To the Editor:
Kudos to Education Week for addressing head-on the twisted rhetoric that colors our current education debate (“On Rhetorical Battleground, ‘Reform’ Proves Potent Weapon,” March 2, 2011). It is, unfortunately, true that self-described “reformers” have seized the rhetorical high ground. They paint those who disagree with their “take no prisoners” approach to school improvement as supporters of a failed system. Perhaps former District of Columbia Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee best represents this approach. The fact that there is scant empirical evidence supporting the efficacy of charter schools, “merit” pay, and standardized testing is rarely mentioned by the mainstream media, which seem only too happy to echo the rhetoric of Rhee and her cohort.
What is of supreme interest to me is there are very few veteran teachers—people who have spent their professional lives working with children—among these reformers’ minions. On the contrary, those who tried their hand at teaching for a few years via programs like Teach For America present themselves as having all the answers to the very complex problems underlying the achievement gap between poor and better-off youngsters.
These are sad times for American children. While their well-being—rated near the bottom in rankings of industrialized nations—deteriorates, we continue to ignore their distress by pretending that if they just scored higher on standardized tests, all would be well with their world. Would that it could be so.
A version of this article appeared in the April 06, 2011 edition of Education Week as Veteran Teachers Rarely Join ‘Reform’ Ranks