Michal Weston, a teacher in Hillsborough County, Florida (at least for now), is running for the local school board. Regular readers know that he was recently fired by his principal for speaking out too much. Since Hillsborough County was one of the few that received a big Gates grant, it is heretical to question the idea that teacher evaluation is the very biggest problem in the world and that the right model will make all students proficient and college bound. Weston displays his heretical views here:

He writes:

Don’t get me wrong – teaching can and should be practiced and improved. My point is that teachers are not the BIG problem. We are not a mid-sized problem. Some of us are a small problem. The BIG problem is what we are doing about the “achievement gap”. I quote “achievement gap” because it is really an income gap. Neither gap is the problem.

The BIG problem is:

*Dumbing down the curriculum so everyone can succeed.
*Increasing rigor so everyone will be challenged.
*Testing kids until they cry. This is the name of holding accountable those who do not make them excel.
*Punishing schools and teachers who cannot magically make the “achievement gap” go away – in spite of all the excellent support being provided.
*Teaching the test to avoid punishment (teachers) or to amass treasure (administrators).
*Re-writing the textbooks so there are more balloons, insets, practice tests, pictures and web links than information.
*Encouraging EDUIndustry to create the next magic curriculum to sell us.
*Encouraging the notion of failing schools so as to sell them off (read give away) to for-profit institutions.
*Eliminating the arts in favor of STEM.

The list goes on.

What should we be doing. Easy. First, do no harm. Stop all of the above.

Next – get to work on the income gap. How? Graduate employable kids. We have to abandon the notion of one-size-fits-all education. We must abandon the requirement that all kids be prepared for college. We have to place kids in educational settings where they can succeed. For some that means AP Physics. For some that means Creative Writing. For others that may mean auto shop. For some it is carpentry.

99 times out of 100, you will not succeed in taking a high school freshman (a 16 year old freshman), with fourth grade math skills, and get that kid into AP Physics. It seems like 100 times out of 100, that is our goal however. Most of these kids drop out; never to pay a dime of income-tax in their often short lives.

We must redefine high school, and what we intend to do with kids for four years of their lives. College is grand; we must provide a high quality path; one where 50% of kids do not require remediation. Trades are grand; a graduate with a career in masonry will earn a good living; provide for his children; and provide a a greater respect for education. His son may go into trades, or may choose the college route. They are both available because mom and dad will not allow him to be left behind in fourth grade. This family WILL have a college graduate someday.

Just not tomorrow.

That is the piece we refuse to accept, That it will not be tomorrow. Instead, we seek the Holy Grail, the silver bullet, the magic elixir, SOMEONE TO BLAME!

The achievement gap will be closed with the income gap. It will take generations, because there is no silver bullet. The BIG problem with education is that as long as we are hunting the Holy Grail, we have yet to begin the real work.