This was written by Katie Osgood, a teacher on a child/adolescent inpatient unit at a psychiatric hospital in Chicago. Her students attend all types of schools but most are from low-income minority neighborhoods. This post first appeared on her blog Ms. Katie’s Ramblings.
By Katie Osgood
I came across a Wall Street Journal opinion piece written by Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp. She rightly condemned the public release of teacher rankings based on student test scores in New York City. I applaud her for speaking out against this disgusting act. But as I read, I became enraged when I saw a story about Ms. Kopp's own experience with her child's teacher.
A few years ago, my son had a teacher who under the current system would probably be ranked in the bottom quartile of her peers. This wasn't for a lack of enthusiasm or effort on her part—you could see how desperately she wanted to connect with her students and be a great teacher. Knowing my son was in a subpar classroom didn't make me angry at the teacher. It made me frustrated with the school—for not providing this young educator with the support and feedback she needed to improve.
Wait a second...Wendy Kopp was upset when her child was given an unsupported (but enthusiastic and hard-working) young teacher? A teacher who really meant well, but wasn't getting the help she needed to reach all her kids? And Kopp calls this a "subpar classroom"?
So let me get this straight, when Kopp creates a program which by design puts unsupported young people into subpar classrooms, it is fine? As long as it is for other people's children?
And then she seems to argue that it was the current “system” and not the individual teacher which was to blame. And yet Teach for America constantly argues that their recruits are better people, that they fight educational inequality on the individual classroom level. Teach for America does nothing to address ANY of the systemic problems which drive educators away from high-needs schools.
I suppose that's not entirely true. I should add that some Teach for America alums go on to join the corporate reform movement ( a la Michelle Rhee) which is actively damaging many classrooms. Way to change the system! Too bad it's for the worse.
When it's her own child, Wendy Kopp seems to think enthusiasm, hard work, and youth are not enough. And that teaching contexts matter greatly. But for all those teachers teaching other people's children ... not so much.
Is anyone else outraged by this?
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