For better or for worse?

This week I have jumped back into my Teach For America commitments full force. 57 new corps members have arrived in Nashville, wide-eyed and excited to take their high expectations and relentlessness into classrooms across the city.

I’ve found myself bombarded with memories of my experience planning my 7th grade geography course this time last year.* Typing ideas and state geography standards joyously while images of smiling students raising their hands and writing beautiful essays swam through my head. This year, I’m watching 4 new social studies teachers have the same experience. I find myself holding my tongue so often. They have so many ideas, so many ambitions, and so many dreams… and they should keep them alive as long as possible.

I feel like there’s a new article every day slamming education in America. It seems like it just gets worse and worse. Then there are articles slamming people that are really trying to make a difference. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?**

So which is it? Are things in the education world getting better or are they getting worse?

Today Michelle Rhee, the Washington D.C. School Chancellor fired 241 teachers. These ineffective teachers were rated on student performance on state standardized tests, classroom evaluations, and other measures. Though teacher’s union’s are up in arms, Michelle Rhee makes a good case for “holding adults accountable for the results they’re producing.” Forty-one percent of D.C. school teachers were rated “minimally effective.” If those 700+ don’t improve next year, they will be next on the chopping block. The teachers that were rated effective were given a 20% pay increase.

I, for one, am both impressed and frightened by Rhee’s decision. Undoubtedly she will be under fire for her aggressive move–and I wonder what results it will produce. Scared teachers that cheat on the next standardized tests by giving students answers? Encouraged teachers that rise to the occasion to increase their effectiveness? Frustrated teachers that quit because they feel bullied and unsupported? Maybe some of each.

Tennessee is not far behind D.C. in its efforts to improve the school system. Change is a painful process–and it takes people who are willing to take risks and shine lights into the worst places*** in the nooks and crannies of our schools. So are the changes for better, or for worse?

*This was also the day, last year, that I met Mr. Gibson 🙂
**This is a phrase I learned from Mr. Gust. I like it.
***I promise my next entry will be titled, the “Best Places.”

References to Michelle Rhee’s Decision came from these two sources!