Arne Duncan took it on the chin during Teacher Appreciation Week 2011. His open letter to America’s teachers engendered a lot of skepticism, if not outright hostility. We give Arne an A for effort and a D for dialogue. While the teachers’ push back is entirely misplaced on substance, their obvious frustration points to something that too many people are missing, or even worse, exploiting.
The last 6 months have been an unrelenting attack on teachers, followed by an uncompromising defense of teachers. Neither approach makes any sense for what students and teachers are expected to accomplish in the classroom. The VIVA Project teachers know that the system (federal and state policy) is failing them and their students. In fact, the President has made a persuasive case for the national emergency facing our nation’s schools. And the Secretary of Education has crafted a sensible revision to federal education law. The basic tenets reflected in the administration’s plan are essentially agreed to by all, especially many thousands of working classroom teachers.
Sure, the devil is in the details but before you can get to the details, you need government to draw lines reflecting common interest. Those fighting against sensible government action at this moment simply don’t reflect the will or interests of most classroom teachers. So why are they fighting so hard? Because, for a long, long time, these defenders of the status quo have held a proxy for and over hardworking, ambitious and highly motivated classroom teachers. We see their stubbornness in the very structure of American schools and in the way this “debate” is barely scratching the surface of what matters for students, teachers and parents in our schools.
We at The VIVA Project said enough is enough and we’re empowering classroom teachers to take back their profession. Ordinary teachers in New York State accomplished more, in a shorter period of time, than the officials who were charged by the Governor and the legislature to build a new, effective teacher evaluation system for New York. And, a small group of ordinary teachers (union members all) had the chance to share their common-sense solutions with Sec. Duncan last December. You can see the thread from their ideas in proposals such as the Presidential Teaching Fellows the administration aims to start as a way to improve teacher training. Take a look at the work of these amazing, and totally ordinary, teachers and join us as we say—enough is enough. It’s time to have an authentic conversation with classroom teachers about policy and get the system American’s teachers want and our students deserve.