Thursday, September 2, 2010

Our evaluation system is broken

Being the Secretary of Education has to be a difficult job.  But Arne Duncan seems up to the challenge.  And, frankly, I'd love to be on the bus when he visits teachers in our state (as well as in seven other states), because he's not afraid to say the things that need to be said.  From his August 25 remarks at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock, here are my favorite quotes:

  • In just one generation we have fallen from first in the world to 12th in the percentage of young adults with college degrees.
  • As a country we will stop lying to our children and dumbing down standards.
  • Nothing is more important and nothing has a greater impact on the quality of education than the quality and skill of the person standing in the front of the class -- and there is so much that needs to change in the way that America recruits, trains, supports and manages our teachers.
  • Singapore selects prospective teachers from the top third of the class and in Finland only one in ten applicants is accepted into teacher preparation programs. They only pick the very best.
  • The issue of teacher evaluation is especially important today for a number of reasons. First of all, everyone agrees that our evaluation system is broken.
  • (T)he vast majority of teacher colleges in this country are doing a mediocre job at best.
  • As a country we must stop highlighting only ballplayers and rock stars and start highlighting teachers who are our true heroes and role models.
Read the text of the speech, agree or disagree, chalk it up to politics, if you must.  But don't sit on your laurels, ignore the declines in our system, and decide that you can't make a difference.  The very least we can all do is to stay informed.  The most we can do is make conscious decisions to be a constructive force in our own sphere of influence.

I may not make a difference in my state, my country, or the world, but I make a difference to the students who sit in my classes, who ask me to serve as their thesis advisor, and who look to me as a role model for how teachers should teach.  I'm no Arne Duncan, but that's no excuse for overlooking the opportunities I have to make a positive impact in my small corner of the world.  That's my seat on the bus.

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