Thompson: TFA & The Burden Of Proof
It is understandable that non-educators might not judge the contemporary school improvement movement as a failure if they believe that the educational status quo is so rotten that its unintended negative consequences should be discounted.
People who never set foot in the inner city classroom might be agnostic about the modest benefits of accountability-driven “reform,” if they remain unaware of the harm that it inflicted on the most challenging schools
It is upsetting, however, that a person who actually spent three years in the classroom would seem to claim that outsiders seeking to impose their opinions on schools do not carry the burden of proof. But, that is what TFA Co-CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard did in her address Fighting the Wrong Enemy. She was not explicit in defining who the defenders of the status quo are, but she implied that they are opponents of Teach For America, charter schools, Bill Gates or standardized testing.
Ms. Beard was firing up a crowd of alumni. It would be doubly upsetting if she used such rhetoric for a crowd that included young teachers. Veteran teachers should unite in explaining to the newbies that the first rule of teaching should be, “First, Do No Harm.”
Teachers and school reformers need to understand that it is better to slow down and avoid mistakes rather than clean up afterwards. Children aren't lab rats. Who would want our own family’s school leaders to deny that they have a burden of proof, as they roll the dice in an experiment that might benefit a daughter a little as it damages a son?-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.