Mar 31, 2011

A Model For Positive Change

Angela taught in Columbus City Schools where she enjoyed a short tenure as a kindergarten and first grade teacher; due to the "Last In, First Out" policy, she was forced out after two years. After leaving Columbus, she got a job at one of the best elementary schools in the greater Columbus area. Courter taught for two years in the Los Angeles Unified School District in one of the lowest rated middle schools in California.Together, they have seen the best and worst of America's education system. 
Although our experiences have been brief, we have seen enough to know that the system -- particularly for kids in low-income communities -- needs change. This is why tonight's event with Governor Kasich and Michelle Rhee was exciting. The event hit on three points that portend positive change in the area where our country (and where Ohio) needs it the most: education.  

1. Collaboration  

Governor Kasich and Michelle's willingness to collaborate is a strong model for other state and local leaders across the country. Two different people, two different paths, one a Republican, the other a Democrat, one goal in mind: improving the educational outlook for students. They clearly didn't feel hindered by their formal titles or by what other leaders had done in the past. They generally seemed to be concerned most with making decisions that would best benefit the actual people our education system exists to serve: kids.

2. Innovation

This kind of collaboration leads to innovation, which is one of the things that the education system as a whole needs. Ohio can look forward to attracting to the teaching field its best and brightest students through alternative credentialing programs, e.g., Teach For America. And Ohio can look forward to empowering its strongest teachers and strongest leaders by giving them autonomy to do what makes sense in their schools and classrooms.

3. Positive change 

One of the substantive changes that Governor Kasich and Michelle talked about -- and one that will have a strong, immediate impact on kids in low-income communities -- is the elimination of Last In, First Out. Should every single young teacher get to keep his or her job? Nope. Just as not every older teacher should get to keep his or her job based simply on time spent in the classroom. Governor Kasich and Michelle talked about the ways that we can hold teachers accountable and promote those that are actually doing a strong job in the classroom. 
One of the most pleasant parts of the evening was the sense of thoughtfulness that seemed to guide the conversation. Governor Kasich communicated that he was sensitive to the needs of teachers and that he was concerned with evaluating teachers based solely -- if at all -- on test scores. Michelle offered a different perspective. And they were able to have this debate/discussion in an open, honest way. While not every new policy or new approach will show immediate impact or will be perfect, it's this type of honest, level-headed discussion that will lead to strong results on the back end. Hopefully, we can look forward to more of it in the near future.

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