The arguments in education reform (and what I call “reforminess”) are now so entrenched, I feel like I’m at the point of abandoning responding in complete sentences and could just use a number to refer to a “set” list of rejoinders.
Check out this exchange between The Frustrated Teacher, and Mimi Carter on Huffington Post. Reform-y types love to cite studies on the importance of teacher effects on student outcomes. It’s the same darn argument that I’ve seen about 2,000 times already:
- Point: A quality teacher is the most important factor and has the biggest effect on student achievement;
- Counter Point: Teacher quality is the biggest “in-school” factor, out of school factors (parents, neighborhood, income level, etc.) have a larger effect.
While I truly appreciate TFT’s setting the record straight, I think that he and others would agree, this is NOT where we want the discussion on school reform to be. Instead of talking about improving the conditions we work in, improving teacher preparation, and yes improving teaching (which we do want to do, just not be backed against the wall of being forced to accept the label of incompetence).
If we want to be like Finland, then we’re going to need to:
- Have some more income equality, since when you cross-tab PISA/NAEP test performance by income level our students who are not in poverty do pretty well comparatively (Bracey, see page 3). Most Americans would like more income equality than we currently have. My state recently considered food stamp and other poverty support cuts (like health care) to shore up the education budget and keep the cuts there below of the amputation level. Talk about robbing Peter to pay Paul! Make no mistake, I’m going to have to deal with my families having less health care, and less food.
- Slim down the standards, and seriously pare-down the number of standardized tests;
- Improve teacher training by extending the “internship period” (student teaching) and paying stipends. It’s what they do in medicine and law firms, in addition to the Finish education system;
- Give teachers autonomy to teach the material and standards as they see best;
If you treat us like professionals, and train us well, if things go as they did in Finland, you will start to see an improvement in that you will retain your best teachers, and attract others to the profession. This compares with the current situation where half the teachers leave in the first five years. Some may have needed to go, but there are also some really good teachers leaving too.
There is no way that you will create a more professional teaching corps in a system that relies on an ongoing influx of new teachers who leave after two to five years. That is a job at McDonalds, not a profession or career.