I think it did a particularly good job of paint the picture of the shaky ground education is on in the US, but also the changes being made here in Dallas. Specifically, it talks about TEI and the national focus Dallas has attracted because of it. Yes, it has the customary "Miguel Solis went to Harvard and he's on board with the idea so it must have some merit" stuff you see in most Dallas education reform articles these days, but what I love about Jim Schutze's writing is that he doesn't just end the article there. He's thorough and places our local changes and struggles in a national context. I get a bit stuck in the Dallas bubble most of the time with education talk but it's true that Dallas is at the forefront of educational change in the country.
I don't tell him enough (or ever), but I'm a fan. Thanks for writing. Back to the discussion at hand.
No Child Left Behind and the debates surrounding it are bringing to light the deep fractures in the educational community. The teachers unions, Diane Ravitch, and Republican power brokers have found themselves strange bedfellows in their resistance to what is being collectively referred to as "reform." Locally, TEI has been that thing drawing most of the heat, but nationally, the movement to try to make teaching more professional by holding teachers to higher standards is a hot topic. Jim says it all way better than I can so I encourage you to read his write up from this morning; however, I do think simplifying union priorities to maintaining a high population of bad teachers doesn't get to real problem.
Should we be coaching up or coaching out? I think firing teachers and getting new bodies in the classroom isn't the end all be all solution. The training in is going to have to happen regardless. I understand removing people that show resistance to improvement and cooperation, but that shouldn't be step one. I think that's more the priority of unions, not protecting bad teachers just because they're teachers. TEI is supposed to identify, for the purpose of improving, teachers that are struggling. The criticism is that it's being used as a tool for punishment.
The other flawed assumption that Jim highlights is that all teachers pushed out were good teachers. Not all of the people fired, forced out, or that quit are good teachers. TEI got rid of some teachers that were just plain bad at their job, but I'd argue that, absent the ability to show someone how to improve, firing is a much more extreme move than is required.
There is distrust of the system and accusations of dishonesty on both sides. Honesty is what systems like TEI are supposed to bring. When we invite honesty into our lives, you don't get to control what comes to light. We have to accept that not all teachers are good. Not all changes to our educational system are good. The truth about what we're dealing with is a high number of unprepared children that grow up, get thrown into the world, and end up swallowed by it.
I've had my issues with TEI and been angry with it. I've also supported it and the idea behind it. It's not perfect, but it does take a more complete picture of a teacher. This is not me saying I think everything that happened with teacher pay and compensation was perfect, but purely talking about the potential for helping improve teachers, looking at more than just the show we put on in the classroom on observation day is a good thing, if the teachers and the feedback are both honest that is.
A special note to all the principals out there that give everyone a 1, then a 2, and eventually a 3 at the end of the year to say that your staff is "growing": Cut it out! Help your teachers improve.
Firing Dallas Teachers
Teacher Excellence Initiative (TEI)
Dallas Superintendent Mike Miles Resigns
Why teacher evaluation systems fail