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

Sunday, October 7, 2012

"Silver Bullet" Watch

I'm going to start a new feature: the "Silver Bullet" Watch.

It's well-known that corporate reformies push policies - test-based teacher evaluations, charters, merit pay, vouchers,  gutting tenure, ending LIFO - that have little evidence to support them. But one thing I've noticed is that they always seem to sell these with a qualifier: "I'm not saying _____ is a 'silver bullet.' It's just one part of a larger program we need..."

The "silver bullet" excuse is basically a way of saying that even though the reformies' favored policies won't do much of anything, they should still be implemented. Here, again, are a couple of examples:

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Jonny Alter: "Charters, by themselves, are not any kind of a cure-all. You now, a magic pill."

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Michelle Rhee: "There is no one thing that's going to bring about the change we need in this country."

In both of these examples, Rhee and Alter are attempting to find a way to dodge the sad truth that what they are promoting - charters, parent triggers, what have you... - won't really do anything.

Another example: this comes from an interview last year with the new Chief Talent Officer for the Dallas ISD, Charles Glover:
I talked to Charles Glover, executive director of Dallas’ TFA, about the issue last week. He said that all he can do is let the data speak for itself. (Although I’m betting those principals who spoke at last week’s briefing helped, too.) He says that TFA is “no silver bullet” and that there are a lot of other things going on in the district to improve education. He did point out that TFA brings people to the city who, whether they decide to stay in the classroom or not, are making a big impact on education and Dallas. “They’re our next school leaders, veteran teachers, and community leaders,” he says. “That’s a really exciting piece of this—bringing those individuals to the city and having them be a part of our fabric after their corps experience.” [emphasis mine]
I love that TFA argument: "Hey, our alums may not teach, but they stay involved in education just enough to make life miserable for real teachers!"

TFA had less than 200 teachers in Dallas last year, out of a total teaching corps of more than 10,000. Of course TFA isn't a "silver bullet"; it's impact is completely negligible (excepting the high cost of the program's impact on the budget).

But Mr. Glover is a TFA alum himself, with a total of two - yes, count 'em, TWO - years of teaching experience. As Diane Ravitch notes, you can see why teachers in Dallas may be demoralized: the man in charge of "talent" for Dallas's schools has little practical experience with teaching. Well, perhaps he can share notes with the 27-year-old in charge of Louisiana's teacher "talent"; she's only had two years in the classroom as well. Maybe they can discuss how much nicer work is when you can go to the bathroom whenever you want...

If you see any more references to "silver bullets" or "magic pills," let me know.

Who was that masked man?


Galton said...

At the Dallas Chief Talent Officer has two of teaching experience. Our own Chief, BROADIE Peter Schulman does not have ANY TEACHING EXPERIENCE. But, he did go through a ten weekend training indoctrination academy at the Broad Institute.

Deb said...

Are Koolaid comments accepted too? :)

Thanks Duke. You always manage to infuse just the right amount of humor to make it possible to crack a smile every once in a while when working against all that basically makes me sick.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for pointing out the gross amount of inexperience in TFAs around the country. Such an important role should not be in the hands of two-year teachers. I would what they would do to programs that affect vocational school preparedness.