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Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009 | Reporter Emily Alpert‘s piece on teacher evaluation aptly describes the mix of desperation and defensiveness that swirls around this issue and applies to every urban public school district in this country. The core issue is not how we “evaluate” teachers; it is how we improve student learning and achievement. Though everyone needs to come together around that task and goal, it never happens.

Business roundtables like to compare teaching to business enterprise and to complain that teachers are too lazy to do anything else and are unaccountable to boot. Teachers unions take such attacks to strengthen their organizational clout, resist any academic change or educational innovation and develop their legal and social resources to protect members’ economic interests. Everyone cynically claims to care about “what’s best for the kids” but stays stuck on square one.

Maybe Barack Obama will nationalize public education, develop a massive federal bureaucracy to fund and oversee its practice as well as all its practitioners and render obsolete the many contentious forces which, year after year, cannot seem to get the job done.

Meanwhile, we pass bond issues and labor agreements at 4100 Normal Street — good things for school buildings and workers — but student learning progresses at a snail’s pace. It’s a crime.

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