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Esquith on Why Great Teachers Are Leaving

In a Wall Street Journal piece, award-winning teacher and author Rafe Esquith says that expert teachers are leaving schools at an alarming rate. The central reason behind the exodus, he argues, is the loss of professional autonomy educators feel as a result of proliferating instructional mandates:

"The System" is now paying attention, but not the way we wanted. Instead of increasing resources, it's exerting more and more control, and preventing our best teachers from doing their jobs. All good teachers believe students have to be assessed, but the obsession with standardized testing has replaced real learning with the mistaken belief that a regurgitation of facts reflects scholarship and thinking. Teachers with enormous experience and much to offer are being forced to shelve valuable lessons because they interfere with a testing schedule designed by someone who could not teach a class of students on his best day. Drop into a break room and you'll hear good teachers muttering bitterly, "Those who can, teach, and those who can't, make rules for teachers."

For Esquith, however, hope remains in the unflappable teachers who "quietly rebel against the current trends of standardization and uniformity" and who continue to thrive on the basis of expertise and passion. "These heroes are needed by students more than ever," he writes.

I suppose a key question—relevant to both sides of the debate—is whether school systems can succeed on the backs of a scattering of heroes. ...

Esquith, incidentally, has a new book out called Real Talk for Real Teachers: Advice for Teachers From Rookies to Veterans: 'No Retreat, No Surrender'. And please keep your eye out for a special PD webinar we'll be hosting with Esquith this fall on thriving in the classroom. More info on that coming very soon.

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