Steven Brill's blinkered thinking in the Wall Street Journal

Today’s Wall St. Journal features an article by Steven Brill, drawn from his new book Class Warfare, in which he acknowledges the huge burn out rates of charter school teachers.  He describes one “super” teacher and administrator, a 28 year old assistant principal at Harlem Success Academy named  Jessica Reid, who quits, despite a large salary and quick advancement, because “This wasn’t a sustainable life, in terms of my health and my marriage.”

Brill then concludes:

“The lesson that I draw from Ms. Reid’s dropping out of the race at the Harlem Success school is that the teachers’ unions have to be enlisted in the fight for reform. The unions are the organizational link that will enable school improvement to expand beyond the ability of extraordinary people to work extraordinary hours.,.. If they are pushed the right way, the unions can help to create educational systems that can enable and encourage ordinary teachers to work harder and more effectively—and still allow them to sit down once in a while so that they don’t burn out.”

But how should the  unions accomplish this?  By demanding smaller classes  for their teachers, or a reduced student load, which might lessen their overwhelming  responsibilities?  Push for teachers to have more time for collaboration or support outside the classroom?  No.

He suggests that Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, should be appointed chancellor of NYC schools, saying that

“…she knows exactly where and how to fix the union contract so that it rewards performance and enhances professionalism. She knows that the shelf life is rapidly expiring on her standard rope-a-dope dodge that she, too, wants to change lockstep teacher compensation and overprotective tenure rules, but that this can be done only if all sides collaborate to develop truly fair evaluation systems, which, her refrain goes, don’t exist now.”

In other words, as a solution, he proposes the standard corporate reform agenda of stricter teacher evaluation linked to test scores, weaker tenure protections and merit pay – all those provisions that are already standard in the charter schools he describes, but have clearly not prevented their extraordinarily high attrition rates.  This is blinkered thinking indeed.  

Posted on by admin Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses to Steven Brill's blinkered thinking in the Wall Street Journal