Chubb's Bold Teacher Reform Proposals Sound Like Music in My Ears

My parents are convinced — well, maybe just one of them — that I’m going to be some kind of musical virtuoso. They signed me up for piano lessons. I’m not even ready to start working on “Mary Had a Little Lamb” yet, but don’t tell my mom a prodigy isn’t in the making.

The reason I bring this up is because of the catchy title of a provocative Education Next posting by Dr. John Chubb: “Do Piano Teachers Need to Know How to Play the Piano?” I’d like to ask that of my piano teacher, but I’m pretty sure she’d just shake her head and laugh. But Chubb is making a point about the deep-seated systemic flaws in our nation’s K-12 teacher policies:

Of course, America has many brilliant teachers. And aptitude is but one measure of teaching ability. Lots of teachers will be able to help their students achieve the new higher standards. But numerous teachers are also below average in both aptitude and teaching ability. So, the general point holds: America has not built a teaching force anywhere near the standards that are being set for tomorrow’s students. Our presidential candidates are fond of saying that the U.S. will be number one in the world in education—that our students will achieve with the best in the world. That will never happen if our teachers are not also the best in the world.

Wow, talk about the elephant in the (class)room. Of course, teachers are widely loved and appreciated for their sacrifices and commitment, especially the best teachers who produce the greatest results. But we need to make drastic changes to the system. Chubb accurately describes evaluation reforms like Colorado’s SB 191 — which even in its watered-down implementation the Colorado Education Association president has newly expressed concerns about — as “a small step” in the right direction.

You can only imagine that the CEA president would not gladly accept Chubb’s bold recommendations, the first and foremost of which is “a much smaller, selective, intellectually engaged, and better compensated teaching force supported by technology.” Fewer teachers? Say what? It kind of goes along with an observation related to per-pupil funding that one of my Education Policy Center friends made yesterday on 9News:

“We’ve been hiring more employees for K-12 education than there’s been growth in students,” DeGrow said. [emphasis added]

The recommendations Chubb offers go further than cutting back the workforce to a more selective group of teachers. He also hints at needed major changes to “preparation and professional development” and giving more responsibility and leadership to principals. But he is doing far more than just kicking a few ideas around. His post is designed to bring attention to his new book The Best Teachers in the World: Why We Don’t Have Them and How We Could. Frankly, this young blogging (not piano) prodigy is intrigued.