More Lessons for Education “Reformers”
Quiz time for education “reformers” – what’s missing from the picture at right? Answers to follow – read on.
Over at Huffington Post, Suzanne Tacheny Kubach, the Executive Director of Policy Innovators in Education (PIE) Network, has written a useful reminder to the edreform crowd that there are certain standards they should hold themselves to while pursuing their agenda (“Lessons from Gotham for Education Reformers”). Using as her example the controversies around the recent appointment of Cathie Black as Chancellor for New York City Public Schools, Kubach observes that the leaders of that movement must be more consistent in their views of transparency and in articulating a compelling vision for education.
Kubach’s main concern seems to be winning over the general public, and perhaps more specifically, parents and voters. She’s right – the real power should reside with the people. However, in her view of the edreform political process, and whose concerns matter in that process, there are some key groups of people Kubach overlooks. I don’t know her broader body of work, so please don’t read this as personal indictment, but this particular piece of writing suffers from some glaring omissions.
Teachers? Kubach doesn’t mention us – at all. Really. The millions of us who actually do the teaching and provide the education apparently do not need to be won over. Our buy-in does not matter in debates about the educational policy and leadership. Oh, yes, Kubach uses the word “teacher” – but not to talk about the people; it’s only in the phrase “teacher performance information,” which is clearly a euphemism for test scores. She renders us a mere adjective.
So, while Kubach offers some advice that I agree should be heeded, her article slips up, further undercutting what she calls, “our own organizations, agendas, and intentions” (emphasis added; a reference to education “reformers”).
Yes, I do question the agendas and intentions of an education reformer who writes about education without mentioning teachers as an interested party whose concerns warrant attention.
And is there anyone else missing in Kubach’s formulation of leadership issues and lessons in New York City schools? (Think back to the quiz, above):
She uses the word “children” – once.
She does not use the word “student” – not even once.
Nor the word “learn” – not even once.
Consider this one more lesson for education “reformers” who may or may not wonder or care why slick PR and lots of money don’t buy them much credibility among actual educators. And this omission underscores the fear many teachers and parents have about Cathie Black – that if your only qualifications for the job have to do with organizational management and working with adults to make a company profitable, then you don’t understand enough about our values and our enterprise. The words “students” and “learning” might not show up on your flow charts and reports, but teachers spend every day focused on them anyways, and we don’t trust that someone who’s used to flow charts and reports will see deeply enough into the organization to understand what really drives it and then lead it effectively.