The young teacher and choice

Over at MLive, Dave Murray highlights last night’s speech by Gov. Jeb Bush.

Appearing with a teacher and student, Bush said there is “a moral cost to our failing schools.”
“We say that every child in America has an equal opportunity. Tell that to a kid in whose classroom learning isn’t respected,” he said, according to a copy of the speech released by the party prior to its delivery.
“Tell that to a parent stuck in a school where there is no leadership. Tell that to a young, talented teacher who just got laid off because she didn’t have tenure. The sad truth is that equality of opportunity doesn’t exist in many of our schools. We give some kids a chance, but not all.
“That failure is the great moral and economic issue of our time. And it’s hurting all of America.”

the Governor is certainly right as to education’s significance, indeed he’s  better on education than most in the GOP. The real flaw in his speech was the disconnect between the real gains that were made in Florida and the cookie-cutter advocacy of choice. Choice did not raise up the scores for blacks, or for those children with disabilities. Yes, vouchers give a few a different alternative, but the reality — the real accomplishment — is that it improvement was widespread. No, the secret lies elsewhere, as quoted, in leadership and the ability to retain smart, well-qualified (young) teachers.

If anything, the idea of choice and the retention of young teachers work against each other. While choice in the form of charters does offer opportunity for the recent graduate, studies have found that these teachers are three times as likely to leave. This churn cuts the benefits of the young teacher who typically comes into full form somewhere around the fifth year of teaching. Meanwhile we have the shrinkage of classrooms in regular schools (and so of teachers), that itself makes it harder to retain the young teacher.

The methods that do seem to promise impact with disadvantaged populations are those of better teachers, stronger building leadership are methods that ask for more resources, not less. One of the unintended consequences of the turn to choice by the GOP is how other parts of the platform strip states and communities of these resources — as we’ve seen in Michigan. It becomes hard to anything other than maintain if you are also stripping out $400+ /pupil from the schools.


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