Student Achievement

When Consultants Get in the Way of Teaching

By Anthony Rebora — December 06, 2011 1 min read
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Renee Moore, an award-winning educator in Mississippi, tells the story of a talented young African-American history teacher of her acquaintance (with a 95 percent pass rate on exit exams) who is being driven out of the profession because of his frustration with a state-appointed teaching consultant at his school. She recounts a recent meeting with the teacher:

It's like everything I do or want to do now is unacceptable," he told me, almost in tears. "I just can't take it anymore." He has been threatened by his new principal with firing on the grounds of insubordination (we are a right-to-work state), unless he stops disagreeing with the consultant and simply "does what he is told."

Noting that the consultant is a white woman with only “limited teaching experience"—and pointing to similar examples in her region—Moore raises the question of whether racial bias might be involved:

The Mississippi Delta has been an area of chronic teacher shortage for over 25 years, and growing our own teachers is clearly the best long-term solution to that problem. Yet, it is some of our best, Black teachers who have been targeted by would-be reformers as problems that need to be whipped into line or pushed out of our schools.

Pointing to Moore’s post, Brooklyn teacher Ariel Sacks comments that, in its depiction of the micromanaging teaching consultant, the story is also about “teacher leadership gone wrong.”

Some people move from teacher to teacher leader all too quickly. ... Teacher leaders should not be hungry for power over other teachers. Leadership allows teachers to make an impact beyond their own classrooms, but positive impact and control are not the same.

Of course, we don’t know the consultant’s or the school’s side of the story, but this does at least have the elements of a cautionary tale for school reformers and instructional leaders.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.