven legs. And it’s making dolphin noises.

Let’s assume our state leggies get themselves all a-spinnin’ and finally implement VAM and TLE and OOPS and OMYGOD and whatever else is on the table. They may even throw some form of underfunded ‘merit pay’ into the mix so they can spin it as an actual ‘raise’ for the ‘good’ teachers. 

There’ll be formulas no one understands – including the people applying them to determine the success or failure of various teachers, buildings, and districts – and rhetoric aplenty declaring we once again have the higherest highness of high standards in education. Oklahoma will yet again reign as the undisputed leader in academic standards and overeducated pedagogues!  

Heck, we may even get some Gates money thrown our way – wouldn’t that be nifty?

Let’s even assume the various formulas and measurements and standards somehow DO begin to identify the ‘good’ teachers and the ‘bad’. Let’s grant the remote possibility that as the kinks are worked out, districts are able to apply these expectations in a meaningful way and the state is able to weed out the real bozos, the slackers, or even well-intentioned idiots. 

Maybe it’s 10% of the total teaching force of the state. Maybe 20%. Or maybe it turns out we’re not all such morons after all and it’s only 3% or 4%. Whatever the numbers, the weeds are pulled and the flowers showered with 2% stipends for teaching white middle class Methodist kids from two-parent –

Coyote Sails

My apologies – I was supposed to be speaking hypothetically. 

The flowers are showered with 2% stipends for strong improvement among all levels of students from all sorts of backgrounds. 

My question is... Now what? 

That’s the thing no one beating the #edreform drum seems to even consider. 

If there are crappy educators hiding all ‘round us, who need to be identified and repaired or removed, as part of an overall plan to improve public education, what do we do when we’ve removed the bad ones?

The answer is not so obvious.

If you said “replace them with good ones,” you lose. Even under the current system of supposedly no standards or accountability, we’re unable to fill something like a billion teaching positions in Oklahoma alone. Texas is begging for warm bodies with any degree at all. Maybe California is packed with highly qualified professionals desperate for a tenured position in South L.A.’s inner cities, but ‘round here, we’re short on teacher-types.

Coyote Rocket

Any teacher-types.

Any at all. 

It’s possible the major voices in #edreform simply haven’t planned that far ahead. Maybe they’re really smart at figuring out the initial stages but it hasn’t occurred to them it might actually work - and we’d have to know what to do next. Of course, if that’s true, they really have no business suggesting or being in charge of anything at all. If that’s true, they’re appallingly short-sighted. 

Or maybe they’ve never seriously addressed the question because they knew it wasn’t important. Maybe they’ve never worried about it because that’s not how things are intended to unfold. 

If you’re moving out of your current apartment, you at least consider where you hope to live next, yes? If you’re going out to eat with friends and don’t like their choice of restaurants, you pick somewhere better. Or cheaper. Or you order pizza. Or suggest making something at home.

Reformers haven’t done any of that. It’s like they believe it’s enough to simply settle on where we’re NOT living. Where we WON'T eat. As if starving outside on the sidewalk is a pretty impressive solution. Just look at our standards!

Or, perhaps they know no one will like their choices, so they keep them a 'surprise'. 

They do offer a few scattered scenarios – most involving privatizing education in some way, or making it easier for well-off families to get their kids into elite institutions so that it doesn’t really matter how bad the public schools are. 

Snow Machine

Regular readers know I’m not particularly aghast at the right charters, vouchers, private schools, or homeschooling consortiums. I’m a very open-minded guy.

Even with all that, though, one can’t help but wonder at the dearth of interest in how in the world we’re to replace these ne’er-do-wells we’ve eradicated. What resources or innovations are on the table to help locate and lure in all the fabulous teachers hiding just outside the realm of reality?

Is there some unperceived benefit to purging enough of the workforce that instead of a thousand unfilled positions we’ll have two thousand? Help me understand.

I suppose the most certain way to eliminate weeds from your garden is to simply plow the entire thing under and douse it with generous quantities of defoliants. If your primary concern is with these supposed ‘weeds’, that should definitely solve your problem. It’s just that you don’t have a garden when you’re done. 

So is a better garden – or an improved public school system – even really a goal? Or were the intentions all along something not requiring that level of subtlety or care? Is it possible that 'reformers' know exactly what they'd like in that area that used to be the garden, but have their own reasons for keeping it a 'surprise'?

I fear there’s a very good reason no one’s saying what’s next. 

Wile E. Coyote Falls

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I love this piece very much. The orange eleven-legged elephant making dolphin noises will be burned into my memory.

Sadly, I'm afraid I might know the answer to your question. Because any warm body off the street can be a content delivery specialist. So we just hire some folks, hand them the Curriculum-in-a-Box from Pearson or EngageNY or wherever, and just tell them to follow the script. If they quit or fail, that's okay. warm bodies are easy to come by.


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