Turns out the teachers got it right. The wheels are falling off the so-called “education reform” project which dismissed the voices of teachers – and particularly their unions – with no little vitriol.
Reformers offered clear, simple answers to the supposed failings of America’s schools. High-stakes testing, they claimed, would measure failed schools and teachers. Charters would provide motivated alternatives, after failed schools were closed. Cyber schools would move education into the dot-com age. Teach for America students would supplant tired, old teachers.
Now reality is starting to bite. The Obama administration – chief apostle of high stakes standardized testing – now warns against devoting too much class time to testing and test prep. Charters have been exposed for wasting literally billions on schools that never open or close after a few months. The growing number of scams and rip-offs is too big to ignore. Teach for America students tend to leave schools before they gain the experience vital for teaching. Assailing teachers not surprisingly prompts the best to leave early. Cyber schools, a recent study reported, are so bad it is as if the students never attended school.
The most hyped charter chain – the Success Academy schools in New York City – turn out to have lists of “got to go” students who don’t perform well. It is relatively easy to lift average test scores if you eliminate the laggards.
Common sense now gets a new hearing, as parents and teachers revolt across the country. As National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García calmly explained to critics on “Morning Joe,” none of the countries that have been rising in international comparison do any of the things that the reformers tout. They make teaching an honored profession, train teachers well, mentor them constantly and pay them well. They put more resources into schools in poor neighborhoods and students in poor families. It isn’t rocket science.
And they have a better sense of what teachers do. The Campaign for America’s Future was honored to celebrate the leadership of Lily Eskelsen García at its annual Gala on October 27. And in receiving its Progressive Champion award, she treated the audience with one of the greatest riffs on teaching that I have ever witnessed. Listen to her summary of what teachers do above or here. And understand, we might be well to listen to those who teach our children, not ignore them.
To hear her entire presentation and stirring remarks by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Scott Wallace and leaders of National People’s Action, the other awardees, go to the 2015 Awards Gala page.