Today, the New York Times gave a lot of column inches to an article by a Harvard professor who claims to know how to fix the teaching profession.

He begins with the assertion that despite the many reforms of the past 30 years, the performance of our K-12 education system “remains stubbornly mediocre.”

His “evidence” is the test scores on the 2009 PISA in which the US scored about average.

Wouldn’t you expect a Harvard professor to check out the socioeconomic breakdown of the PISA scores which showed that US students in low poverty schools had scores higher than those of Japan, Finland, and other high scoring nations and that our average scores fell as the poverty level of the school increased? (Table 6, p. 15.)

Wouldn’t you expect a Harvard professor to cite the far better US scores on the 2011 TIMSS tests, where black eighth grade students in Massachusetts tied with their peers in Finland in math? If the Daily Howler noticed, why didn’t a Harvard professor?

He then goes on to say this, as though both Rhee and I are extremists and equally wrong:

“The debate over school reform has become a false polarization between figures like Michelle Rhee, the former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor, who emphasizes testing and teacher evaluation, and the education historian Diane Ravitch, who decries the long-run effort to privatize public education and emphasizes structural impediments to student achievement, like poverty.”

Wouldn’t you think that a Harvard professor would see some relationship between the scandalously high rate of child poverty in the United States–about 23%–and low scores on international tests?

The rest of the article is an effort to shift the blame to teachers for what he claims is mediocrity. If only we could get “the best and the brightest!”

If only the professor would explain how the teaching profession will improve when state after state is demoralizing teachers with unproven evaluations based on test scores, stripping away protection for academic freedom, cutting benefits, and lowering standards for new teachers.