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Magazines: Teacher Tenure Lawsuits Expose Growing Reform Rift


The newly-resurgent TIME magazine has a lengthy, delightfully wonky cover story about teacher tenure written by former Columbia J-School classmate Haley Sweetland Edwards that you might want to check out (The War on Teacher Tenure).

Some of the new story (subscription only, alas) will be extremely familiar to education insiders like you, but there are some key additional details and aspects worth noting.

For example, Edwards reminds us that the Vergara decision (being appealed) is "the first time first time, in California or anywhere else, that a court had linked the quality of a teacher, as measured by student test scores, to a pupil’s right to an education."

She also reminds us that the current crop of billionaires interested in fixing education is not the first (think Carnegie, Rockefeller, Ford).

The parts that may be new to you include background details about how David Welch got involved in the issue four years ago after consulting constitutional scholar Kathleen Sullivan.  Then came the hiring of the PR firm now called Rally, which launched StudentsMatter.  Recruiting and vetting plaintiffs -- no easy feat, I'm told -- came next.

Edwards also notes that some DC-based education reformers aren't entirely behind the Vergara approach, citing concerns from right-leaning wonks like Petrilli and McShane that you may recall from a few weeks ago (they don't like lawsuits and are hoping for a post-Rhee time of cooperation rather than ever-increasing conflict with the teachers unions).  

There aren't any left-leaning think tankers quoted in the piece, but my sense is that reform folks are sick of being beaten up, don't want to have to take more heat for another hard-charging evangelist (ie, Campbell Brown), and are worried about 2016.  

Edwards' previous forays into education writing include a piece about the Colbert/Stewart divide (Pro-Reform Colbert Leapfrogs Reform Critic Stewart) and something about unions' evolving positions on Common Core (Teachers Union Pulls Full-Throated Support for Common Core).


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The "left-leaning" (pretty far right, compared to left-wing parties in nearly every other country in the developed world) establishment think tankers should be worried about 2014, not 2016, unless they think it's okay to have two more years with even less progress and cooperation for President Obama than he's had in the last five (I think he did well in 2009, and thank him for it). Ministers like Secretary Duncan may have to get used to cycling through the states for two more (possibly dreadful) years asking for voluntary cooperation with administration initiatives like early childhood education since they can't get anything done in D.C. -- but since the administration has made a policy and practice, through its grant competitions, of screwing the states, which too often, in their hour of greatest need, got nothing in return for implementing the administration's preferred reforms (especially the disastrous headache of tying teacher appraisals to scores on tests that mean nothing to the pupils), which state is going to trust it with any increase of influence or cooperation, knowing that the feds will likely come in to demand control of their entire state school systems in return for a measly ten percent investment?

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