Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Blue Ribbon Panel Comes Up With Innovative New Ways to Destroy Public Education

Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons
The Blue Ribbon Panel on teacher Accreditation is recommending that new teachers spend less time in university classes and more time in k-12 classrooms to get more “clinical” training, like in the medical profession. What the panel neglects to acknowledge is that doctors spend years in medical school before they start their clinical training so that they have some understanding of what to look for in their patients and how to treat it. It seems self-evident that more classroom practice (i.e., observing and critiquing other teachers and student teaching) should be beneficial to teachers in training. However, if this comes at the expense of sufficient training in curriculum and content, educational philosophies, pedagogy and history, new teachers will lack a theoretical basis for their clinical practice. They will lack a basis for evaluating curricula and education policies and will simply become uncritical automatons that go through the motions of “good” teaching.

Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons
According to the panel, “school districts will have a more significant role in designing and implementing teacher education programs, selecting candidates for placement in their schools, and assessing candidate performance and progress.” As a result, districts and individual schools will be forced to compete with each other to create the most “exciting” or “state of the art” “clinical” programs to attract new teachers, taking resources away from existing programs and classroom instruction. Academic freedom and creativity may also suffer, as new teachers will be much more easily molded to the desires of local school districts, thus stifling innovation and dissent. It will also result in bloated district bureaucracies.

For years there has been a growing cry to hold teachers accountable for their students’ test scores, completely disregarding the well-documented socioeconomic factors that have the greatest influence on student achievement. Now they want to extend this blame to both student teachers and their education schools and professors. The panel recommends that all programs use “data-driven accountability based on measures of candidate performance and student achievement, including gains in standardized test scores.” While this does not go quite as far as Reed Lyon had hoped when he argued that we should blow up the teacher colleges, it does imply that teacher training colleges will be punished if k-12 students fail their standardized tests. One likely result will be a dearth of teacher training schools, as more and more lose accreditation. The vacuum will likely be filled by private for-profit schools such as American College of Education (started by Bush cronies Reid Lyon, Rod Paige and Randy Best). There will also be a dearth of qualified teachers as candidates who fail to bring up test scores will fail to be certificated.

The panel makes many other dubious recommendations. For example, they “urge states, institutions, and school districts to explore alternative funding models, including those used in medicine to fuse funds for patient care and the training of residents in teaching hospitals.” Schools are already running on bare bones budgets. Without extraordinarily large increases in school funding, this recommendation will result in money being reallocated from teacher compensation and classroom instruction to teacher training programs.

Eight states—California, Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Oregon and Tennessee—have already signed letters of intent to implement the new agenda. The two biggest teachers unions helped draft these proposals. They have accepted the sky is falling hysteria of the pundits and politicians and hope to quell the attacks on the teaching profession by collaborating with the bosses. Rather than supporting the teaching profession and their members with sane, workable improvements to teacher training and evaluation, the unions are selling out their members and their constituents, the students. In the end, the attacks on teachers will continue, as will the demands for more accountability, merit pay, charter schools and evaluations based on student test scores.

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