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Thompson: A Realistic Reformer Acknowledges Reality

The-man_t600New Schools for New Orleans CSO Neerav Kingsland is on the cutting edge of reformers who are acknowledging the existence of reality.  Poverty exists, scaling up new social experiments may or may not be possible, and "the Man" is inescapable. Kingsland is a reformer who admits that power corrupts.  He writes, "if you stay in the classroom, there’s a high likelihood you’re going to work for a low-quality principal at some point. ... If you get a bad principal and this principal fires you – there goes your career." If we don't want another couple of decades of reformers "working very, very hard for moderate results," we need both unions and choice.  Unions will need to commit to increasing student learning, as well as organizing charters and charter organizations.  Above all, unions allow educators to speak truth to power, thus allowing for reality-based policies. And if reformers really want sustainable good for kids, they should speed up the transition by inviting union organizers.- JT (@drjohnthompson)Image via.  

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VIVA Project teachers couldn't agree more; check out their ideas for education policy at www.vivateachers.org. VIVA exists because teachers are impatient with the lack of serious focus on their profession and are agitated by the misplaced teacher bashing and the defend-any-and-every-teacher (or bash every test) in response dynamic that masquerades as public policy these days.

The fact is teachers need and want a voice and a system that articulates high standards (and earns high regard in exchange) for their profession-- VIVA teachers are collaborating to imagine a system that actually invested in great teaching -- unions, management and higher ed training are not providing the profession with those outlets or supports. VIVA teachers are taking the time to think about policy that actually support and enrich practice. Why? Because they know that their students' achievements are the heart of the matter and they want a system that actually improves their own and their peers teaching effectiveness. They want evidence that their students are learning and they want to be judged by their students' success.

At the same time, teachers recognize that their career path is unusual for professionals--same job/status from the 1st day to the last, whether it's 2 years, 50 years or 20 years later, and one that puts them at the bottom of the food chain. Unions have a role in a flat profession where work place conditions are subject to arbitrary and bureaucratic decisions.

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