Strange Bed-Fellows and Why We Should All Climb In Too

I love education policy and enjoying keeping on top of issues as much as any teacher/mother/sane/healthy person can but it drives me crazy when folks in education start to cat fight. The incredibly pressing crisis of education in our country is such that those of us in this demanding field really do not have time to attack each other. Charters vs. districts, unions vs. administrators, reformers vs. traditionalists, TFA vs. old guard – it feels like cannibalism.

This is why I was so pleased to see this article in the New Republic which was co-written by Gates Foundation director Vicki Phillips and AFT president Randi Weingarten. The self-proclaimed “odd-couple” advocate for the following six steps towards more effective, and fair, teacher evaluation systems:

1. MATCH HIGH EXPECTATIONS WITH HIGH LEVELS OF SUPPORT.

2. INCLUDE EVIDENCE OF TEACHING AND STUDENT LEARNING FROM MULTIPLE SOURCES

3. USE INFORMATION TO PROVIDE CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK TO TEACHERS, AS BEFITS A PROFESSION, NOT TO SHAME THEM. 

4. CREATE CONFIDENCE IN THE QUALITY OF TEACHER DEVELOPMENT AND EVALUATION SYSTEMS AND THE SCHOOL’S ABILITY TO IMPLEMENT THEM RELIABLY.

5. ALIGN TEACHER DEVELOPMENT AND EVALUATION TO THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS.

6. ADJUST THE SYSTEM OVER TIME BASED ON NEW EVIDENCE, INNOVATIONS, AND FEEDBACK.

The recommendation I particularly appreciated was that teacher development, and not only evaluation, be tied to the Common Core State Standards. Many people are too quick to jump on the link-test-scores-to-evaluations boat with the CCSS and while that linkage is important it should only come after several years of test vetting and professional development for teachers.

What is truly remarkable about this article is the collaboration of what have been two polarized factions within the education world. Instead of focusing on areas of difference, this article highlights areas of agreement and consensus; a process that can hopefully be a model for moving forward. Finding commonality is always so much more productive and helpful for popular movements than lines of difference. What is also remarkable is the flack they have taken from their traditional allies who would rather they no “lend credibility” to the “opposing side.”

I say bravo! Yes! Amen! More of us need to look for common ground where we can work together because the truth is when adults fight about what we should do in our schools it is our students who are the real losers.

What do you think about reformer/traditionalist collaboration?

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