Educational Follies

by Jeffrey Polet on December 30, 2009 · 3 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Short

An article from last August’s New Yorker which details the difficulty of maintaining teacher accountability in the New York Public schools. To wit, the combination of teacher’s unions, massive bureaucracies, litigiousness, and the sheer size of the NY school system has created an utterly dysfunctional system. We probably already knew that, but this piece is an interesting look at how the system fosters and coddles incompetence, as well as indicating once again how politics is governed by the law of unintended consequences.

Tellingly, the author finds hope in increased federal control of the NY schools (in no small part because the schools “are desperate for money”). Forgive me if I see the outcome of such thinking not to be the improvement of the NY schools, but rather in making the rest of the nation’s schools more like those in NYCity. It’s yet another indication how the failure of political imagination both creates problems and limits our ability to find workable solutions – ones that would emphasize smaller districts and more parental control.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar D.W. Sabin January 6, 2010 at 5:21 pm

My favorite tidbit in all this is something the insiders apparently refer to as the “rubber room” where teachers removed from classrooms for mortifying lapses are kept because nobody can fire them. They do not teach but remain paid because it is somehow pragmatic to do so.

avatar John Willson January 8, 2010 at 10:47 pm

Read Frank McCourt’s “Teacher Man,” which reveals more than he intended it to reveal about both teachers and schools.

avatar Nathan P. Origer January 16, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Excerpted without comment:

The walls of the large, rectangular room were covered with photographs of Barack Obama and various news clippings. Just to the right of a poster that proclaimed “Bloomberg’s 3 Rs: Rubber Room Racism,” a smiling young woman sat in a lounge chair that she had brought from home. She declined to say what the charges against her were or to allow her name to be used, but told me that she was there “because I’m a smart black woman.”

I asked the woman for her reaction to the following statement: “If a teacher is given a chance or two chances or three chances to improve but still does not improve, there’s no excuse for that person to continue teaching. I reject a system that rewards failure and protects a person from its consequences.”

“That sounds like Klein and his accountability bullshit,” she responded. “We can tell if we’re doing our jobs. We love these children.” After I told her that this was taken from a speech that President Obama made last March, she replied, “Obama wouldn’t say that if he knew the real story.”

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