For reform — and for teachers

Education reformers need to reach out to teachers, writes Fordham’s Mike Petrilli.

How can we continue to make the case for reform without alienating teachers, without turning them into the enemy, the problem, the object of our disdain?

“One way is to put teachers in charge of their own schools,” he writes. Let teachers become school leaders.

I don’t think this will appeal to many teachers. They want to teach, not deal with management hassles.

When Petrilli asked for input, I suggested that teachers need to know that reformers understand the challenges they face in the classroom and are proposing ways to help them do their jobs well. He writes:

Another way is to champion reforms that teachers do support. For instance, make it easier for educators to discipline unruly students, or to use “ability grouping” in their classrooms instead of mandating the nearly-impossible strategy of “differentiating instruction.”  In other words, remove the obstacles (often ideological in nature) that are getting in the way of teachers achieving success in their classrooms. . . . And get their backs when they are faced with ridiculous demands from parents or others.

Petrilli also sees non-union groups such as Teach Plus, the Association of American Educators, and Educators for Excellence as a way to give teachers an independent “voice” and ensure “they aren’t learning about reform solely through the filter of union rhetoric.”

I think education reformers need to listen to teachers about what they think would improve their schools and help more students learn.

Update: Self-pitying Tantrums Are a Poor Way for Educators To Win Friends, Influence People, writes Rick Hess. He quotes “venomous” comments in response to his column on Gov. Scott Walker’s recall victory in Wisconsin. “Which words or phrases showed a profound hatred for educators or public education?” he asks. “Because, honestly, when I went back and re-read it, I didn’t see ‘em.”

Both sides of the ed reform debate need to “ease back from the self-righteousness,” urges Matthew DiCarlo on the Shanker Blog.

Men dominate the education reform debate, writes Nancy Flanagan. “Men are making the policy arguments and pronouncements, hosting the virtual communities and producing the media. Women are carrying out the policy orders, teaching kids to read using scripted programs and facing 36 students in their algebra classes.”  True?

About Joanne