After my post following the audit debriefing meeting was featured on BlogHer, one commenter recommended that I write to Oprah. I won't write to Oprah. I wrote to Ellen, but I'd never waste my breath writing to Oprah. Why? Because she loves Michelle Rhee. Have you heard of Michelle Rhee? If you haven't, this is her. As a warning, if you are actually an educator, she might make your blood boil.
The first thing you probably noticed is that Michelle Rhee really seems to like firing people. After that, you'll hear her mention that one of the things going wrong in education today is bad teachers. Both Michelle and Oprah make sure to say that they aren't talking about the good teachers out there, just the bad ones! So don't get upset!
But what makes a bad teacher? Would you consider someone who tapes a child's mouth shut to be a bad teacher? Because I would. Michelle did that. Their skin peels off and their bleeding and hilarity ensues as far as the audience she's telling this story to is concerned. I totally want to take teaching advice from her! She's lucky she still had a job after that, because she would have been fired from my school. We, according to the audit debriefing, have abysmal parental involvement, but some parents would have been beating down my door had I tried that.
The next problem I have is that Oprah says "Hasn't there been many studies that show that a child's ability to progress in school is directly related to how good the teacher is?" And then Michelle tells Oprah that she is exactly right. No, Oprah and Michelle, it's not. It's just not. You can go to my Blue Ribbon of Excellence high school and see a bunch of girls that would excel if a freaking crash test dummy was teaching them. Why? Because there are outside factors that help them. Their parents are involved, care enough about education and have the means to send them to a private school for one. They have clean clothes. They have a bed to themselves. They have food. They have shelter. They have everything they need.
Make no mistake, I had great teachers, but I, and my classmates, would have learned without any prompting by a teacher. I had a less than stellar science teacher one year, but I still learned because my parents cared enough about reading when I was younger that I had the skills to read the textbook. There are students in my school who read at an elementary level, yet are handed a textbook on their grade reading level. They might as well be reading Russian.
"Three highly effective teachers in a row versus three ineffective teachers in a row, it can literally change their life trajectory."
Where is this study? How was it conducted? What's effective mean? What does ineffective mean? What students did they start out with? How long did they follow those students? What was the level of knowledge before the three teachers? What was the level of knowledge after? What outside resources did these kids have? What were their home lives like? Did they even have a freaking home?!
As I said in another post, we're not comparing apples to apples. We're not comparing apples to oranges. We're comparing apples to quantum physics to antelope to BMWs to lightning and everything else you can think of.
And here's the real problem, as these programs go about to weed out the "bad" teachers, the good teachers are taking the fall as well. Is fifty percent of my school made up of bad teachers? No, but that's how many have to be restaffed, pending the "official" audit results of course. Michelle, Oprah, Bill Gates, David Guggenheim, my school is full of good teachers. You are the ones removing the good teachers from students who desperately need them. As we fight to find a scapegoat for the maladies of our society, innocent, compassionate and enthusiastic people are being thrown under the bus and becoming burnt out. But we'll all just sit by and watch it happen while Oprah's audience stands for a woman who put tape over the mouths of children because she was so ineffective she couldn't keep them quiet.
So no, I won't be writing to Oprah.