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ERIC Number: ED516800
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Oct-14
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
How to Fix Our Schools: It's More Complicated, and More Work, than the Klein-Rhee "Manifesto" Wants You to Believe. EPI Issue Brief #286
Rothstein, Richard
Economic Policy Institute
Joel Klein, chancellor of the New York City public school system, and Michelle Rhee, who resigned October 13 as Washington, D.C. chancellor, published a "manifesto" in the "Washington Post" claiming that the difficulty of removing incompetent teachers "has left our school districts impotent and, worse, has robbed millions of children of a real future." The solution, they say, is to end the "glacial process for removing an incompetent teacher" and give superintendents like themselves the authority to pay higher salaries to teachers whose students do well academically. Otherwise, children will remain "stuck in failing schools" across the country. In this paper, the author opines that there is a world of difference between claiming, as the Klein-Rhee statement does, that the single biggest factor in student success is teacher quality and claiming, as Barack Obama does in his more careful moments, that the single biggest school factor is teacher quality. Decades of social science research have demonstrated that differences in the quality of schools can explain about one-third of the variation in student achievement. But the other two-thirds is attributable to non-school factors. Making teacher quality the only centerpiece of a reform campaign distracts everyone's attention from other equally and perhaps more important school areas needing improvement, areas such as leadership, curriculum, and practices of collaboration. Blaming teachers is easy. These other areas are more difficult to improve. Of course, the author believes that superintendents should continue attempts to improve teacher quality. They should work on developing ways to identify better and worse teachers without relying heavily on the corrupting influence of high-stakes test scores. But they will have to embed all of this work in an insistence on broader efforts of economic and social reform if they hope their school improvements to make any difference. Otherwise, their manifesto might appear to be more an example of scapegoating teachers than a reflection of serious commitment to the futures of children. (Contains 12 endnotes.)
Economic Policy Institute. 1333 H Street NW Suite 300 East Tower, Washington, DC 20005. Tel: 202-775-8810; Fax: 202-775-0819; e-mail: Web site:
Publication Type: Opinion Papers
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Economic Policy Institute
Identifiers - Location: District of Columbia; New York