Race to the Top: What Matters Most?6 Comments
In “The Teachers’ Unions’ Last Stand: How Obama’s Race to the Top Could Revolutionize Public Education,” New York Times Magazine, Steven Brill argues that “what the reformers have come to believe matters most is good teachers.” He later reiterates that “the core of the reformers’ argument, and the essence of the Obama approach to the Race to the Top, is that a slew of research over the last decade has discovered that what makes the most difference is the quality of the teachers and the principals who supervise them.” Yet this claim quickly yields to the refrain of how difficult it is for school districts to rid themselves of bad teachers. Of course teachers matter—a great deal; as do the principals who supervise them. Since our teachers often shoulder the brunt of the responsibility for the success or failure of schools, how do we invest in teachers to ensure the success of all students?
As the June 1 Race to the Top deadline nears, the buzzword in education is accountability—which we are to understand as teacher accountability. Teachers must be held accountable for the learning gains—or lack of gains—of their students. Some would suggest that the best way to hold teachers accountable is to look at students’ test scores. Is this really the best way to measure the skill and ability of a teacher? How can we develop a meaningful system of accountability that looks beyond the individual teacher to the broader context of a school or a school district? How do we spread the accountability evenly and appropriately?
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