When Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited New Haven’s first turnaround school, he asked what was needed to encourage more teachers to leave high-performing schools for low-performing schools. Everyone who responded to his question talked about the importance of preparing teachers better for the challenges of teaching students in urban schools. They spoke of a year or more of preparation. No one mentioned Teach for America. I wonder if he noticed that.
When he asked the only teacher who had transferred from a high-performing school why she had done so, she said it was because of her desire to serve. And the following exchange ensued:
“No one becomes a teacher to get rich,” she added.
“We’re working on that,” Duncan replied.
Duncan missed the point. She was not lured to the turnaround school to get rich, but he continues to believe that money will be the incentive that brings teachers from top schools to bottom schools. He really doesn’t get it.
What is troubling about the whole article is the underlying assumption that firing half the staff was part of a successful process; that the teachers were the reason that the students had low test scores. Of course, there is no evidence that the school actually has turned around, but that’s irrelevant. The entire day of high-fives reinforced Duncan’s rock-solid belief that firing teachers is a necessary step to turning a school around. He just can’t stop patting himself on the back as he flogs this claim that firing half or all the staff is the essence of reform. In his mind, it is.
He really doesn’t get it.