Let’s assume that Bill and Melinda Gates really want to improve the teaching profession. Let’s assume that they have no idea about the negative effects of their current agenda. Let’s assume they want to do what is best for teachers and students and American education. Certainly, they are not in it for the money; they have enough. The chances are they are surrounded by compliant staff who never tell them what is really happening on the ground.
Since this teacher does not work for them and has no skin in the game, she offers this advice for them, which I am pleased to pass along:
|Perhaps I’m being naive but I do believe Bill and Melinda Gates are truly interested in teacher quality. So am I and so is Diane Ravitch and almost everyone else.From what I’ve read I believe the Gates couple are just beginning to realize that all their donated money is (once again) having unintended consequences. Are their practices luring more talented people to the profession or are many young people being scared away? Are dedicated urban teachers electing to stay in low-performing schools or are they trying desperately to get transfers to “better” (i.e. more affluent) schools where test scores are almost certain to improve? Are young women still preparing for K-12 jobs or are they electing to follow men into many professions that promise higher pay, autonomy and prestige? Personally I don’t know a single young man or woman who is planning on a career in elementary or secondary education. Yes, there are many recent college graduates who are searching for teaching jobs but how many are entering college programs at this time?Is someone from the Gates Foundation reading this blog? If so, why not try tried and true methods for attracting and retaining talented people to the field of public school teaching. Here’s what I’d like to see:Fellowships at excellent colleges and universities for talented individuals to prepare to become teachers;
Schools where highly qualified teachers can be fully professional. At these schools these teachers would make most decisions regarding budget, governance, curriculum, and instruction. They would elect a head teacher who would serve at the pleasure of the faculty and vote on promotion for colleagues. Like their college teacher counterparts, these teachers would have a career ladder: assistant teacher, associate teacher, teacher, mentor etc. They would not have to leave the classroom in order to advance. Their unions would morph into the associations they were originally meant to be. With teachers at the helm, we’ll see an end to the ineffective teacher. And, yes, salaries, working conditions and benefits will need to be improved. Perhaps the Gates people can help talented teachers open their own schools where they would be free to make almost all decisions.
We know how to encourage talented people to enter other occupations. Let’s try these same strategies to improve the teaching profession. Humiliating, shaming and depriving teachers of hard-won benefits isn’t going to improve the profession and we don’t need a Stanford or Harvard researcher to tell us that. The contempt that so many of our citizens feel for schoolteachers ( mainly women) is at the root of our problems. If we want to see improvement, we have to find a way to change this unfortunate cultural characteristic of the American people. Hopefully Bill and Melinda Gates will use their money to help. They will realize the success they want when they help to elevate the profession and not demean it, as is happening at this time.