Joining ProPubica, The Texas Tribune, and other pioneers in the brave new world of nonprofit analysis-heavy journalism is the Hechinger Report, a new education-centered site from the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, a part of Columbia University's Teachers College.
Among its first offerings is a Q&A with Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers. The conversation focuses on the perception (and basically accepted fact) that teachers find themselves in the crosshairs of everyone with a stake in education reform.
Weingarten argues on behalf of teachers, as well as her union's practices, with some of her go-to defenses: Race to the Top applications are successful when state officials work with local unions. Charters are not the silver bullet for our education woes—some have proven to be very effective, but most are equivalent to standard public schools (or worse). And, what's missing from all of the reform hoopla is a reasonable system for training and evaluating teachers.
What struck me, however, was that she hit a note that echoed of the Newsweek column I blogged about last week. In it, Sharon Begley reported that poor research on teaching may be submarining teachers by sticking them with curricula that demand they conduct their classes using less effective methods.
Should we be doing more in terms of ensuring that every teacher is effective? Of course; that is what the union is trying to do, but we can’t do it alone. It’s also about what the curriculum looks like. In Finland and Japan, teachers can really work on their lessons and differentiate instruction for all children. We don’t have time for that here, so teachers ask for the tools they know they need, but instead of giving them the tools, [teachers] get vilified. Teachers want the conditions to do their jobs.