Diane Rehm on Education Reform

Today during my plan period I happened to see a tweet from @ThalesDream about today’s Diane Rehm Show being focused on charter schools and education reform.  I like the show and I feel like most of the time, it is balanced and includes many experts and good commentary.

Not today.

I was (I hope) one of the public teachers across the country that was trying to call in and e mail about the current state of education and the true effect charters and vouchers are having on education in America.  It was heartbreaking to hear an unbalanced, one-sided explanation of charter schools in American education.  I’ve tried to break my thoughts down into three parts.

  1. Charter schools are not the solution to the American education problems.  Charters are being heralded as the golden bullet for education with stories of soaring test scores and student achievement.  Let me say that there are good charter schools out there.  There are schools that are using innovative methods to teach every child and to teach those children that need different challenges to learn.  I am not against the idea.  What really irks me is that charters are never put in a bad light.  There are stories of schools that raise scores on tests by kicking the low-performers out.  Artificially raising grades is a disservice to students and parents and is probably the lowest form of education, if you ask me.  If you are funded by public funds, you must be public!  Test scores cannot be the basis for admittance and retention.  Charters were designed to give different opportunities…but not for limited times.
  2. Teachers do not have absolute job security with no evaluation process.  With the changing economy, I hear this more and more, and it made me extremely sad to hear it again this morning with no rebuttal.  I am evaluated every year.  It isn’t a union thing.  If I am not performing my job as required, I will be fired.  Teachers are under just as much pressure to perform to the best of their ability as much as the next guy.  There are limited situations where teachers “are completely safe, even though they are terrible.”  But, that is a very narrow window in the public education system.  States are evaluating teachers in a variety of ways, one of which (unfortunately) is leaning more and more on student test scores.  We are evaluated.  We do not have absolute security.
  3. Education and corporations are not the same and cannot be treated the same.  Education management has been shifting more and more toward a corporate model under the guise of “no-nonsense management” to improve schools.  The problem is that corporate goals and education goals are on opposite ends of the spectrum.  Corporations deliver products for profits.  Education is trying to produce learners that are independent and dynamic.  If we begin to produce products that think, talk, and work the same, our society is going to be even farther behind globally than we already are.  Schools need good management but from professionals that are educators.  Not former CEO’s that took their companies to the Fortune 500 level.  The goals are different and until that is realized, education will continue to struggle.
I know this is more of a rant, but I was really concerned about the discussion.  The author being interviewed, Steven Brill, has spent time in schools as an observer…not a teacher.  Without proper perspective, education will continue to be skewed.
You can go listen to the segment here.  I really encourage you to send an e mail to Diane about the episode and your thoughts as a teacher.  This is an issue teachers need to speak up on in order to show that we are here working our hardest to continue to provide students with a quality, dynamic, and meaningful education.

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