Friday, September 28, 2007

We Don't Need an Entire System of Heroic Teachers

Kevin Carey deals with the supposition that in order to fix our schools, we need to hire an entire system worth of Heroic teachers, those educators who spend 80 hours a week working in and out of school to "save their kids."

Carey correctly notes that for roughly 80 percent of kids in American schools, the schools are OK. They are not great but they are not the spirit crushing voids that comprise most of our urban public education either.
And it's not at all clear to me why this isn't achievable at scale for most at-risk students. Many of them are in cities, all of which have big law firms and hospitals that absolutely depend on exactly the kind of time- and human capital-intensive model described above. If law and medicine--the two professions against which education is constantly measuring itself, and lamenting its inferior status--can build stable business models that assume a steady influx of super-motivated people in their 20s and 30s, why not education?
The biggest problem of course is pay. But the biggest obstacle to the pay issue is not finding the funds to pay teachers similar kinds of salaries to attract smart, motivated and commited 20 and 30 year olds, but the fact that such individuals will not serve under the mind and soul crushing auspices of a big city union. Dealing with bureaucracy comes with the territory of any job, but one should not have to contend with two such bureaucracies, particularly when one is supposed to "help" the teacher.

But here is another problem with the heroic teacher model. It cannot work for an entire schools sytem. First, such heroic teachers are the exception, not the rule. Second, a system can only tolerate so many syslistic outliers. Most heroic teachers make other teachers and administrators look lazy or incompentent or both. While one or two individuals per school can be excused, you can't have everyone be that way, or the organization would collapse under the weight of all those egos.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Education could use more highly motivated, smart educators. If true that we are outliers, that doesn't say much for the entire system. What we don't need is a teacher's union speaking for us, making sure that all is "fair" and unmotivated staff members remain in their comfortable jobs. We also don't need the government saving us from ourselves by provided scripts as curriculum. Talented teachers are able to teach without scripts. We are also not afraid of losing our jobs due to ineffective teaching practices. The problem with education is the persistance of the top/down systematic model that no longer is used in modern business. The problem is top heavy administration that does not embrace a collaborative approach to creating policies and procedures that affect the day to day existance of the classroom teacher. The problem is the number of meetings and "observation microscopes" that treat professional development as a one size fits all solution to staff members. (usually aimed at the lowest achieving) The problem is the number of meetings touted as collaborative problem solving that are really "listen and do". It is time to change how teachers can move from job to job. Did you know that regardless whether you move within or outside your school system you MUST provide a recommendation from your previous principal? What if you were an "outlier" that did embarass or ask your administrator tough questions that they didn't like? Can you imagine what your "recommendation" would look like? Yep, career over. Teachers are effectively silenced.