PBS’s Now included an excellent discussion of Chicago’s Renaissance 2010 and
whether struggling schools should be completely reorganized with all
teachers and staff having to reapply for their jobs or whether
replacing the schools’ leadership is effective.
If we hope to address "the bottom one percent," or the toughest
95,000 schools, surely America will need both strategies - and others. All types of
principal and teacher training programs would need to be in overdrive
for years before we have the talent for the challenge.
I know many of you saw the show on Friday. Read below for the complete post, and share your thoughts about what Thompson -- and Duncan -- had to say.
The key is
whether Arne Duncan, and the rest of us, follow his own words, "We can’t move forward without an honest assessment of the facts."
I will defer to Alexander and other journalists to evaluate the
actual facts regarding Duncan’s previous reforms in Chicago, but his
current rhetoric embodies the balance we need. Duncan worries:
"Our public conversation about educating children, lifting
struggling schools, and evaluating teachers and principals, too often
fall apart because we can’t agree on facts, let alone solutions.
There is little agreement on what kids should know and be able to do – how to measure it – and how to report the measures.
We can’t agree on whether standardized tests can accurately reflect achievement levels. We can’t even agree on whether to test.
There is little agreement about which student outcomes matter most.
What are our priorities?
Higher graduation rates?
Higher test scores?
Better freshman year on track rates?
We don’t agree on how to measure these simple outcomes – not to mention the more complex ideas like value-added.
And there is even less agreement around the means to reaching these goals.
A positive school culture?
An administrator’s leadership skills?
Or a teacher’s degree of helpfulness?
agree on whether teachers should be measured by their peers, level of
qualifications, classroom observation, student performance – or all of the above.
We need to develop a new generation of great teachers – yet
there is little agreement on how to hire a great teacher. Is it college
grades, advanced degrees, or some intangible quality of empathy and
Somehow amidst all of this chaos and confusion – differing opinions – competing agendas -- and absence of broadly-accepted truths – you and I must conduct an open, honest, and productive national conversation on public education.
Somehow, you and I must dismantle the barriers to straightforward, fact-based discussion and find the truth.
You and I must get to the bottom of the well.
This is no small challenge – but to shrink from it -- is to shrink from the larger task at hand. - John Thompson
Filed under: Teachers & Teaching