I have often wondered as to how “consultants” under the guise of school reform have finessed the issues of student achievement and their oftentimes preposterous and demeaning accoutrements of teacher accountability to the forefront of the national consciousness in roughly the last 10 years oftentimes with tremendous efficiency and oftentimes with great aplomb. In Dr. Nichole Gillespie’s perspicacious op-ed “Teachers can be the solution, if given the support” which published on August 28, she builds the case for the criticality of adequately supporting public school teachers. However, it stops short of addressing how the school reform movement has subverted it to a means of demeaning teacher integrity and radicalizing their practices. History has shown that educational consultants like Arlene Ackerman, Michelle Rhee and Willard Daggett don’t correctly address the problems in the schools. Chester Finn, a former U.S. Secretary of Education, correctly states that "One of the problems in this field is people who tell audiences what the audience wants to hear rather than the truth.  This leads to much applause and positive reviews and big bucks, but I don't think it leads to any improvements in American education." (http://www.wpaag.org/CharacterEducationTowerArticle.htm). Certainly, more needs to be written about the need for effective teacher support. Their motivation seems less about engagement and more about propitiating voracious public sentiment against teachers.

Opportunistic "reformers" agentially hoodwink legislators on all levels into believing that the pervasive lack of student achievement is one which exists solely because defects in teacher practice. They argue that teachers fail to utilize differentiated instruction to optimize higher order thinking skills. Over time, this has resulted in students not being able to compete in the 21
st century workplace. As has been suggested earlier this month, student achievement would not be nearly as deficient if parents were more supportive and were the teaching of basic social skills obviated. The cumulating effects upon the quality of life locally and nationally have been keenly felt. With an abundance of students lacking in the basics which teachers work with despite their best efforts, their distrust of reform is neither implicit nor without foundation.

Ongoing instability in the national economy requires many municipalities to downsize schools or raise taxes or in some cases, both. With unemployment on the rise, teachers have become politically as well as financially attractive targets in recent years because of what many consider to be their exorbitant salaries for “part-time” work. As such, school boards would like nothing more than to accord local building administrators the power to summarily fire staff proving to be particularly refractory. They cannot at present because tenure provisions in the contracts won't allow it. Consequently, they have resorted to more nefarious means. Hence the rise of the charter schools and school management companies. Additionally, Arne Duncan's latest funding initiative, Race to the Top altogether radicalizes staff turnover through the implementation of these new evaluation regimes. Many districts in Pennsylvania, for example, have quietly adopted new models put forth by "consultants" like Charlotte Danielson whose Danielson Framework is at best unreasonable. These models contain many more picayune purchase points by which local building administrators can use and will use as bases to disparage teachers unfairly. Over time, these become pretexts for firing teachers who they believe to be particularly refractory.

But remarkably little has been said about what teachers and students alike accomplish both here in Philadelphia and across the nation. Such things are not always measured in the form of a test. Teachers are teaching about the need for sustaining the environment in science classes which teach them about the potential for energy independence through developing alternate forms of energy and show that in time and with practice, they also may play a part. They’re setting the example of citizenship with opportunities for community service. These things are only beginnings. So if the public bears umbrage against teachers for perceived underperformance, consider our robotic presence on Mars. Our students built that. However imperfect our practices may be, the reportage both locally and nationally wrongfully sells us short. Philadelphia teachers are the very best.