A new report was released by The New Teacher Project, asserting that our schools were losing the very best teachers. They are the “irreplaceables.”
The report got the red treatment, with Secretary Duncan there to salute its findings. And it was funded by three billionaire foundations: Gates, Walton, John and Laura Arnold (big supporters of Michelle Rhee).
It seems that schools are losing their “best” teachers (the irreplaceables) and holding on to the ones who should have been fired.
Context helps. After Michelle Rhee left her brief teaching stint for TFA, she became an entrepreneur, as most good graduates of TFA do.
She created The New Teacher Project to find and place new teachers in urban districts where they are needed.
An altogether laudable idea, but in true TFA-style, having a good idea and making it happen is never enough.
It has to be the best idea in the universe. And the people who do it are the best ever. And those who don’t agree are awful people.
TNTP began issuing studies and reports to prove that their brand-new teachers were miles better than those jaded old veterans in the classroom. As time went by, there would be no doubt that the very best of all teachers was the one who had never taught before but came armed with enthusiasm and desire and a readiness to stop at nothing in the pursuit of higher test scores.
This is what Shanker Blog said about this latest report. In three of the four districts in the report, the data are based on only one year of data. As we have seen in many studies, one year of data is not reliable. The ratings are unstable. A teacher who somehow gets big score gains from her students in one year will not get them the next year; the teacher who look like a do-nothing this year is “irreplaceable” the next year.
Are there wonderful, outstanding, star teachers? Yes. Are there awful people who shouldn’t be there? Yes.
Is it necessary to turn all of American education upside down to root out the small number who are awful?
This is just one more useless salvo in the ongoing attempt to prove that America’s teachers are responsible for low test scores.
The current obsession with using test scores to find the best and fire the worst is wrong. Start with the fact that the tests weren’t designed for this purpose. Recognize that some excellent teachers don’t see huge gains year after year because they teach the gifted or the slowest or ELLs. Some very bad and uninspiring teachers can get score gains by doing endless drill and rote. And you have a formula that produces no improvement, just demoralization.
Someday these bad ideas will go away. Whenever it is, it won’t be a moment too soon.