Archives for category: Teachers and Teaching

Emily Talmage writes a letter to the reformers. It is civil. It is polite. It is strong and clear.


She knows that every “I Quit” letter makes them happy. That is what they want. They want to get rid of career teachers. They don’t want people with experience. They want enthusiastic young college graduates who will work a 70-hour week and then leave. Who won’t complain if they are replaced by technology.


But Talmage has news for the reformers. She is not leaving. She plans to stay and fight. And she is not alone.


I am here to tell you that there is a growing army of us – yes, army – who are refusing to quit, despite the havoc you are wreaking on our profession.


I am here to tell you that not only have we vowed not to quit – we have also vowed to fight.


We are getting organized, and are rapidly growing in our ranks.


So let it be clear that just as you have declared war on us, we have declared war on you.


Yes, you have your freakish amounts of money and the political power you’ve bought with it.


You have your strategically formed foundations and your consultants with their arsenal of devious, deceitful tricks.


You have your wickedly distorted narratives that you have spent years crafting.


You have your egos and your algorithms and your data that means whatever you want it to mean.


But we have more than that.


We have families – parents, grandparents, sisters and brothers – and the unthinkable amount of love they generate each day.


We have momma bears whose claws are out and fangs are bared.


We have whole communities who will not stand idly by as their schools go under due to your business plans.


We have deep, fiery anger at the way we, as professionals, have been treated over the last decade, and even deeper anger over the way our children have been used as guinea pigs in your covert experiments.


We also have the truth.


So be prepared.


We are not quitting, and will not be surrendering.




Teachers (and mothers, and fathers, and grandparents, and communities…) Everywhere

Peter Greene observes that there is a burgeoning number of “I Quit” letters by teachers. It has become a genre of its own. But he wants the world to know that he is not quitting.

Here is how his “I don’t quit” letter begins:

Dear Board of Education:

Just wanted you to know that I am not going any damn where.

Yes, a lot of people have worked hard to turn my job into something I barely recognize, and yes, I am on the butt end of a whole lot of terrible education policy, and yes, I am regularly instructed to commit educational malpractice in my classroom.

But here’s the thing– you don’t pay me nearly enough for me to do my job badly, on purpose.

I’m not going to make children miserable on purpose. I’m not going to waste valuable education time on purpose. I’m not going to teach them that reading is a miserable activity with no purpose other than to prepare for testing. I’m not going to tell them that these big stupid tests, or any other tests, or grades, even, are an important measure of how “good” they are or how much right they have to feel proud or happy or justified in taking up space on this planet. I’m not going to tell them any of that.

Most of these new education reform policies are wrong. They’re bad pedagogy, bad instruction, bad for students, bad for education, and we all know it. I am not going to spend another day in my room pretending that I don’t know it.

Am I God’s gift to teaching, so awesome that I never need to listen to anybody about anything? Not at all. It’s a big, wide, complicated world, and I’ll listen to anybody who thinks they have something to share about how children can be educated.

But here’s the thing. I am a teacher. I am an education professional. I trained to do this job, and I have never stopped training and learning since I started on this path. This is my world. This is the work that I committed myself to. I live here, and that means I know more about this work than the edu-tourists just passing through.

Read it all. It will remind you that teaching is a noble profession, and that this is a time to fight off the barbarians and stand strong for what you know is right.

Gene V. Glass here quotes a young woman, Susan Tran, who completed her bachelor’s degree in Spanish and is now finishing graduate studies to be certified as an elementary school teacher. He wonders how new teachers are able to resolve the contradictions between what the demands of the state and their professional ethics.

Glass writes:

Susan is mature and intelligent; she recognized early in her career that becoming a teacher in the Age of Reformation is forcing idealistic young teachers to resolve contradictions — contradictions between 1) messages from reformers who believe that teaching is a low level trade that has no right to organize on its own behalf and for which six weeks of indoctrination are adequate training, and 2) messages from university-based teacher trainers who believe that good teaching is rooted in children’s unique interests and capabilities and treats them as individuals, not as replicates of a governmentally defined template.

Susan Tran writes (quoted in part):

Throughout my education to be a teacher, one of the biggest questions that has arisen for me is “How do I meet the expectations and standards of the state and district, while also meeting the true needs of my students?” One of my biggest fears coming into the teaching profession is that we have started to confuse the acquisition of knowledge with the process of learning. In an effort to meet numeric goals and score high on standardized tests, we have become obsessed with how to get our students to perform in a way that satisfies a checklist, or a numerical score, or a national standard. I’m fearful that we have forgotten about instilling passion, excitement, and curiosity in our students. It is becoming less important to us to create better people, who care about each other and the world around them and think of ways to deal with the problems that they see in front of them. We discuss world problems only in so far as they fit into our standardized curriculum, but we don’t address the difficult yet inevitable issues that our students will eventually find themselves confronted with in the very near future.

I do understand the need for progression in a student’s knowledge. I see why it’s important that our students are exposed to and encouraged to master a large variety of topics. However, I do not understand why we have begun to think that the best way to do this is to have them fill in a bubble sheet, or sit in front of a computer for an hour and take the exact same test. We’ve become immersed in this notion that there is a “standard,” which then implies that there is a norm. There’s a ‘normal’ level that a student must attain at a certain time, and that the best way to get them there is to maintain the same timeline across the board.

In spite of the fact that our methods classes certainly cover the topics of differentiation, and “meeting the needs of each student,” we see classrooms all around us that teach to the same set-in-stone standards, which translates into more information and less context, relevance, and appeal to students’ interests. This may all sound like a long rant criticizing the methods of current teaching, and that is absolutely not the point that I am trying to make. I think that teaching and teachers should be one of the most highly valued professions. I think that many schools do their very best to create well-rounded students who will enter the world as functional citizens who can contribute to society. I am simply trying to express the fact that we are in danger of getting lost along the way. We have focused too much on the numerical scores that we are producing rather than the wonderful, creative, and inspired individuals who we are helping to shape.

I know that I am entering this profession at a time of great change. There are shifts occurring within the standards, the expectations, and the focus of what we are teaching. I constantly wonder how I am going to be the teacher I imagine myself to be during this time of reform. I wonder how I am possibly going to adhere to these state and national standards with each class that I have, since I know that every single student, and thus every classroom, is unique. The state declares that a class must be at a specific point in the curriculum at a specific time, but what if we need more time? What if we need less? How can I possibly fit in all of the projects and support and guidance that my students will need to fully understand why what they’re learning is important and applicable to the real world? How will I foster minds that love learning, instead of ones that dread testing and begin to believe that they are “too stupid” to learn because they’re not categorized in the “correct” numerical column? These are all things I’ve seen already, and it would be a lie to say that I’m not overwhelmed and terrified.

Teacher and teacher trainer David Greene tells a true story about a teacher in an unnamed district.

Read it and see what you think.

“Derrick’s Story”

The other night I had dinner with a couple I’ve known for a long time. Let’s just say that one of these people is not named “Derrick,” but that’s the name I will use. It will be easy to understand why as I tell this story. The facts are correct, but I will not identify him nor identify the school so that I don’t put Derrick in a bad spot.

Derrick is a retired high school teacher who was recently hired as a substitute in an upper-middle class suburban high school whose population is 80 percent white with less than ten percent of students considered to be economically disadvantaged. Approximately 70 percent of students take AP courses. Almost all meet ELA and math proficiency standards.

It is a town similar to several NYC suburban towns. The estimated median household income was about $90,000, which is $30,000 higher than the New York state median. More than half of the town’s population has at least a bachelor’s degree, while more than a quarter has a graduate or professional degree.

In short, this is not your average high school in your average suburban town.

Derrick started by saying he has been learning a great deal of new technology while on this job. Great, I thought, but then he went on.

His story soon morphed into a version of “The Walking Dead” or a parallel of the story of Clarisse McClellan, an unorthodox teacher, in the film and stage version of “Fahrenheit 451” — fired for not believing in Ray Bradbury’s fictional, high tech, book-burning, future society she lives in.

Derrick began to describe how he had to learn the Smart Board, specific tablet apps, Infinite Campus, and Pearson-created, computer-directed curricula for his courses. He was forced to implement a rigid, computer-directed classroom where all students worked in groups, listened to a Kahn Academy-like lecture, followed computer-programmed procedures outlined on the Smart Board, and did assignments on their tablets. Lesson plans were only to be followed, not created, and rigidly broke the period down into timed sections.

Derrick was told not to use the Socratic Method or any kind of class participation where he did anything more than monitor student progress on their work. He became a glorified babysitter. A cog in a machine. An automaton.

A technician, rather than a teacher.

Coincidentally, the next morning I read a New York Times piece related to this issue. Entitled, Lecture Me. Really., it told the tale of a college American history prof who inspected her new classroom and was pleased to see all the new technology there, but was surprised that there was no lectern for her to place her notes. She managed to get one after weeks of telephoning and emailing.

Although she defended lecturing in her piece, of which I am not a fan, the tale is still important to this discussion.

The point is that even if this room was used for a student-centered Socratic classroom, the emphasis was solely on the non-human technology. We need to combine active learning (which can easily be done via low or high tech tools) and the kinds of teaching tools that allow students to “keep students’ minds in energetic and simultaneous action and… a rare skill in our smartphone-app-addled culture: the art of attention, the crucial first step in the “critical thinking” that educational theorists prize.

To quote the author, Molly Worthen, “Technology can be a saboteur. Studies suggest that taking notes by hand helps students master material better than typing notes on a laptop, probably because most find it impossible to take verbatim notes with pen and paper. Verbatim transcription is never the goal: Students should synthesize as they listen.”

Derrick’s story, on its own, is scary indeed, but we also know that this is happening all across the country where school districts, even relatively wealthy ones such as his, are buying into the high tech trend regardless of what it does to the quality of teaching and learning.

All districts want to upgrade their technology, so when giants like Pearson, Apple, or Microsoft tell them they will install everything and provide all students with tablets, many jump at the chance to sell their souls to the devil. The devil corporations or foundations give districts the hardware and software, but they are locked in to using their curricula and lesson plans.

The result? Instead of technology creating great teaching tools for teachers, teachers become the tools of technology!

Kate Sacco is a first grade teacher in upstate New York. In this post, she describes the joys and satisfactions of teaching. While many others may complain about the many demand placed on them, Kate writes about the pleasure she takes in her children, the love she feels for each of them, and the awesome responsibility of caring for them.

Public schools are “an amazing place,” she writes.

“I work in an increasingly diverse school. Every year we get more children who are immigrants or refugees and every year our poverty level grows as more families struggle. These children are OURS. At bus duty you see the ratio of students to adults. You see how much they love their teachers and how much the teachers care about these kids. You also see what an awesome responsibility it is to have these children in our care. These children are someone’s babies. These children have been entrusted to us, for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, 10 months a year. These children’s parents have trusted us enough to send us what they cherish the most. They trust that we are not only educating their children, but also protecting them, advocating for them and loving them.

“Teachers know this. Those of us who are parents are entrusting our babies to teachers too while we take care of other peoples’ children. We know how powerful this is. This is why, although we love what we do and we love our students, our hearts are quietly breaking. Teachers understand what education reformers and many administrators and State Education officials do not. We understand that these beautiful children are not scores, data points or part of some bizarre VAM formula. We know that rigor and grit have no place in classrooms. We know that these children are so much more than test scores, rankings and data. We know that we are not in education to help children prepare for tests or non-existent or yet to exist “college and career readiness”. What we know is that we are growing people, humans, citizens of our nation and our world. Along with teaching the curriculum, we are teaching children to be kind, to love, to learn, to be curious, to question and to become better people.

“It is breaking our hearts that these children, who trust us and whose parents trust us, are being used as weapons against us. Their scores determine our “effectiveness”. Scores on tests that are poorly designed and mean nothing. Scores that are derived through some combination of voodoo magic, fairy dust and crystal balls. Scores whose cut scores are changed and manipulated to create a narrative that our schools are failing.

“Let me tell you, our schools are not failing. Our schools are thriving, and thriving in spite of budget cuts, cut scores, terribly designed curriculum, nonsensical mandates and outrageous expectations. Our schools are thriving because they are staffed by teachers who know what is important. Our schools are thriving because in spite of it all, the teachers who work in our public schools accept and love all the children who walk in and out of our doors every day.”

Emily Talmage recently reposted an interview she had with Jim Horn, editor of Schools Matter. Horn wanted to interview teachers who had taught in KIPP or KIPP-like schools, and Emily responded. She shared her experiences with him in 2011 and decided the interview remained relevant and worthy of reposting.

She writes:

I am re-posting the interview here for a couple reasons:

First, at Brooklyn Ascend, we relied heavily on Doug Lemov’s “Teach Like a Champion,” – a book that has been the subject of a number of posts going around the internet right now. I want people to understand what my experience was like with these teaching methods.

Second, I have become increasingly concerned by parallels between the practices used at Ascend (and schools like it) with the system of education that I have written a great deal about on this blog, known in Maine as “proficiency-based” education, but elsewhere as “competency-based” or “mastery” learning. In these systems, as at Ascend, “outcomes” reign supreme – meaning that all learning must be observable, skill-based, and measurable. Teachers have very little autonomy; instead, they are treated like technicians. Micromanagement is the norm. Children’s performance on assessments are the “bottom line.” The natural joy, humanity, and messiness of real learning are lost.

Then follows a lengthy interview, which is fascinating. Emily is referred to as “R.” It is well worth reading the whole exchange.

INT: When you went looking for an opportunity to teach in a charter school, can you talk about that a little bit? Why a charter school?

R: At the time I didn’t know a whole lot about them. I actually hadn’t seen it yet. I had seen the advertisement for Waiting for Superman. I had this idea in my head that charter schools were, and I think I even said at the time that they were, “getting the job done.” I didn’t really know what I meant by that. What I was looking for was just a different type of experience after working at the public school that I had been at for three years. I had heard that you can get paid more at a charter school. I had heard that they treat teachers more like professionals at charter schools. I don’t even know what else I heard.

I went on the web sites, and I had found a couple of schools that had really nice looking websites. Harlem Success had one. There was this school called Harlem Village Academy in Harlem that had one also. I had heard that charter schools are closing the achievement gap. There are these certain schools that are really making it work. I didn’t really do my homework before I got into it. A lot of what ended up happening, ended up really surprising and disappointing me.

INT: Let’s talk a little bit about that. I guess I could phrase it this way. How was the experience of working in a school different from your expectations?

R: I had thought that I would be treated like a professional, and that teaching would somehow be seen as a respected job. I don’t really know what I expected, looking back. I know that when I got there, they immediately changed what I had applied to do. I had applied to be, and they had hired me as a third grade pull out teacher.

A couple of months into the year, they gave the students a mock ELA test and a mock math test. They panicked, and realized that the kids weren’t really doing very well, or that they weren’t on track, just pulling threes and fours at the end of the year. They decided to completely rearrange the third grade.

INT: What kind of tests did they give them?

R: They gave them a mock ELA. You know New York State has a state exam each year, and they gave them a mock test. I think it was one from one of the previous years. These are done about once a month, all through the school year, gave them a mock test to see what their progress was. They completely changed it, and then they decided to restructure the third grade.

They had us come in over Christmas break, and told us that I was no longer going to be the pull out teacher. They were going to put all of the lowest performing kids into one class, and have it so there was the low, medium and high class. Now all of a sudden, I had a class of thirty scholars, we had to call them. I was only allowed to teach reading and math. I really wasn’t even allowed to plan my own lessons.

That was a big difference than what I had expected versus what actually happened. I had it in my head that I would be working in this place where teaching is really respected. Then I ended up having to spoon feed to the kids. They were handing everything to me, saying, “You have to teach this lesson, and this lesson.” I felt more like a robot for a while, to be honest. It was pretty miserable.

INT: What were these lessons like? Were they scripted lessons? Did you have a script?

R: What they did is we had at Brooklyn Ascend a data analyst. She’s a former Teach for America person. I think she was a PhD in Data Instruction, or something like that. Basically, she took the mock ELA and the mock math data and analyzed it, and came up with these certain concepts that the kids weren’t doing well on. Some certain percentage hadn’t done well on the main idea questions. Some certain percentage hadn’t done well on making inferences in narrative procedure type passages. Just pulled right from the test. I’m trying to get this all right. Our data analyst basically pulled out these skills from looking at the mock data. I remember another thing that really surprised me which was that I didn’t have any authority to actually assess the kids myself. Which for me was really disappointing because I had come from working with a really small group, and that was a big part of what I enjoyed about teaching. Really getting to know the kids, and figuring out on a really deep level what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are, why they’re struggling in some parts of reading and not others. That was something I loved about teaching.

All of a sudden, I had no power to do that at all. We had to use documents placed in front of us that said, “This percentage needs to work on this.” Our school Director, who incidentally a Teach for America graduate, decided to take one of the second grade teachers and put her in charge of the third grade. We now had this supervisor, and it was her job to come up with these scripted lessons that we would then have to present to the kids.

INT: You had a script. You had something to say, and the children had something that they were supposed to say back to you?

R: Some of it was. The lessons were scripted in that it was all written, like say such and such to the kids. We had to do this thing where we had to snap our fingers and then the kids would repeat it back. To me it was just complete and utter nonsense. The kids aren’t learning a thing this way. It blew me away. For some reason, nobody said anything about it, either. Everybody was just going along with this way of teaching. I don’t know–It felt like we were training dogs, with all the snapping.

INT: Was their chanting also?

R: We had to do the chanting, oh yeah. Every morning we had to start out. The way it worked is the kids would come in at seven-thirty. They came in silently. They had to walk in single file. The first thing that would happen would they would stop in front of the doors to the cafeteria. There would be a teacher sitting there who would pull up their shirt, and make sure they had a belt on. Pull up their pants, pull up the bottoms and make sure they had on the right color shoes, and the right color socks. If the top three buttons weren’t buttoned, she’d button up the top button.

The kids would come in and they had to have breakfast completely silently, which I think is what they do at KIPP. I’m not positive. A completely silent breakfast, which was also fairly disappointing to me because at my old school, breakfast was a time when I’d chat with the kids about their weekend. Get a sense of where they were at in their lives. What was going on with them. Are they having good days? Are they having bad days? Did they get their homework done? Do they need any help with it? This was a time to chat with the kids. It was also a time I really liked. Now I had to be completely, completely silent.

As teachers, we were required to carry these clipboards that had a list of each child’s name. Any time we had to give a kid a “correction,” we had to mark it on the chart. If a kid whispered to another one during breakfast, we had to write down “talking.” We had what I think at some schools they call it “Slant,” but at Brooklyn Ascend we called it STAR. They had to sit up tall, track the speaker, attention forward, respect always. That’s what it stands for. At breakfast, everybody’d come in silently, eat their breakfast silently. They had a choice to either take out a book, or they had to sit with their hands folded in front of them. I wasn’t even allowed to talk to them. Sometimes I’d secretly try to walk beside them and whisper, “Did you have a good weekend? Is everything okay?”

They’re eight year olds, and they need somebody to check in with. At least that’s the way I feel. I had one little girl who I had moved into a shelter, but we had to whisper about it at breakfast. She had to whisper and tell me, “Things are okay.” (Deep sigh.) It was awful. A silent breakfast. Silent breakfast would stop when one of the head teachers — our third grade supervisor would stop and say, every morning was the same thing, it was “Good morning, scholars.” They’d say, “Good morning, Miss ….” Then we’d say, “How do you feel today?” Then they would say, “Hungry for knowledge to get us to college.”

Then we’d do some other type of cheer, “Pick up your pencils, and you will be rewarded” was another one. These all come right out of, I don’t think they come from KIPP but I know that they use them at the Uncommon Schools, and a lot of the other charter schools in the area. Every morning, right before you went upstairs, we had to say this one cheer, “What’s out destination (clap clap)? Higher education.” Have you heard that one before?

Bill Gates gave a major national speech yesterday, announcing that he was very pleased with his efforts to improve teaching in America, even though they had produced no results other than a national teacher shortage. He promised to stay the course.

Peter Greene here presents the gist of Bill’s speech to the nation.

“It’s been fifteen years since we started trying to beat public education into submission with giant stacks of money, and it turns out that it’s a hell of a lot harder than curing major diseases. Turns out teachers are not nearly as compliant as bacteria. Who knew?

“Actually, there’s a whole long list of things that came as a surprise to us. Teachers and politicians and parents all had ideas about what ought or ought not to be happening in schools, and damned if they would just not shut up about it. At first stuff was going great and we were getting everyone to do just what we wanted them to, but then it was like they finally noticed that a bunch of clueless amateurs were trying to run the whole system, and the freaked out.

“I have to tell you. Right now as I’m sitting here, it still doesn’t occur to me that all the pushback might be related to the fact that I have no educational expertise at all, and yet I want to rewrite the whole US school system to my own specs. Why should that be a problem? I still don’t understand why I shouldn’t be able to just redo the whole mess without having to deal with unions or professional employees or elected officials. Of course nobody elected me to do this! I don’t mind, really– happy to take over this entire sector of the government anyway, you’re welcome…..

“Look, I’m a simple man. I had some ideas about how the entire US education system should work, and like any other citizen, I used my giant pile of money to impose my will on everyone else. It’s okay, because I just want to help. We’re not done yet– I’m going to keep trying to fix the entire teaching profession, even if nobody in the country actually asked me to do it. And no, I don’t intend to talk to anybody actually in the profession. What do they know about teaching? Besides, when you know you’re right, you don’t have to listen to anybody else.”

Colin Schumacher, a teacher at the Earth School in Néw York City, has written a thoughtful analysis of the ethical responsibilities. What should a teacher do when the Governor and Legislature pass laws that harm children and require teachers to abandon their conscience?

Laurie Gabriel is a teacher who decided to take action to save her profession and students. She directed and produced an excellent documentary called “Heal Our Schools.” Below is her schedule of showings.

My favorite scenes: when she interviews three critics of teachers, then invites them to teach a lesson. It is hilarious!

Contact Laurie to show it in your community.

She writes:

Heal Our Schools Fall Screening Schedule – add your city to the list!

Heal Our Schools is a teacher-produced film about giving classroom control back to teachers.


10:00 am, Elvis Cinema, 7400 E. Hampden Ave.

2:30 pm, First Unitarian Church, 4101 E. Hampden Ave.

evening – looking for venue/charity to share in proceeds!

7:00 pm, – First Unitarian Church, 1187 Franklin St.

7:00 pm, Freedom Socialist Hall, 5018 Ranier Ave. S.

2:00 pm, Running River School 1370 Forest Park Circle, Lafayette

Details pending

Details TBA

7:00 pm, Center for Progress and Justice, 1420 Cerrillos Rd.

evening – looking for venue/charity to share in proceeds!

Call 719-213-6850 or email for more information.

John Ewing is a mathematician and president of Math for America, an organization that supports STEM education. In this excellent post, he explains how the past several years of teacher-bashing has been deeply demoralizing to teachers. He writes that teaching must be a respected profession, and the teacher-bashers must recognize the harm they do.

Ewing writes:

“As another school year gets underway, the public receives its annual dose of hand wringing about the state of American education…..
Editorials excoriate public schools; pundits offer glib solutions; politicians excoriate “whining” teachers and their unions, which, we are told, have brought education to this state of affairs.

“This ritual of education bashing has become so commonplace that it’s easy not to notice and move on. But we ought to notice because the annual lamentation is causing great damage.

“Because of it, confidence in public schools has fallen by nearly half over the past four decades, from roughly 60 percent to below 30. Because of it, job satisfaction for teachers has fallen dramatically, from 62 percent to 39 percent in just five years. And because of it, experienced, accomplished teachers are leaving classrooms in droves, while interest in teacher training programs is plummeting.

“Each year, about 13 percent of the nation’s roughly 3.5 million teachers either move to a different school or opt-out of teaching altogether. This means schools are in a perennial scramble to find replacements. Some see recruitment programs such as Teach for America as the answer. But filling classrooms with bright people with little training or support is not much of a solution. A few recruits succeed, growing into talented and passionate long-term educators, but many more struggle and leave after a year or two. Recruitment is important, but until we find ways to retain outstanding teachers we will be pumping water out of a sinking ship instead of plugging the holes.

“Even more concerning, such programs are predicated on the belief that great teaching requires only enthusiasm and determination, not deep knowledge and carefully-honed skills. By perpetuating this view, they demean the profession and ultimately reduce its prestige. These programs may attract plenty of college graduates eager to burnish their resumes, but until teaching is viewed as a respected profession that requires both talent and training, our best and brightest will never consider it a career.

“Study after study shows that experience counts in teaching. While recruitment may be an immediate need, retaining a workforce of outstanding, experienced educators is the ultimate goal.

“So what do we do?

“First, stop casting teachers as the cause of the problem rather than partners in the solution. Stop pretending that one must choose between the interests of teachers and the interests of students. This only serves to demoralize the people on whom our education system depends. Teachers grow weary of having to defend themselves, and they eventually burn-out.

“Second, treat teachers like the professionals they are. Teachers, present and future, want two things–honest respect and sensible autonomy. Neither is automatic or easy in an accountability system that is designed on distrust, but both are possible. Programs like the one I head at Math for America attempt to create an environment in which teachers can thrive as professionals. We don’t fix them–our teachers don’t need fixing– but rather provide them with opportunities to grow, refine their craft, and take control of their own career. Teachers thrive in an environment of respect and autonomy…,

“We need to focus on excellence, not failure. We need to highlight teachers who are accomplished, not obsess about those who are not. We need to avoid driving away several outstanding teachers in order to rid ourselves of one who is mediocre.

“The good news is that retaining our most accomplished teachers–showing them respect, giving them independence, and making their careers not merely acceptable but prestigious–turns out to be the most effective way to recruit new teachers as well. If we want to attract talented people into the classroom, we must start by making the teaching profession more attractive.”


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