I've said this before: let's have an academic decathlon... I would bet the house on my team [of privileged demographic], and I bet if you're being honest, you would too. Yet to accept that is to deny the basic assumption of the education reform movement, which is that student outcomes are a direct result of teacher quality.
In other words, Whitehurst assumes that there is a natural distribution of quality in any field, where some significant percentage of people are always going to be below a necessary level of ability. That's an interesting case to be made in this context, the context of No Child Left Behind and the typical assumption of education reform, which ludicrously asserts that all children are capable of meeting certain arbitrary quality standards. But perhaps that's the inevitable consequence of a movement in which the person whose voice is heard is the person who shouts the loudest, rather than the person who pays most attention to what is constructive, to what is achievable, and what is true. In that context, it becomes a crime to state the simple reality that in a system of massive entrenched inequality, we will always have educational failure.I think you should give deBoer's entire post a good read. He's done a nice job adding to the nauseating rhetoric in less than ten paragraphs.
First, if we accept educational failure at the ominous scale deBoer describes, then what hope will there ever be of overcoming poverty? (If only Bill Gates could wave his magic wand!) No, I believe the only sustainable solution to poverty is to help the poor help themselves. How? Education. And giving up on any population because of race, religion, or location of residence is emphatically unacceptable. We, the people - for the sake of the people - must not stand for it.
How can we rise as a country if we choose not to rise AS A COUNTRY? bit.ly/YTagwI
— Darren E. Draper (@ddraper) March 31, 2013
Second, teacher quality is one of the few variables actually within our control. Therefore, if student outcomes can't be directly improved by improving teacher quality, then why would we ever make such an investment in teachers, at all? Surely nation-wide daycare can be procured at a much cheaper rate than the amount we're spending on pre-service endorsement programs and in-service professional learning.
Following deBoer's line of thinking, maybe our best solution really is to employ as educators "those" unteachable, poverty-stricken drop-outs such that they might too fail at improving student outcomes so clearly outside of their control. After all, in our "system of massive entrenched inequality," isn't failure the rightful destiny of all under-privileged students?
Teacher quality does make a difference, and educational failure is not an option. As educators, we have little control over what our students do when they aren't in school (and rightly so). However, when they are in school, we have the critical responsibility to make every minute count, every day, for every student - regardless of their demographic.
As educators in an imperfect world, ours is the responsibility to be our best; because for some of our students, receiving a quality education is the only chance they've got.