Sunday, March 14, 2010


By Amanda Ripley | January/February 2010 ATLANTIC MAGAZINE |

For years, the secrets to great teaching have seemed more like alchemy than science, a mix of motivational mumbo jumbo and misty-eyed tales of inspiration and dedication. But for more than a decade, one organization has been tracking hundreds of thousands of kids, and looking at why some teachers can move them three grade levels ahead in a year and others can’t. Now, as the Obama administration offers states more than $4 billion to identify and cultivate effective teachers, Teach for America is ready to release its data.


♪ smf notes:  This article has a tendency to wax poetic over Race to the Top, Arne Duncan and Michelle Rhee.  When you’re slipping below the water level of the Potomac all of Washington looks like The City on the Hill.

RttT pits staving school systems facing a shortfall of $16 billion this year in a competition with each other for $4.3 and calls it reform. RttT is a last-gasp-grab-for-the-money -- you can’t blame the participants, but you’ve got to judge the promoters harshly.Changing the name of NCLB to to RttT and forcing educators  to compete in a food fight for the stimulus crumbs ain’t gonna cut it. 

But hey … wait’ll next round!

Teach for America does NOT put qualified Teachers is classrooms – it puts highly motivated promising young college graduates in classrooms – where they work for a couple of years as teachers. That is not a bad thing; it is almost universally a good thing. T4A teachers do not hold teaching credentials; they are not the highly qualified teachers that the NCLB/ESEA law requires  …but most are bright young faces with good ideas.   Many – but not not all or all even most -- of T4A teachers go back to school and get their teaching credentials. The article does not address the success rate of those T4A returning teachers …but my guess is something like every single one of them.

  • Do we need to look at how we teach our teachers?  And how we credential, hire evaluate, rehire, fire and retire them? In a word: YES.
  • Is T4A the magic bullet?  (If you don’t already know the answer about the magic bullet, the quick fix, The Houston Miracle or the magic roadmap to 100% graduation drink some of Arne’s Kool Aid.  Please, just don’t call me in the morning)

Read the article because it contains good thinking, good ideas and good data.  It is of course a teaser for a forthcoming book …so we will have to read that too.

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