I read with interest the article by my collegue, Loretta Hunnicutt 1).
While I laud Ms Hunnicutt’s ‘no excuses’ approach to the issue of whether the effect of HB2281 is a fable or fairy tale I have to disagree with the assessment that “experienced teachers in well-funded classrooms” are the equalizer in education. I do not want anyone to think I denigrate the importance of experienced teachers and adequate funding for classrooms would be heavenly while well-funded classrooms are simply a dream or perhaps a distant memory.
My argument is with the term ‘equalizer’. I have seen experienced teachers, and many and many a year ago in a kingdom in the desert, I taught in a well-funded district. Yet there were still those students who faltered, fell behind, could not keep up. In fact there were many of them. Beyond the factors mentioned by Ms. Hunnicutt there are significant pressures impacting education today, and those pressures are increasing.
Children enter class each day a mass of differentiated experiences. Teachers are faced with trying to individualize education for twenty five people simultaneously. It is a never ceases to surprise to me that so many succeed at doing just that. It takes a committed, experienced professional to be effective as a teacher in the modern classroom.
In a thoughtful article in the New York Times, Paul Tough (what a great name for a crusader!) takes on the critics of Diane Ravitch and raises some excellent points in support of the idea that it will take a major overhaul of education “supplementing classroom strategies with targeted, evidence-based interventions outside the classroom”. 2) Ravitch a professor of education has been an outspoken critic of the various reforms instituted under the auspices of NCLB and ESEA. 3)
Ravitch writes: “Families are children’s most important educators. Our society must invest in parental education, prenatal care and preschools. Of course schools must improve; every one should have a stable, experienced staff, adequate resources and a balanced curriculum . . .”
For my point, I agree that education needs overhaul, but that overhaul is not in the form of destroying what we have, firing all who work in the field including support personnel (as has been done to gain federal funding) and hiring all new faces unsullied by previous experiences in education. I do not support the throw the baby out with the bath water approach.
To be effective, schools need to be funded, teaching needs to be developed as a skill and experience needs to be recognized as an advantage, not a financial liability. Wall Street tells us that in order to attract the best in their field, they must offer billions in bonuses. Well, I have a deal for you. In order to attract the best educators we don’t need billions, millions or bonuses of any kind. We need respect, support and adequate funding and compensation. And we need to value education for what it offers all children and their families.
To be continued . . .
2) “No, Seriously, No Excuses” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/10/magazine/reforming-the-school-reformers.html
3) “Waiting for a School Miracle” www.nytimes.com/2011/06/01/opinion/01ravitch.html