Fixing tenure is not going to fix our schools. Will it help? Yes. To what degree? I’d suggest not a great one. There are at least 3 other things I’d much rather have in my back pocket before busting tenure or giving merit pay. And in no particular order they are…
1. School readiness so that kids enter classrooms with the skills and knowledge they need to be in that room. Grouping kids by age and using social promotion as a vehicle to shuttle kids on through the educational factory that is U.S. schooling whether or not they have learned anything is an abysmal failure. How come no one rips this to shreds in the major media? Kids fail 6th grade and they go to 7th. They fail 7th and they go to 8th. They fail 8th and they come to high school without one element of merit to their being on that campus other than the year in which they were born. Ridiculous.
2. Parent accountability. Do I really need to go on here? I mean how many blog posts have I already written on the need for America’s parents to step up? This is not about race, socio-economic-status, region of the country, urban or rural, black, brown, white, yellow, or green — it’s about the crisis of parental ownership we are seeing day in and day out as it plays out in a destructive typhoon that ruins the lives of our students. Hard for me to get a kid to care about their schooling if their own parent doesn’t dive a damn about it. And giving a damn is measured in actions, not words All parents pay lip service to this idea that they care — but not enough of them are rolling up their shirt sleeves to do the work necessary to create a framework in which their children can be educationally successful. The opportunities are there. I mean I teach in Lynwood, California — spitting distance from Compton — and yet scores of kids ARE taking advantage of the opportunities available through public schooling, going to college and becoming citizens of this country which make me darn proud. And what’s almost always the driving force behind them? Parents.
3. Growth model assessment. Haven’t we yet recognized that bubble sheet tests are so narrow, so off-base, so 20th century in a 21rst century world that to continue to worship at their altar is literally praying to a false God at this point. Sure, they are the most convenient and the most cost effective form of assessment. But if they suck, what’s the point? Is there a teacher in the country that feels the state tests accurately measure either their students’ most real, most authentic abilities or their own professional aptitudes as a classroom instructor working with kids on a day-to-day basis? It’s hogwash built on hogwash perpetuated by folks who are making a financial killing off of the testing industry. For all you conspiracy theorists out there… follow the money.
Hell… I can’t stop at 3 — so here’s a bonus!
4. Resources. Anytime we’re ready to join the 21rst century and actually allow our kids to use this great new invention called a cell phone that’s connected to the internet in order to participate in class, the practical, prudent, pragmatic world is ready. We can provide a kid with hundreds of pounds of textbooks which they absolutely loathe at the start of every year but the idea of giving them one tool that they will actually enjoy and eagerly use and stuffing it full of open source content in all of their subject areas, well… TOO REVOLUTIONARY!! Can you say deja vu? It’s hogwash built on hogwash perpetuated by folks who are making a financial killing off of the textbook industry. For all you conspiracy theorists out there… follow the money.
And if I suffer from a mysterious poisoned blowdart while keynoting my next conference, at least you’ll know from which direction it was fired. LOL!