I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Friday, September 23, 2011

Arne Duncan: Maniac

"Wow, Jazzman - pretty harsh." Yeah, OK, but what else do you call a guy who says stuff like this:
A major change your administration has promoted is changing teacher evaluations. Do you have a prescription on how teachers should be rated?
I don't. And frankly no one does.
Teacher evaluations are largely broken in this country. We've had a system that doesn't reward excellence, doesn't support those teachers in the middle that are trying to get better, that doesn't weed out the teachers who are unfortunately not improving. If it doesn't work for any of the adults along that continuum, I can promise you it's not working for children.
So you admit that you don't know how to change teacher evaluations; can you also admit you have never even studied the extent of this alleged "problem"? How many "bad" teachers are there, Mr, Secretary - can you tell us? Do we really have "better" teachers ready to step in and take their place when you get rid of the "bad" ones? How do you identify the "bad" ones accurately? Won't you kill the profession if you misidentify "good" teachers as bad and kick them to the curb?

I have a serious question for you, Secretary Duncan: did you take a minute to think about ANY of this? Or are you in such a rush to prove you are "doing something" that you don't care if your "solution" may be worse then the "problem"?
You said in Pittsburgh and elsewhere that people are "scared" to discuss teacher excellence. Is that really true?
Everyone is scared to say that great teachers matter, and that's been a great impediment to reform. There's been this tendency to treat everyone the same. It masks a tremendous richness and potential of nurturing amazing work and not tolerating failure when it impacts children. Don't you think that's vitally important to figure out how to get talent where you need it most?
Oh, yes, everyone is so "scared." It's not like we are constantly bombarded by the sanctimonious pap preached by politicians, pundits, billionaires, think tanky-types, "reformers," and a whole host of others about how society needs to blame teachers for a problem we never created...
Then on what system are you grading them?
On whatever system they have. You're right, they've got to have a thoughtful system. But let's have that conversation.
Yes, it is so important to change how we evaluate teachers that we will use "whatever" system we have. That's how you deal with things that are important to children: just do "whatever."
What do you see as your role in these conversations?
My role is to shine a spotlight on folks who are showing real courage, doing tremendous work to support students. My role is to challenge folks where I don't see that happening.

So many states have dummied down standards. I tried to talk about this today in Detroit and pumped them up -- Michigan is raising their standards. They're getting huge pushback. I have to give them political cover, because there's lots of forces, lots of pressure to continue to lie to themselves, to continue to lie to parents.
From whom? Who wants to keep kids stupid? I want names, Arne!

You know what I define as a lack of courage? Blaming unnamed people for poorly-defined problems.
How do you know that tests are measuring teaching?
Are they measuring some things? Yes. Are they doing it perfectly? Of course not. Again, that's why it's so important for me to have multiple measures.
This is probably the single most disturbing thing I've heard from the administration on this topic. Arne Duncan won't say what these tests are actually measuring, and admits they make mistakes. Yet he still he wants to use standardized tests to radically change how teachers are evaluated.

He apparently believes that there are throngs of talented, hard-working young people who would gladly eschew careers on Wall Street and consider teaching as a profession if only they could be judged by how well their students - whom they don't get to select - do on secretive, poor-constructed and poorly-judged standardized tests. And they'd be even more thrilled to sign up for jobs in poor urban and rural areas if the tests scores were analyzed using statistical methods so fraught with error that they are functionally the same as rolling dice. And all for less money than those people would make in the private sector! Hey all you Ivy Leaguers, sounds pretty awesome, dontcha think?

Of course, Arne also wants to pay teachers much more. But I guess he's decided to hold off revealing his secret plan to make that happen until he first forces the states to adopt his unproven schemes to make teacher evaluations capricious and demoralizing.

In sum: we have to do something, even if we don't know what that is, and even if it makes things worse.

If that isn't the raving of a maniac, I don't what what is.


Anonymous said...

This Duncan guy is so arrogant and ignorant and obnoxious. Even reading his words in print (e.g. the interview quotes) is severely irritating.

What can we do to make him just go away? Get rid of Obama? Obama sure seems blind and deaf to any contrary opinion, and is giving Duncan way too much reign. Time to kick them both out!

Duke said...

Anon, I hear you, but are you really prepared for President Rick Perry?

You know the best thing I've been involved in to solve this? The SOS March. If 10 times the folks show up on the Ellipse next time, maybe Obama will figure out who his real base is.