In a recent article for The Education Gadfly, Michael J. Petrilli offers his take on how we should proceed with education reform, particularly as it concerns teachers. Excerpts from his article are below:
For all of its victories over the last couple of years, including Scott Walker’s on Tuesday night, the school reform movement finds itself in a pickle. To succeed in creating world-class schools and raising student achievement, it needs education’s front line workers—a.k.a. teachers—to feel motivated, empowered, and inspired. And yet, according to the recent MetLife survey and anecdotal reports, many teachers are down in the dumps.[...]
The message we reformers are sending isn’t all peace, love, and happiness, and that’s probably having an impact, and not for the better.
We think many teachers are dumb (look at those SAT scores!); greedy (look at those gold-plated healthcare and pension plans!); racist (look at those achievement gaps!); lazy (look at those summers off!); ill-prepared (look at those crappy ed schools!); uncaring (look at all that bullying!); unnecessary (look at what computers can do!); and incompetent (look at those low value-added scores!). Or at least that’s how many teachers hear it, I suspect. We love teachers—we just hate everything about them. [...]
So what’s the other option? How can we continue to make the case for reform without alienating teachers, without turning them into the enemy, the problem, the object of our disdain?
One way is to put teachers in charge of their own schools. That’s the argument Ted Kolderie and his colleagues at EducationEvolving have been making. If we want teachers to feel respected and motivated, we should treat them as true professionals. Let them call the shots. Set the budget. Hire new teachers. Deal with management concerns. In all likelihood, these teacher-leaders will come to some of the same conclusions as reformers. [...]
Another way is to champion reforms that teachers do support. For instance, make it easier for educators to discipline unruly students, or to use “ability grouping” in their classrooms instead of mandating the nearly-impossible strategy of “differentiating instruction.” In other words, remove the obstacles (often ideological in nature) that are getting in the way of teachers achieving success in their classrooms. [...]
Another possibility: find smart ways to give teachers a “voice” that doesn’t entail subjugating them to union bosses.[...]
None of these are perfect solutions. As long as reformers are talking about curtailing teachers’ benefits, or making their jobs less secure, or evaluating their instructional practices, there is going to be some anger and resentment. And talk about those reforms we must. Let’s just try to make some effort to heed teachers’ concerns, and inspire them to excellence, too.
To read the full article, please visit http://www.edexcellence.net/commentary/education-gadfly-daily/flypaper/2012/how-to-push-for-reform-without-alienating-teachers.html