“Adults need to stop fighting and set aside their differences. Kids depend on it.
This, and this repeated by every ed-policy-nonprofit-whatever, makes me dizzy with rage. Tone-down the rhetoric, find differences, and mend fences. End the teacher wars. I recognize this is less about a friendly demeanor and more about political reality – education reform, now linked to austerity, loads of standardized tests, and an increasingly unpopular Common Core1 seems to be losing steam. To that end, certain groups have gone out of their way to appear reasonable, balanced, honest brokers of a truce.
They’re mostly lying. Here’s one:
The New Teacher Project (TNTP) is a group dedicated to “provide excellent teachers to the students who need them most and advance policies and practices that ensure effective teaching in every classroom.” They are large, active, and vocal.
TNTP’s most recent campaign is entitled “rebalancing”. The stated point: “School systems can achieve a more reasonable balance between job protections for teachers and the educational rights of students with some adjustments to current laws. Essentially, school systems need to reset their perspective on due process to the one used in virtually every other profession: protections against egregious actions, such as dismissal based on political beliefs or legal conduct outside of work.”
The word reasonable is my emphasis because it’s the emphasis. In a 4 page document, the word “reasonable” is used 3 times, balance (or some derivative) 10 times. Every social media post contains the words “common sense”. This is the new-new reform, mending fences instead of burning bridges.
TNTP has been pushing “Rebalancing” in New York State, currently embroiled in edu-strife. There’s a mayor at odds with a governor over the role of charter schools plus a lawsuit from a Campbell-Brown anti-tenure group2. The headline, “Mend, Don’t End Teacher Tenure” reinforces the new message.
And I don’t hate the ideas. And I don’t think it’s a bad starting point. See, even I’m reasonable. But this new attitude, the mantra that the rights of teachers need to be massaged instead of taken behind the barn and shot, that’s well-funded fiction.
Consider teachers in Wisconsin. Every single teacher in Wisconsin is a temporary employee. Some districts have no set salary scale or base it entirely on test scores, others have been “very aggressive” in pushing out experienced (more expensive) teachers. Test scores, a dubious measure, remain flat.
Writing in the NY Post, TNTP President Tim Daly decries “a false choice between two extremes”. If New York needs “Rebalancing”, a “reset” to the way they think about teacher-tenure, surely the same goes for the great state of Wisconsin? The same extremes can be seen in Idaho, Missouri, and North Dakota – all states with few or no protections for great teachers. After extensive research, the following are TNTP’s statements, actions, and advocacy to “Rebalance” these states:
Oh, the Edu-crickets. If teacher appeals take too long, Mr. Daly is positively chipper while writing a (mostly) canned letter-to-the-editor. But, in their new-found reasonableness, TNTP seems completely disinterested when those teachers have no appeal system whatsoever. And if it’s all about the children, note that the aforementioned states lag behind Massachusetts and their robust system of tenure. Or perhaps there are no problems of equity in Idaho?
In fact, the balance analogy is a misnomer. Teachers and Administrators on separate hands belies a much more complicated system that involves parents, students, people of color, poor students and wealthy ones. Perhaps TNTP could buy the rights to Goro for their next campaign.
If a group’s stated purpose is to redefine the teaching profession, it should raise more than a few eyebrows when said group only cares about the profession in states where politics allow. More succinctly: TNTP would be more than happy to Scott Walker all teachers; until that day, they’ll settle for “Rebalancing”.
When people talk about being reasonable or “ending the infighting – FOR THE CHILDREN”, tread lightly. TNTP, for all it’s talk of being reasonable, is simply another group trying to load the work of making great schools on the backs of those who are already worked to the bone. That’s why there’s a “teacher war”. Dishonestly clothed in “common sense”, inaction portrayed as leadership, “Rebalancing” as a one-armed slap to the face.