Thursday, March 10, 2011

Learning More about Learning

President Obama recently stated that the education system should be spared cuts in order to protect the country's future.I n a speech earlier this month, he stated: “A budget that sacrifices our commitment to education is a budget that sacrifices our country's future."

But his belief that our school system should be spared is not shared with some of his colleagues across the aisle. Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, for example, has been taking part in a heated battle with his state's teachers unions over the right of collective bargaining. The GOP governor believes the teachers' salaries and pension benefits are an indispensable part of curbing his state's spendig.

So who’s right? Depends on who you ask. While conservatives would likely agree about the importance of education for our future, they have long argued that we can fix the school system in ways that hold teachers more strictly accountable – with increased private schooling, for example. Many liberals, meanwhile, argue for a reinvestment in teachers and a system that promotes improvement while assisting teachers.

It’s a fundamental political battle consistent with the type of party politics that have defined our country for over 50 years. But what does it all really mean? How will the policies of today affect not only the people of today, but also the leaders of tomorrow? Can we fix the problems of 2011 without ruining the future of the country?

Well, according to upcoming speakers such as American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, there is. Weingarten proposes a system of teacher evaluations that also allows teachers the ability to gain tenure. Supporting clear standards of what teachers should be able to do along with support groups to assist teachers deemed unsatisfactory, she hopes to create a system that holds teachers to a realistic code of accountable practice. Speaking on her plan, she's stated, "Our aim is to have a comprehensive, fair, transparent and expedient process to identify, improve, and—if necessary—remove ineffective teachers," noting that "neither drive-by nor test-score-driven evaluations" do that.


On the other side of the educational reform debate is upcoming speaker Michelle Rhee. During Rhee’s time as chancellor of the D.C. public school system, she implemented a system that she believes improves students' futures while holding teachers to a more productive accountability. She created a pay system based on “student achievement” and the removal of teacher tenure. Her evaluations were based on student test scores and a form of accountability akin to those found in the No Child Left Behind Act. The polices she implanted, and stands by, created a teaching environment that called for a quick turnaround on student success (a warning, followed by a one-year mandate for improvement) with bonuses for teachers able to improve students' test scores. She will be speaking along with Sacramento mayor (and former NBA star) Kevin Johnson about her system and its effect on her constituency.


Finally, come listen to Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp as she discusses what is going on with working teachers. Find out about the issues that she teachers face day in and day out and learn how she wants to use education to improve the lives of America’s Children.
–By James Dohnert

1 comments:

TheJamesPope said...

Teachers should be paid more than principles and people who hold administrative positions in school districts.

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