Friday, April 22, 2016

The Teach for America/Obama Fallacy That Is Undermining Our Public Schools

Barack Obama, as one of my brilliant students is documenting in his senior thesis, was our first "internet president." He used social media to get his message across, stay in touch with voters, and out organize his opponents whether in political campaigns or in Congress.
This approach fit in perfectly with Mr Obama's belief that the application of technology was the most effective path to bringing new talent and energy to the solution of longstanding social problems. Just as young, tech savvy people were the key to the success of his political campaigns, so they would be to creating innovative solutions in health care and education policy He would bring "the best and the brightest" young people out of Ivy League schools and tech companies to shake up and streamline areas of social policies filled with inefficiencies
In education, President Obama's strategy was to flood public schools with talented young people and drive the "dead wood" out with data driven methods of school and teacher evaluation. Schools which failed to perform would be closed, veteran teachers who failed to produce results fired, and the path would be cleared or dramatic changes in performance, especially in poor and moderate income communities by creating charter schools freed from bureaucratic restraints. And Teach for America would be brought in to assure schools old and new would have top talent from the nation's best universities rather than poorly trained students from teacher education programs who represented the bulk of the nation's teachers
It was an extraordinarily seductive vision, especially since it was endorsed, and financed by some of the nation's wealthiest and successful business entrepreneurs like Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, and Eli Broad, people who had used technology to revolutionize their own fields
Unfortunately, it has failed miserably in every possible respect, from raising the nation's position in global educational rankings, to reducing inequities by race and class, to improving the quality of candidates for the teaching profession
Why? Because the data driven transformation of schools and teaching- characterized by scripting, intimidation and stress- that the President has pushed has made the profession so unattractive that the best older teachers have left and the new "highly qualified" ones brought in through Teach for America don't stay.
What you have is the worst of all possible worlds- Schools so stress filled that no one can stand to teach in them for more than a few years.
How students are supposed to benefit from this no one has figured out!

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