COMMUNITY VOICES | Wanted: Educational change artists

I agree with Sarah Lahm in her article, “Protest Enlivens MN Chamber of Commerce Education Summit,” about “the lack of concrete, classroom-based policy ideas” at the event. I also attended. The fact is that Minnesota has the worst four-year graduation rate for Latino and Native American students and second worst for African-Americans in the nation. Not acceptable to anyone, right? But, there’s a huge gap between policy change and its impact on everyday practices in the classroom. Who’s minding that gap? Very few. As Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Sadly, that’s what’s happening in our current educational system.

We need some transformational change artists who understand how to create policies and practices that both inspire teachers and hold them accountable. One spoke at the Summit. Listening to his story made me teary. His name is George Parker, and he’s a 30-year math teacher, choir director, and former president of the Washington, D.C. teachers union. In 2010, he and the D.C. Chancellor of Education Michelle Rhee created a ground-breaking contract using evaluation, performance-based compensation, and professional development to raise academic standards while treating teachers fairly. 80% of the teachers voted for it. On the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, D.C.’s schools showed more improvement than nearly every state. It can be done. Where are Minnesota’s change artists?  

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  • Ann, I agree that Mr Parker was eloquent and insightful. I'll have more to say about him in an upcoming blog. I also think that many of the ideas that St. Paul and Minneapolis Federation of Teachers presidents are presenting are excellent. (Have previously supported their suggestions for self/site governed schools, similar to the Pilot Schools that are part of the Boston Public Schools. - by Joe Nathan on Sun, 02/16/2014 - 8:52am
  • Thank you for joining in the conversation, Ann. I say, the more voices we can have, the better. I agree that more students need to be successfully engaged in our schools, and that we should bring innovation, change, and student-centered policies to the world of education. There is widespread disagreement, however, with the methods favored by Rhee and Parker, via "StudentsFirst." A little digging quickly brings statements such as these to the forefront.: "The most disturbing effect of Ms. Rhee’s reform effort is the widening gap in academic performance between low-income and upper-income students, a meaningful statistic in Washington, where race and income are highly correlated." - by Sarah Lahm on Fri, 02/14/2014 - 11:39pm

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Ann C. Kay's picture
Ann Kay