Their entries are strong and coherent pleas for more attention to be paid to the critical issue of teacher quality.
Here's a snippet from one of them about the high-profile debate over how the school system in New Orleans should be rebuilt:
In Orleans Parish schools, students currently have a one in five chance of getting an uncertified teacher compared to a one in twenty chance in high-performing schools. And statewide, one –seventh of teachers are uncertified. Implementing school choice and alternative certification programs as envisioned by the Fordham Foundation will never address this fundamental teaching quality dilemma underlying the problems facing New Orleans and urban school districts across the country.
Despite the almost undeniable significance of teaching quality and the exponential growth rate of charter schools into a permanent and significant element of America’s education landscape, there has been little research into issues of teaching quality within them, including matters related to the effectiveness of teacher preparation, selection, induction, and professional development.
Because of their autonomy from legal and regulatory structures, charter schools could potentially benefit from increased freedom to hire the best teachers, design effective professional development, and promote a strong professional culture. However, these practices are not currently guaranteed to happen in any particular charter school and do not occur systematically across all charter schools. In all likelihood, adoption will vary across the charter sector, with some schools engaging in top-notch teaching quality practices and others falling far short of these goals. We know teaching quality matters, but we know little about how charter, private and religious schools perform on this crucial measure.
Where is the call for investing in what we know works for providing New Orleans students with high quality teachers? Where is the call for a special teaching fellows program to recruit and develop a new kind of teacher — one who knows content, how to teach it, and how to work with special children? Where is the call for investing in new school-university partnerships to prepare and develop teachers? Where is the call for redesigned schools so better prepared teachers have more time to work more closely with students on both their academic, social, and emotional needs? Where is the call to finally pay the teachers of New Orleans a decent professional salary and improve their working conditions and then to finally establish and enforce the same high standards for all teachers?
The answer to these calls will cost money and will not happen in weeks or even months following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. But a short-sighted response calling for increased school choice and claiming that teachers need no additional preparation and support to work with New Orleans students is simply wrong. The current and future students of this great city deserve better.
Yes they do. Vouchers and school choice do not necessarily meet any of the most pressing needs of urban schools. In fact, as evidenced by teacher quality, in some cases they might actually exacerbate the existing problems.
I'm glad the CTQ is blogging. I look forward to reading more of what they have to say in the near future.