What Education Reformers Get Wrong

Diane Ravitch is the author of Reign of Error, a critically important book about all that’s wrong with the education reform movement.

Ravitch is a wonderfully independent thinker in an era of unprecedented educational groupthink. Her purpose is to convince readers that conventional wisdom about how to improve public schooling is all wrong. She’s especially critical of “corporate reformers”—the George W. Bush administration, the Obama administration, the Gates Foundation, Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein among many, many others—that want to apply free-market business principles to education.

The corporate reformers see student testing as a panacea for not just improved student learning, but better teaching. They insist that we evaluate teachers and principals based upon how their students score on standardized tests. Ravitch explains that K-12 educators want to be held accountable for their students’ learning, but details why emphasizing standardized test scores is so problematic.

There are two overarching purposes of public schooling in the U.S.—to prepare students for democratic citizenship and to prepare students for the world of work. Never mind that it’s nearly impossible to know what the job market will look like in ten years, the corporate reformers emphasize preparation for work almost exclusively. That’s because they’re anxious that our country’s economic lead over other nations is steadily shrinking, and that as a result, our quality of life will gradually decline.

The Reign of Error is essential reading because Ravitch details the importance of citizenship education, and by doing so, restores much needed balance to the rationale for public schooling. In doing so, she explains how the quality of our democracy hinges in part on the quality of young people’s history education, humanities coursework, and critical thinking skills.

Corporate reformers, a distinct majority in education policy debates today, argue that our economic predicament is so dour we have to focus on strengthening our economic competitiveness above all else. In essence, we can’t afford to worry about the health of our democracy.

But what the corporate reformers fail to grasp is that when it comes to global competition, the relative health of our democracy is quite possibly our greatest competitive advantage. Nearly every government in the world is in some form of crisis. In the U.S. money dominates politics and the U.S. Congress is obviously flawed, but everything is relative. Our government is less corrupt and more responsive than most others; our press is freer than most; our judiciary more independent; and our rule of law, more robust.

We shouldn’t frame school improvement as a zero-sum global competition. It’s okay if students in Singapore, Finland, and South Korea are smart. At the same time, competition is so engrained in our national consciousness, if we have to compete, we should take the less obvious path, and strive to create the world’s most vibrant democracy. One that’s increasingly responsive to its citizens. We need to strengthen history education, embrace the humanities, and cultivate critical thinking in public K-12 schools and trust that our economy will be fine.

With apologies to Robert Frost:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, one economic and one political,

And sorry we could not travel both

And be one traveler, long we stood

And looked down one as far as we could

To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the political path, as just as fair,

And perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear.

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Stop Linking School Improvement, Economic Competitiveness, and National Greatness

This commentary of mine is currently appearing here.

Most efforts to improve schooling in the United States have limited impact because opinion leaders’ repeated appeals to global economic competitiveness and national greatness don’t inspire teachers or students.

Following World War II, the United States enjoyed steady economic growth, which led to unprecedented prosperity. People’s standard of living steadily improved, the U.S. economy became the world’s largest, and successive generations of parents assumed that their children would enjoy even more secure and comfortable lives.

More recently, the fastest growing countries, particularly China, India, and Brazil, have grown more quickly and made long-term investments in infrastructure to further reduce the economic gap with the world’s largest economies. Also, many Chinese and other Asian young people are attending U.S. and European universities while their governments invest in higher education at home at record levels. Meanwhile, the United States has been challenged by higher than normal unemployment, declining real wages, the bursting of the housing bubble, and runaway health care and higher education inflation. Now parents increasingly fear their children will not enjoy as secure or comfortable lives as they have. It’s impossible to overstate how much economic anxiety informs proposals to improve schools from opinion leaders such as Bill Gates, Thomas Friedman, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and President Barack Obama.

Gates, Friedman, Duncan, and Obama sing from one choir book with this chorus: “Our economic dominance is ebbing, our standard of living is threatened, and righting the ship depends upon improving our schools.” They’re also of one mind on what’s necessary to improve schools—a distinct emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and making teachers more accountable for student learning by tying together their students’ test scores, their evaluations, and their compensation.

They implore students to work harder for the sake of the country. For example, consider Secretary Duncan’s October 2011 speech in Portland, Oregon, to the Oregon Business Association. Early on, he said, “I absolutely believe education is now the engine for long-term economic growth. But that is not a Democratic theory. In fact, the vast majority of governors from both parties subscribe to that view. And it’s a view shared by many business leaders as well.” “This summer,” he added, “I was at a White House meeting with President Obama and a number of leading CEOs. And the consensus about the link between education and economic growth was striking, even among corporate leaders who might disagree with the president on other issues.”

Or consider President Obama’s “Back to School” pep talk to Wakefield High School students in Arlington, Virginia, in September 2009:

We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that—if you quit on school—you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.

The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.

So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in 20 or 50 or 100 years say about what all of you did for this country?

A year later, in September 2010, the president gave another “Back to School” speech at a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania school. The speech was also streamed to students nationwide:

The farther you go in school, the farther you’re going to go in life.  And at a time when other countries are competing with us like never before, when students around the world in Beijing, China, or Bangalore, India, are working harder than ever, and doing better than ever, your success in school is not just going to determine your success, it’s going to determine America’s success in the 21st century.

Taken together, Gates, Friedman, Duncan, and the president articulated what Maxine Greene has referred to as a utilitarian purpose of schooling. In this view, business principles are applied to schools, and economics trumps everything. Students are thought of much more as future workers and consumers than citizens. Schools primarily exist to prepare students for the workforce. Greene labels this a “self-regarding, education for having” orientation that emphasizes math and science coursework, competition, and job skills. In this now dominant paradigm, concepts like “self-actualization,” “service,” “citizenship,” and “democracy” are slighted, along with the arts, the humanities, social studies education, and foreign languages.

Teachers and students are told to work harder for the sake of our economic competitiveness and national greatness. Again, the president asks students, “What will a president who comes here in 20 or 50 or 100 years say about what all of you did for this country?” Maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Gates, Friedman, Duncan, and Obama don’t understand what motivates public school teachers given that none of them has ever been one.

Teachers don’t commit to the profession the way some enlist in the military. Few educators are motivated by nationalism. Most elementary teachers love working with children and get great satisfaction from helping their students become literate. Most secondary teachers love some particular content and get great satisfaction from introducing their students to that content. The best ones also enjoy working with adolescents and helping them mature into competent and caring young men and women. Teachers don’t lack patriotism; their patriotism just doesn’t inform their day-do-day work with students.

If teachers find appeals to economic competitiveness and national greatness uninspiring, it’s doubly true for students. Academic achievement isn’t a question of how much young people love their country; it is whether they have inspiring teachers, positive peer pressure, and, most important, caring adults in their lives who combine high expectations with tireless support and encouragement.

The debilitating disconnect between opinion leaders’ rhetoric and what motivates teachers and students has at least two costs. First, when science, technology, engineering, and math are all that’s important, and qualitative aspects of learning and living are ignored, teachers, students, and families grow disenchanted with reform proposals. Teachers, students, and families want schools that acknowledge and honor the whole child and develop skills and personal attributes that may not have immediate and obvious economic benefits. They resent the opinion leaders’ myopic materialism and assumption that our nation’s gross national product is more important than children’s well-being.

Teachers and parents want schools to help students develop skills and sensibilities that will enable them to not just earn a living, but also live well. Teachers and parents instinctively know that if schools succeed in creating curious, caring, well-rounded, and resilient young people in the short term, the economy will be fine in the long term. Economic growth should be a positive by-product of a humane, child-centered school system, not the all-pervasive starting and ending point that Bill Gates, Tom Friedman, Arne Duncan, and Barack Obama want us to believe.

Second, appeals to national economic competiveness and greatness will do little to inspire a new generation of culturally diverse, high-achieving undergraduates to enter the teaching profession. Half of the United States’ 3.2 million teachers are expected to retire in the next decade. Our greatest and most important educational challenge is to recruit and retain over one million culturally diverse, academically accomplished candidates. Because teacher compensation is unlikely to improve much, the way the profession is presented to potential candidates is especially important. If people are encouraged to teach primarily for the sake of our nation’s economy, we will fail to inspire the number of new culturally diverse, academically accomplished candidates we need to reinvent schooling in the 21st century.

Ultimately, as educators and citizens, we have a choice. We can passively defer to the combined voices of the opinion leaders who dominate the nation’s newspapers and airwaves, or we can resolve to challenge their narrow utilitarian assumptions about the purpose of schooling and instead frame teaching as a profoundly challenging, rewarding, and important form of community service.

Teaching Grit Continued

[Editors note: Please notice that in the right-hand margin I’ve moved my twitter feed up. My tweeting is just too genius to reside anywhere else.]

Thanks to last week’s comments, I’ve continued thinking about teaching and grit. The two primary questions I’ve been grapping with are: 1) What is grit? And 2) Should it be taught in public schools?

1) What is grit? We think it consists of courageous acts in the face of opposition. For example, a hiker survives for six days after an 800 pound boulder pins his arm. Eventually, he uses his pocket knife to self amputate his arm and somehow he survives the ordeal. The height of grittiness right? Or the marathoner who withstands 80+ degree temps and a series of surges to hang on and win.

But Duckworth and her colleagues define grit as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” The hiker wasn’t thinking long-term, he wanted to live to see the following week. The marathoner’s performance probably doesn’t qualify as gritty as his months and years of race prep. Is it possible that the elderly couple who have stayed married for sixty years despite personality differences, debilitating illnesses, and financial hardships are especially poignant examples of grit? Or the baseball player who breaks into the “bigs” in his mid 20’s after years of honing his craft in single, double, and triple A?

Or the alcoholic who has been sober for several months, years, or decades?

Or Jim Abbot, the one-handed former professional baseball player who I heard interviewed on a Seattle radio station this week. Abbot pitched at the University of Michigan, and in the 1988 Olympics, and in the “bigs” for a decade. His “grit quotient” has to be off the charts.

Or just read the opening of Michael J. Fox’s most recent book, Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist, about what it’s like to get out of bed, shower, shave, and get dressed with advanced Parkinsons. Fox’s resolve in the face of daily challenges is inspiring, but I’m not sure it constitues grit since it doesn’t involve long-term goals. Clearly though, his grit is evident in the foundation he’s spent years building, a foundation that has radically improved the pace and prospects of Parkinsons research.

If my “grit quotient” was higher, I’d have published a book or two by now.

2) Should it be taught in public schools? Not as simple a question as it first appears. Seymour Sarason, in The Predictable Failure of Educational Reform, contrasts teachers with docs. Docs he says have been honest about how difficult it will be to cure cancer. He argues they’ve done a great job of managing expectations. They continually remind the public that there are genetic and environmental variables (like smoking and nutrition) that are outside their control. They repeatedly say any progress will be slow. As a result, the public appreciates the real progress that is being made.

On the other hand, teachers, too altruistic for their own good maybe, have taken on more and more intractable social problems—like hunger and poverty, teen pregnancy, racial reconciliation, and most recently, childhood obesity. And let’s not forget that business leaders, journalists, and politicians like Bill Gates, Tom Friedman, Arne Duncan, and President Obama routinely, if somewhat indirectly, blame teachers for our slowing economy, for letting our lead slip in the global economy, and for our declining standard of living.

What should families be responsible for? What should “the community writ large” be responsible for, whether non-profits, religious youth groups, or civic associations? I anticipate one loyal PressingPause reader, a school counselor in a poor community, to protest, “But if families aren’t teaching grit, what are we supposed to do, just sit back and watch their children not accomplish meaningful long-term goals?” Fair question that highlights this is a real dilemma.

Back when Obama was smoking dope at Occidental (belated and weak 4/20 reference), and Nineteen was about to start kindergarten, the Good Wife and I had a meeting with her two teachers who wanted to know what we most wanted her to learn during the year. I suspect my answer was different than most. Growing up in a reading intensive home with two experienced educators as parents, I wasn’t worried about basic literacy. “I’d really appreciate if you’d help her develop a social conscience,” I said. “I want her to be in touch with her privilege and to be an empathetic person.”

That was a private Quaker kindergarten which I grant is a little different animal, but one wonders, should public schools teachers be held responsible for young people who don’t have a social conscience? Do public school teachers set themselves up for failure by taking on way more than literacy and numeracy? Does their seeming willingness to take on a never-ending list of social problems partially explain why the “powers that be” are so dissatisfied with their performance and are pressing to evaluate and pay them based upon their students’ test scores even though the problems with those proposals are painfully obvious?

Despite Sarason’s insight, I believe the study of grit, it’s absence and presence, can most definitely be taught in the context of reading and writing instruction. Student have to read and write about something. Why use innocuous, fictional reading material when they could be introduced to stories that prompt discussion about perseverance, long-term goals, and grit? If Sarason were still alive I wonder if he’d see any harm in that.

If a grit curriculum doesn't fire you up, what about a grits curriculum?

The Teacher Evaluation Maelstrom

The power brokers? Bill and Melinda. Who knew that when we were buying Microsoft Office (for the Mac of course) every three to five years we were ceding mad educational influence to the Lake Washington power couple. Given their Foundation’s less than impressive record on education reform, their reasonable, respectful, and constructive thoughts on how to improve teacher evaluation surprised me.

This article, “Nearly Half of All States Link Teacher Evaluations to Tests” provides a national snapshot. A few excerpts:

At least 23 states and the District of Columbia now evaluate public-school teachers in part by student standardized tests, while 14 allow districts to use this data to dismiss ineffective teachers, according to the report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, an advocacy group.

Last year, President Obama’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top initiative awarded grants to states that adopted policy changes such as linking teacher evaluations to student test scores. This year, Republican governors in Idaho, Indiana, Nevada and Michigan ushered in overhauls to teacher rating, compensation, bargaining rights and tenure.

Critics, including some teachers unions, say many of the changes are aimed at firing teachers and usurping union power. They say the new evaluations use flawed standardized tests that measure a narrow window of student learning.

In Florida, tenure was eliminated. In Colorado, teachers now must get three positive ratings to earn tenure and can lose it after two bad ones. Several states, including Indiana and Michigan, did away with “last in, first out” union rules that resulted in districts laying off effective new teachers instead of ineffective tenured ones. Indiana and Tennessee passed merit-pay laws that base teacher pay primarily on classroom performance.

California illustrates how important elections are. The new governor and Superintendent of Public Instruction have chosen not to “Race to the Top”, as a result teacher evaluation looks quite different there.

Interesting that no one cared about teacher evaluation policy until a few years ago when we pulled up in the global economic race with a hamstring tear. Nevermind that corporate boards were failing to meet their fiduciary responsibilities; we were fighting two wars; and our government was bailing out major banks and car companies left and right, and looking the other way while investment bankers bought and sold home mortgages that people never should have taken out. Make no mistake about it, the only reason politicians and business leaders care about teacher evaluation is mounting economic anxiety. That utilitarianism breds cynicism among teachers who resent being scapegoated for our country’s economic ills.

Obama, Arne, and a bunch of Republican and Democratic governors believe that improved teacher accountability will solve nearly all of our economic problems. Bad teachers will vanish. Students will learn the four holy subjects—science, technology, engineering, and math. The ice caps will stop melting and we’ll start kicking ass again in the global economy.

At this stage I’m giving the Gates a “B-” for their teaching eval work because, like everyone else, they’re slighting the more important half of the teaching improvement equation—how to attract more socially conscious, culturally diverse, hardworking academic all-stars to one of the more challenging and rewarding forms of community service there is.

What Arne Duncan Really Meant

An Open Letter From Arne Duncan to America’s Teachers

By Arne Duncan

What Arne really meant.

I have worked in education (Never taught in a public school a day in my life. With the low pay, large classes, and top-down management, I’d never be caught teaching.) for much of my life. I have met with thousands of teachers in great schools and struggling schools, in big cities and small towns, and I have a deep and genuine appreciation (repeat platitudes enough, some teachers may begin to believe them) for the work you do. I know that most teachers did not enter the profession for the money. You became teachers to make a difference in the lives of children, and for the hard work you do each day, you deserve to be respected, valued, and supported (which is why I’m probably not the best guy for the job)

I consider teaching an honorable and important profession, and it is my goal to see that you are treated with the dignity we award to other professionals in society. In too many communities, the profession has been devalued. Many of the teachers I have met object to the imposition of curriculum that reduces teaching to little more than a paint-by-numbers exercise. I agree. (I’m a a politician not an educator so I have to tell you want you want to hear, in actuality though, I prefer business leaders’ ideas to tie your compensation to your students’ test scores on standardized reading and math exams.

Inside your classroom, you exercise a high degree of autonomy. You decide when to slow down to make sure all of your students fully understand a concept, or when a different instructional strategy is needed to meet the needs of a few who are struggling to keep up. You build relationships with students from a variety of backgrounds and with a diverse array of needs, and you find ways to motivate and engage them (Here’s hoping you aren’t smart enough to detect the irony in me having to argue you have a high degree of autonomy. Obviously, if you felt greater trust, I wouldn’t have had to include this paragraph at all.) I appreciate the challenge and skill involved in the work you do and applaud those (ten percent) of you who have dedicated your lives to teaching.

You have told me you believe that the No Child Left Behind Act has prompted some schools—especially low-performing ones—to teach to the test, rather than focus on the educational needs of students. Because of the pressure to boost test scores, NCLB has narrowed the curriculum, and important subjects like history, science, the arts, foreign languages, and physical education have been de-emphasized (which, apart from science, is fine by me since those subjects don’t impact our economic competiveness). And you are frustrated when teachers alone are blamed for educational failures that have roots in broken families, unsafe communities, misguided reforms, and underfunded schools systems. You rightfully believe that responsibility for educational quality should be shared by administrators, community, parents, and even students themselves (But since the Education Department can’t boss administrators, communities, parents, and students around as easily as you, deal with the scapegoating.).

The teachers I have met are not afraid of hard work, and few jobs today are harder (I’m guessing). Moreover, it’s gotten harder in recent years; the challenges kids bring into the classroom are greater and the expectations are higher. Not too long ago, it was acceptable for schools to have high dropout rates, and not all kids were expected to be proficient in every subject. In today’s economy, there is no acceptable dropout rate, and we rightly expect all children—English-language learners, students with disabilities, and children of poverty—to learn and succeed (even if our short-term “Race to the Top” funds only impact a tiny fraction of those students’ classrooms).

You and I are here to help America’s children (Well, I’m here to strengthen my resume, play pickup ball with O, and leverage this title into serious money going forward, but Harvard taught me you have to include this kind of sentence in a “letter of appreciation”.). We understand that the surest way to do that is to make sure that the 3.2 million teachers in America’s classrooms are the very best they can be. The quality of our education system can only be as good as the quality of our teaching force (my “legacy” insight).

So I want to work with you (well not directly, and after reading the comments, maybe not even indirectly) to change and improve federal law, to invest in teachers and strengthen the teaching profession. Together with you (well, with The Gates Foundation and the 3.2 million of you in mind), I want to develop a system of evaluation that draws on meaningful observations and input from your peers, as well as a sophisticated assessment that measures individual student growth, creativity, and critical thinking. States, with the help of teachers (fortunately, it’s always the state education officials in charge, God help us if it was “Teachers, with the help of their states”) , are now developing better assessments so you will have useful information to guide instruction and show the positive impact you are having on our children (or the negative impact many of you are having on your students).

Working together, we can transform teaching from the factory model designed over a century ago to one built for the information age (Catching my stride now! Almost like I’m channeling 2008 O.). We can build an accountability system based on data we trust (even if my department, your state education office, and the business community don’t trust you) and a standard that is honest—one that recognizes and rewards great teaching, gives new or struggling teachers the support they need to succeed, and deals fairly, efficiently, and compassionately (that’s gotta make union leaders feel better) with teachers who are simply not up to the job. With your input and leadership, we can restore the status of the teaching profession so more (or some) of America’s top college students choose to teach because no other job is more important or more fulfilling (so I’m told).

In the next decade, half of America’s teachers are likely to retire (some earlier than they had planned in part because of my department’s policies). What we do to recruit, train, and retain our new teachers will shape public education in this country for a generation. At the same time, how we recognize, honor, and show respect for our experienced educators will reaffirm teaching as a profession of nation builders and social leaders (crescendo time) dedicated to our highest ideals. As that work proceeds, I want you to know that I hear you, I value you, and I respect you (even if my actions suggest otherwise).

Chinese Test Score Hysteria

China’s ascendancy is inevitable because they’re willing to work for much less than American workers and American consumers are deeply dependent upon inexpensive “made in China” consumer goods. Thus the unprecedented trade imbalance, and as the recent G-20 meetings made evident, our relative loss of leverage.

My self-image isn’t tied to an accident of birth, living in a country long thought to be the world’s economic superpower. The next few years and decades are going to be tough for Americans whose self-image is somehow tied to being the world’s economic superpower. Asia, and China in particular, will continue to gain leverage and we’ll lose it.

Despite many reasons for this gradual reorientation of global economic and political power, the next few years and decades are going to be doubly tough for teachers because they’ll be blamed for it. U.S. citizens are deeply anxious about their waning hegemony and precarious standards of living. That collective anxiety will be projected onto public school teachers.

For educators, a New York Times article titled “Top Test Scores From Shangahi Stun Educators” by Sam Dillon last week doesn’t help matters. Some excerpts:

With China’s debut in international standardized testing, students in Shanghai have surprised experts by outscoring their counterparts in dozens of other countries, in reading as well as in math and science, according to the results of a respected exam.

The results also appeared to reflect the culture of education there, including greater emphasis on teacher training and more time spent on studying rather than extracurricular activities like sports.

“We have to see this as a wake-up call,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in an interview on Monday.

“I know skeptics will want to argue with the results, but we consider them to be accurate and reliable, and we have to see them as a challenge to get better,” he added. “The United States came in 23rd or 24th in most subjects. We can quibble, or we can face the brutal truth that we’re being out-educated.”

In a speech to a college audience in North Carolina, President Obama recalled how the Soviet Union’s 1957 launching of Sputnik provoked the United States to increase investment in math and science education, helping America win the space race.

“Fifty years later, our generation’s Sputnik moment is back,” Mr. Obama said. With billions of people in India and China “suddenly plugged into the world economy,” he said, nations with the most educated workers will prevail. “As it stands right now,” he said, “America is in danger of falling behind.”

Tom Friedman recently wrote a scathing expose detailing why he thinks the U.S. is falling behind China. Friedman is a fairly predictable critic of U.S. education, but this time, to his credit, he said the primary problem is a broken political system and a parochial, lazy citizenry.

Duncan, Obama, and Friedman not only see improving education as an international competition and zero-sum game, but their rhetoric suggests you and I have to see it that way too. But the genius of our political system is we get to decide for ourselves.

I’m increasingly convinced that Duncan is the one in need of a wake-up. Few educators find jockeying for global economic supremacy inspiring. Like me, they tend to be humanitarians who don’t begrudge the Chinese the marked educational and economic progress they’re making. The Shanghai test scores are only a Sputnik moment if we decide to compete in a zero-sum game with the Chinese (and Singaporeans, Koreans, Finns, etc.).

Educators have to let the Secretary of Education, the President, and the opinion leader know that there are alternative starting points. For example, what can educators in different countries learn from one another and how might we capitalize on what each national educational system does best to solve challenging global economic, environmental, social, and political issues?

Educators aren’t parochial or lazy. They’re quite willing to think globally, just not exactly the way those in the bully pulpit might prefer.


The Measure Teaching Effectiveness Consensus

An underreported and potentially important sea change is underway in K-12 public schooling. It’s the somewhat natural culmination of a two decade-long emphasis on increased teacher accountability for student learning.

Rather than improving compensation and making entry into the profession more challenging, rather than empowering proven teacher leaders to improve schools, rather than increasing parent and family accountability for student learning, the highest ranking and most influential policy makers are in agreement that our ability to compete in the global economy depends upon better schooling, better schooling depends upon increased teacher accountability for student learning, increased teacher accountability requires measuring teaching effectiveness. There are parallel pushes to measure school leadership and teacher education program effectiveness.

Like the vast majority of K-12 teachers, I’m not opposed to the concept of teacher and administrator accountability, but it seems as if more time, energy, and resources have been put into planning the negative consequences of teaching and administrative ineffectiveness than into incentives for teaching and administrative excellence. The primary negative consequence of teaching and administrative ineffectiveness will be closing schools and reassigning (if the unions still hold any sway) or dismissing altogether (if they don’t) the administrators and faculty at the worst performing schools.

This “measure teaching effectiveness consensus” raises many questions that Arne’s Army seemingly has little patience for. Among them. . .

• How does one best measure teaching effectiveness?

• More specifically, if the Information Revolution is making knowledge transmission and recall less salient, how does one quantify increasingly important student skills and sensibilities like writing, problem solving, cross cultural understanding, teamwork, empathy, and resilience?

• How does one control for independent variables like differing degrees of outside of school support?

• Will an emphasis on individual teacher’s relative effectiveness contribute to even greater professional isolation to the detriment of student learning?

• What might the effects of steadily increasing accountability be on talented young people considering teaching as a career independent of improved compensation?

• Why, when top-down experts with little to no teaching experience are in the process of reshaping their profession based upon business model precepts, aren’t more teachers asking these types of questions?