To the Editor:
Sheryl Boris-Schacter’s March 15, 2006, Commentary amazed me (“Why Aren’t Teachers Weighing In on Educational Policymaking?”). In it, I saw in print the radical question “Why … don’t we consult the teaching force about what constitutes effective pedagogy?” and the revolutionary suggestion that education schools require the study of education policy.
This is prima facie evidence of how berserk educational thinking has become in the age of reform. Can anyone imagine this Commentary being written about lawyers or doctors? Ms. Boris-Schacter notes that S. Paul Reville caused a stir in Massachusetts by suggesting that educators should be involved in, essentially, bailing out policymakers who lack “strategies necessary to address the deficits identified [by the No Child Left Behind law’s testing requirements].” Policymakers feel no compunction about labeling districts as failures, but they have no idea what to do afterwards. Mr. Reville provocatively argues that they should turn to teachers.
Your readers should not infer from this that teachers don’t weigh in. There’s plenty to say, and we’ve said it all along, but we’ve been systematically marginalized. Teachers commonly speak through their associations or unions. In Massachusetts, they testify at open forums of state board of education meetings, since teachers are prevented by regulation from serving on the board. There’s great animus in the “reform” camp against unions, because we have so much to say about current efforts.
Educators working through curricular organizations often find their input marginalized or rejected. When mathematics-curriculum frameworks were formulated in Massachusetts, the board rejected educators’ recommendations, so the entire curricular-study group resigned. The board then handpicked a small group, which produced the curriculum it wanted. One learns to avoid weighing in when input is flatly rejected.
The so-called reform movement has shifted power away from educator and public control and toward centralized, business-model control. It’s not uncommon to hear the argument that educators should have nothing to say about education policy, that we’re mere functionaries of the current “accountability movement.” In that respect, Ms. Boris-Schacter’s question is welcome indeed.
Paul J. Phillips
Quincy Education Association
A version of this article appeared in the April 05, 2006 edition of Education Week as Plea for Policy Input Shows Reform’s Impact