All modern education reform is predicated on one thing. Michelle Rhee, Students First, Arne Duncan, all Republicans, many Democrats, and even President Obama have based their major reform efforts at one target: bad teachers. You would think the profession is overwhelmed by terrible, terrible teachers, and the only way to fix education is to eliminate any and all professional protections for teachers. The theory goes, that if you discount and disregard all factors that affect a students life except teachers, then you can blame teachers for everything.
This theory goes double for our poor, urban students and their teachers. Not only do we need to fire those teachers, but we need to close those schools down. Displacing the most disadvantaged students and destroying all of their relationships with teachers is certainly sure to fix the problem! We’ve gotta burn the school to save the school.
Well, the most recent research out of John’s Hopkins University should throw more cold water on the education deformers out there. It won’t, but it should. The rate of learning increases are almost identical for low income and better off students during the school year. That horrendous achievement gap? It almost all happens during the summer months. It is not just that underprivileged students are not getting enrichment, but that those already ahead are getting further ahead.
So, John’s Hopkins attributes 2/3 of the achievement gap to something teachers have no control over whatsoever. I am certain we will just add this to the list of factors to ignore so we can continue to blame teachers. Watch the upcoming sessions for what is emphasized in education reform. Taking away the job protections for the 99% of good teachers will be number #1. Cheap replacements for these teachers, once they have lost their protection, will be the next reform on the agenda.
Finally, just to head off any idea that unions (teachers) get in the way of reform, my own children attend a year round, public school. It has been around for almost two decades. It’s not new, but it is not a sexy as closing schools and firing teachers. The school is majority poverty, and majority minority. This year round has been supported and staffed by strong union teachers the entire time.