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January 27, 2016

Do 'Upper Crust' Teachers Ignore Our Most Critical Problems in Public Education?

Affluence makes even mediocre teaching look good and poverty can make masterful teaching appear mediocre. It takes many clock hours within classroom walls to decipher the difference. Few education change-makers and upper crust teachers dedicate that kind of time to our neglected classrooms. The essential resource that is missing is our presence. Detroit's inhumane classroom conditions didn't occur overnight; they existed for at least a generation. Where were we?

January 11, 2016

What's Going Down in Detroit Today?

Today, a group of Detroit teachers--fed up with Darnell Earley, the same Emergency Manager who presided over the Flint water scandal, and a raft of further harmful offenses to real Detroit children and their education--organized a sick-out. They did so in frustration, knowing full well they would be accused of greediness, or keeping children from their federally subsidized meals. They did so knowing they will be labeled "unprofessional," led around by their unions (false)--when their actions represent what is ultimately the core of what professionalism means: autonomy over important work.

December 28, 2015

When It Comes to Education, America Has a Lot to Learn

Themes around quality education are woven into Michael Moore's latest film: From France, delicious fresh-food school lunches, including a cheese course, designed to make students healthier and more conscious of good eating habits. Free college educations for all students in Slovenia (including American ex-pats, escaping absurd loan debt back home). Enlightened, non-punitive sex education. Teachers who feel entirely autonomous in their classrooms. European teachers who pity American educators, because their work is evaluated by their students' testing data.

November 10, 2015

Five Cynical Observations About Teacher Leadership

Who's really in charge of explaining school-embedded teacher leadership, selecting the right goals and purposes for individual classrooms? Who is inspiring teachers to find their own paths--based on the own carefully honed experience and observations--to lead? Is what we're seeing about teacher leadership in the media driven by the big cannons--the federal government, the well-funded organizations and grant-receiving universities--rather than actual teachers working in grubby classrooms, scattered across the country?

November 03, 2015

Certification, Genuine Teacher Leadership, and Power Struggles

When authentic, experienced teacher leaders step out of their boxes to speak about education issues, they always run the risk of stepping on the toes--or in the limelight--of someone above them in the pecking order. Simply expressing a widely shared viewpoint feels like subordination to some school leaders. When teachers have a national platform and thousands of readers or fans--when their voice and leadership are elevated--they become a threat.

October 29, 2015

Let's Blame the Parents!

Just try to read an editorial or feature piece on education, via any media outlet at all, without coming across a commenter who wants to righteously and indignantly toss all the problems--from low test scores to Security Guards Run Amok--back into parents' laps. It's as if the rest of American society didn't exist. As if grinding poverty, political corruption, greed, cultural debasement and racism had nothing to do with the so-called failings of students and their families. Let's blame the parents.

August 09, 2015

Professional Development Is Useless! Or Not.

I have to say I'm grateful that I taught for 30 years in a district that did not try to help me "understand my weaknesses"--a process that all teachers go through, with varying degrees of introspective pain and effort, even those (perhaps especially those) who have long-term careers in the classroom. The implication here is that teachers' own assessment of their effectiveness is worthless--they're oblivious to or ignorant of their shortcomings. This is patently absurd.

July 16, 2015

Five Things to Incentivize in Teacher Compensation Plans

Does "differentiating" teacher pay (beyond the usual salary schedule) result in Better Teaching and More Learning? Can we use financial incentives to build the teacher force every school leader dreams of: bright stars relentlessly pursuing the all-important data, working 60 hours a week, cheerfully compliant?

May 28, 2015

Six Questions About Teacher Evaluation

Recently, nearly every story about improving teacher evaluation begins with the Bad Old Days, where substandard teachers slipped through the cracks, due to thoroughly inadequate attention to and assessment of their work. If you believe these op-eds, teachers' core work was essentially carried out without scrutiny. Until--drumroll--new and rigorous evaluation protocols, always including lots of student testing data, turned everything around. Evaluations! The cure for both listless teaching and anemic test scores!

April 02, 2015

Four Things I Want to Say to Novice Teachers

Four things novice teachers should know: Welcome to a changed profession. Beware of media oversell. Act on your beliefs--but clarify them, first. Choose your heroes carefully.

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