Friday, August 05, 2011

Are former substitute teachers qualified to reform our classrooms?

School Cred: How Much Time Have Ed. Reformers Actually Spent in the Classroom?

Is a former substitute teacher qualified to reform our classrooms? (Photo: sidewalkflying/Creative Commons)

They are among the most influential change-makers in American public education. Their words and deeds have the power to influence the way districts are governed, schools are run, and children are taught.
But does their knowledge come from experience? How many years have today’s top reformers spent on the frontlines of America’s classrooms learning what it takes for schools to thrive?
TakePart did a little digging, and here’s what we found:

ARNE DUNCAN: U.S. Secretary of Education since 2009, Duncan has the final say on major policy decisions, including how billions of Race to the Top dollars are spent.
Before his appointment, Duncan served as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools for seven years. He ran a nonprofit education foundation from 1992-1998, and as a college student, tutored children at his mother’s afterschool program. Duncan was never a classroom teacher.

RANDI WEINGARTEN: As head of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Weingarten represents 1.5 million educators and school personnel. She recently commented that education reformers “wouldn’t last 10 minutes in a classroom,” yet her own teaching experience is surprisingly limited.
According to Weingarten’s official bio, she taught high school history from 1991-1997. But when Education Action Group checked Weingarten’s employee personnel file at NYC’s Department of Education, they only found record of a provisional teaching license and a certificate to serve as a substitute teacher. There was no record indicating that Weingarten ever taught full-time in any K-12 public school.

MICHELLE RHEE: Formerly the Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools, and founder of The New Teacher Project, Rhee now heads the influential political advocacy organization StudentsFirstwhich supports reform legislation in multiple states.
Rhee’s first experience in education was as a Teach for America corps member. She taught third grade in Baltimore for three years.

BILL GATES: The Microsoft co-ounder and billionaire philanthropist committed over $25 billionin funding to numerous causes, including thousands of education reform initiatives.
A vocal supporter of charter schools, overhauling teacher evaluation systems, merit pay, and tenure reform, Bill Gates has no background in education, and was never a classroom teacher.

DIANE RAVITCH: Ravitch is an education historian, policy analyst, and professor at NYU. From 1991 to 1993, she was Assistant Secretary of Education under President George H.W. Bush.
Ravitch shocked the education world last year when her influential best-selling book challenged the merits of reform strategies she once endorsed. Ravitch never taught in a K-12 school.

WENDY KOPP: CEO and founder of Teach for America, Wendy Kopp’s organization trained over 24,000 talented college students to teach in high-need schools.
This year’s 9,300 corps members will reach 600,000 students. A 2011 Harvard research studyfound that Teach For America produces more founders and leaders of education organizations than any other program. Kopp has never been a classroom teacher.

JONAH EDELMAN: Son of civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman, Jonah Edelman is cofounder and CEO of Stand for Children—a grassroots education advocacy organization with affiliates in nine states. Edelman came under fire recently for remarks he made about using lobbyists and campaign funding to push through controversial reform legislation in Illinois.
Though he tutored a child in reading, cofounded a mentorship program, and led an enrichment program for children living in public housing, Edelman never taught in a public school.

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