Arne Duncan recently announced his plan to put the “best” teachers in low-performing schools. These would of course be the teachers whose students get the highest scores, and most of them teach in affluent suburbs or schools for the gifted. Unfortunately, Arne has not figured out that the “best scores” and the biggest gains reflect the student population and family income.
Peter Greene has a series of scenarios for Arne.
He writes, to begin:
“This aspect of school reform has been lurking around the edges for some time– the notion that once we find the super-duper teachers, we could somehow shuffle everybody around and put the supery-duperest in front of the neediest students. But though reformsters have occasionally floated the idea, the feds have been reluctant to really push it.
“Now that the current administration has decided to bring that federal hammer down on this issue, you’re probably wondering what they have in mind for insuring that the best teachers will be put in front of the students who have the greatest need. I’m here to tell you what some of the techniques will be.
“Before Anything Else, Mild Brain Damage Required
“Any program like this requires the involved parties to believe that teachers are basically interchangeable cogs in a huge machine. We will have to assume that a teacher who is a great teacher of wealthy middle school students will be equally successful with students in a poor urban setting. Or vice-versa, as you will recall that Duncan’s pretty sure it’s the comfy suburban kids who are actually failing. We have to assume that somebody who has a real gift for connecting with rural working class Hispanic families will be equally gifted when it comes to teaching in a high-poverty inner city setting.
“And, of course, as always, we’ll have to assume that teachers who are evaluated as “ineffective” didn’t get that rating for any reason other than their own skills– the students, families, resources and support of the school, administration, validity of the high stakes tests, the crippling effects of poverty– none of those things contributed to the teacher’s “success” or lack thereof.
“Once everybody is on board with this version of reality, we can start shuffling teachers around.”
Some day we might have a Secretary of Education who cares about research, understands teaching and learning, and has common sense as well. It looks like we will have to wait at least two more years, while hoping that our best teachers haven’t chosen to leave.