Education Opinion

Three Truths and a Lie

By Nancy Flanagan — June 22, 2010 2 min read
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I’m hanging out in Arizona with a group of terrific teachers who are launching a group blog later this summer. The gathering is being sponsored by AZ K12, an amazing non-profit dedicated to improving teaching and learning in Arizona through rich professional development and elevating the profession of teaching. At dinner last night, you might say that some of us were establishing a professional learning community--all I can tell you is that margaritas were involved, and the conversation was punctuated with laughter.

We also played Three Truths and a Lie. I was evidently not terribly effective in convincing the group that I went to Beauty School right out of high school--my lie--but they were willing to believe some other scurrilous stuff I confessed to, no problem.

The optimistic mood came to a screeching halt, however, after reading this--Paul Manna’s guest blog for Rick Hess, claiming that teachers have had plenty of opportunity to speak out about the way federal education policy is headed. Manna begins with an academic tone, citing major thinkers on Political Science101 and education policy:

Political scientists have offered much evidence to support the idea that policies suffer when they remain tone deaf to ground-level realities.

He then negates that statement--a flat-out truth--by claiming that “teachers” have had three opportunities to provide feedback on the Race to the Top:

#1) Teachers could provide public comment on the federal Race to the Top granting process. There were over 1000 comments, Manna says--and some of them were from teachers! There are about 3.5 million teachers in America--you do the math. But yes, all federal policies must have public comment periods, so teachers were allowed to send commentary.

#2) States who applied for RTTT funding had to demonstrate buy-in from local education agencies, theoretically another opportunity for hearing the voices of teachers. In my own state, the Governor visited the December conference of the Network of Michigan Educators to urge us (and our unions) to get on board with all the eleventh-hour legislation being passed, because there could be some serious and much-need money coming our way. Not exactly what you’d call a dialogue.

As support for this idea that teachers had input, Manna provides a brain-numbing 300+ page transcript of a federal hearing on technical issues in the RTTT process--perhaps on the theory that time spent is time well-spent. Just because people met and notes were taken does not mean that people were heard. And it’s very difficult to find the teacher voice in the transcript.

#3) Finally, there’s Manna’s third truth:

In states winning RTT grants, districts that signed up to participate will be required to develop plans indicating how implementation will look in their local communities. Presumably, those plans will emerge at least partly from discussions in working groups that will include teachers. Having been a teacher myself (for three years before starting graduate school in the late 1990s), I know that such discussions occur because I sometimes participated in them when my district received large state or federal grants. That pattern likely will be replicated in the RTT context.

Presumably? Partly? Likely? Such discussions do occur?

We’ve heard that before.

Three weak truths that add up to one big lie.

The opinions expressed in Teacher in a Strange Land are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.