From the Rubber Room to Teacher Quality

New YorkerCheck out the New Yorker’s recent article on Joel Stein, New York City’s Chancellor of the Department of Education and his fight for high quality teaching. It starts out in perhaps the most tragically funny place in all of education, the “Rubber Room.” It goes on to discuss major teacher quality reform.

By now, most serious studies on education reform have concluded that the critical variable when it comes to kids succeeding in school isn’t money spent on buildings or books but, rather, the quality of their teachers. A study of the Los Angeles public schools published in 2006 by the Brookings Institution concluded that “having a top-quartile teacher rather than a bottom-quartile teacher four years in a row would be enough to close the black-white test score gap.”

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4 Responses to From the Rubber Room to Teacher Quality

  1. Dave Bryson says:

    Great thoughts, BCupp! Good to have you back…I see some visitor blogging in your future…;)

  2. Bobby Cupp says:

    The part that was most vital to me (an aspiring teacher), was where the guy from TNTP was saying that a contract and system that refuses to honestly evaluate teachers is proving the idea that teachers are interchangeable, and that their quality, training, and performance don’t actually matter – the old ugly assumption that anyone can do it.

    I want to teach because I want my students to do really well. Yes, in life, and in the comprehensive skills I want to teach, but those can also translate to test scores too, sometimes. You don’t necessarily have to “teach to the test” to teach kids in a way that produce good scores.

    It really comes down to the situation you’re teaching in. If you don’t trust that your administration is looking out for your students, then you don’t want them looking over your shoulder. If you don’t think that anyone ever has the right to observe, evaluate, and measure your students’ performance, then you have no right to think that you’re qualified.

    Basically, I want to be great, I want to be recognized for the gains my students make with my help, and I want bad teachers (and they do exist) to find something else to do with their time. This work is too important.

  3. Dave Bryson says:

    Very true. I liked how the author framed systemic change that Stein and Bloomberg want through the ugliness of the system which they inherited, complete with a labor union that initially helped women receive equal rights benefits like maternity leave, but has since turned into a hugely powerful force that at its worst is a protection for bad (and sometimes abusive) teachers. Stein himself says: “You cannot run a school system that way. The three principles that govern our system are lockstep compensation, seniority, and tenure. All three are not right for our children.”

  4. ancientmuse says:

    Well, this is an interesting idea, but it isn’t the teacher’s fault. We have good quality teachers everywhere but when they have too teach to a test, even the best teacher can fail. It is time for these guys to figure out that the only way to change the school is to change the system. Otherwise, they keep rehashing the same old stuff.

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