I think that the new CEO of B&MG, Jeff Raikes, makes a good point. We can’t really expect business to willing try things and fail. It’s not in their short term interest. And in the political environment of the past few decades, U.S. tax payers won’t stand for public dollars going into experiementing with education. Who’s left?
Of course, if every teacher matters, and every classroom matters, then perhaps that’s where the power to innovate should be placed, in the hands of that teacher — funded by those who have the greatest interest in an educated future — everyone?
David Warlick writes today about an eSchool News report from the Gates Foundation (Teachers Trump Class Size), which found that small high school size is not nearly as important for learning as the quality of the teacher who does the instruction.
Hmm. Oh, dear…
I went to the eSchool News article, which said more than David did. A great teacher in a low-income school could raise a class by a grade-and-a-half in only a year. A poor teacher in a high-income school held back student achievement by half a grade. But whether or not a new teacher had a certificate to teach or not, had no effect on learning. What mattered was the commitment and involvement of the teacher. Not school, not district, not tools available, not extracurriculars. Teachers.
So David (going back to Mr. Warlick) thinks that teachers should be the ones to be empowered to innovate. Awesome.
But we can raise an even larger question-set: Every teacher matters. Does every classroom matter? Does the school that surrounds that excellent teacher and classroom matter?
Because what Gates and Foundation have found, in essence, is that the teacher is far more important than the building or the district. And that means middle schools are going to have to stop thinking of themselves as collections of classrooms, but as communities gathered around teachers.
Framed a slightly-different way, we are approaching the age of the Freelance Teacher — when a teacher will simply set up a work-space and hang a shingle — what he or she teaches, resources available, and something like ‘success rate’. A teacher who combines the right levels of discipline, content, skills-development, and examination-scores will have as many students as she can handle. A teacher who doesn’t work like mad — will have to take the shingle down, and find some less noble line of work.
But school itself? The school as a building — as opposed to a community of students, parents, teachers and the specialists who support them — is not looking too healthy to me right now.