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Teaching Profession

Meme Watch: Teachers as ‘Interchangeable Widgets’

By Anthony Rebora — January 03, 2011 1 min read

Several weeks ago, we reported on a wonkish panel discussion in D.C. in which Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in propping up the performance pay idea, lamented that school systems currently treat teachers like “interchangeable widgets.” It was undeniably an effective metaphor, lending an air of oppressive, lock-step industrialism to current teacher-compensation systems. And that post, incidentally, turned out to be our most-read of 2010.

Maybe even Michelle Rhee read it. Curiously enough, the former D.C. schools chancellor-turned full-time school reform advocate used precisely the same term in a recent television interview about improving the teaching profession. Here, as reported by the International Business Times, is the full quote:

High performers want to be recognized and rewarded for what they are doing - if they are outperforming their peers, they want to be valued and respected in that way...we treat our teachers like they are interchangeable widgets. We pay everybody the same as long as they have the same years of experience, regardless of how effective or ineffective they are."

Coincidence? Or do we hear a talking point? In any case, we expect you haven’t heard the last of that phrase.

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