I voted for Barack Obama, and I’m still a supporter, but I’m growing more and more doubtful that things are going to change much from an education perspective any time soon in terms of leadership from above. This post “Is Arne Duncan Really Margaret Spellings in Drag?” by Diane Ravitch in Bridging Differences (a blog every educator should be reading, btw) coupled with a slew of articles like this one titled “Utah to buy education technology with stimulus funding” from The Salt Lake Tribune are pretty telling not only in where the conversation about education remains but the total lack of vision on the part of those making the decisions.
In the Ravitch post, she writes:
It turns out that Duncan, like the Bush administration, adores testing, charter schools, merit pay, and entrepreneurs. Part of the stimulus money, he told Sam Dillon of The New York Times, will be used so that states can develop data systems, which will enable them to tie individual student test scores to individual teachers, greasing the way for merit pay.
And it’s telling that in the lede to the piece from Salt Lake, we get that assessment piece again.
Utah will use some of its federal stimulus money to pay for high-tech teaching software and new computer labs in Utah’s poorest schools as part of an effort to use new technologies to boost test scores.
I mean, how sad is that line when you really think of it. “Boost test scores?” Heck, we can do that in a nanosecond by making the questions easier, if that’s all that matters. (Read the comments if you really want to get depressed.) Sure, spending all that money, in Utah’s case about $500 million, on computers and assessments and other goodies may do something to boost the economy, but it will in no way “virtually reinvent the schools” as state superintendent Patti Harrington suggests. Even the poor ones. That actually takes some vision and some practical understanding of the world as it is, not as it was.
You want to make the most of the stimulus? Invest it in getting teachers and students connected, and in professional development that goes far, far beyond the one-day Powerpoint workshops many are mired in to something that focuses on how learning changes in a networked world. One that helps teachers see the world differently and helps them re-envision their classroom practice. I mean how many of the people in charge would even begin to understand this statement from Kathleen Blake Yancey in the new NCTE report on Writing in the 21st Century?
First, we have moved beyond a pyramid-like, sequential model of literacy development in which print literacy comes first and digital literacy comes second and networked literacy practices, if they come at all, come third and last…perhaps as never before, learning to write is a lifelong process.
I can’t imaging that Arne Duncan or Patti Harrington or most decision makers would have any sense of what that shift represents in terms of curriculum and instruction, and their brains would implode should they try to figure out how to use common assessments to measure those literacies. Frankly, I’ve yet to find anyone at the state level anywhere who has a footprint that would suggest writing literacy at the level NCTE is discussing right now. Call me a snob.
So, you want to use the education piece of the stimulus to boost the economy? By all means, keep your brain in the box. But if you really want to use that money to improve learning, use it to help the teachers in the schools understand how to help the kids in the classrooms become the readers and writers and mathematicians and scientists that will flourish in a networked world.
Randy Rodgers says
I agree, it doesn’t appear anything is going to change for the better at the federal level anytime soon(This is disappointing to me, because one of the few areas I see eye-to-eye with Democrats on is education.). I had a great conversation with my superintendent this week about the need for system change in our district. He talked about the need for administrators to see beyond the tests, and for the teachers to actually believe that they are there for a greater purpose than high test scores. He also lamented that, while he truly believes this, the district has to put out press releases touting that this campus or that is rated “exemplary” based upon test scores alone, and that so much attention of the public is purely focused on it.
It occurs to me that a better job needs to be done of teaching the public the difference between the narrow, basic-skills focus of the tests and the broader, life-focused skills this conversation is all about. I think we do a really pitiful job of talking about it outside of the education world. I also believe that our parents are ready to hear it. Just yesterday, I was forwarded an email from a parent who was so thrilled to see her elementary students learning to use our new school email, because we were teaching real-world, valuable technology skills, not just the same basic skills. When parents come to see that there kids are going to need vastly different tools and skills than we/they did, they will help us by demanding the systems change.
Robin Beaver says
Amen! We need to do a much better job helping the public understand the shifts that need to occur and I think the parents will listen if we talk. But it is so hard to generate the energy necessary to do that when we still have so much to do to bring our own faculties/administrations on board.
Chris Champion says
I think that depresses me the most, however, is that we can’t even get SOME teachers to agree that we NEED to change – I sat through a faculty meeting where the topic was “change”. There were some determined teachers (who know their subject very well) who seemingly believed that if we wait around long enough, we won’t have to change.
Sigh… so how do we change THOSE people? I’ve offered tips and tricks to improve teachers’ craft over lunch breaks and after school, and have either presented to the already proficient or had no interest at all. It always seems the people who volunteer to improve are the ones least likely to need improvement (not that it doesn’t help them become even more proficient).
And if a “contract” is pre-negotiated for X many days, how do we force those teachers to attend training without taking time away from the kids? I know, we can use the kids to help to some degree, but again, the people most likely to accept the kids’ help need it the least.
How do we “help the teachers in the schools understand” when they don’t want to understand?
Gary Stager, Ph.D. says
I’m sick and tired about being right in expecting the worst when it comes to education policy. Will, you know that I’ve been warning about this for years. Top-down control of schools is a bad idea and non-educators should not be given tyrannical power over the system.
The only merit Obama and Duncan believe in regarding education is merit pay, certainly not qualifications for being Secretary of Education.
Sit back as more charter schools are created, as teacher unions are busted, as testing becomes constant, as billionaires create schools for poor children they wouldn’t send their dogs to, as failed boondoggles like merit pay never die, mayors suspend democracy in the name of “school reform” and this is what we get.
The cognitive dissonance between education policy and common sense is mind-boggling. Dropping out of high school is evidence that kids are rational enough to know that their school has little to offer, but slogans. Want to reduce the drop-out rate? Simple, Barack and Michelle Obama should pay careful attention to the educational experience their daughters enjoy at Sidwell Friends School and then leave no stone unturned until every child in America receives a similar education.
The only problem is that the mission and principles of Sidwell Friends happen to be 180 degrees from the policies being espoused by Obama and his basketball coach.
Until we grab political leaders by the nose and show them the problems THEY ARE CAUSING with their “improvements” by introducing greater conflict and chaos into an already unstable system, things will only get worse.
Gary Stager, Ph.D. says
Good question. I’m not sure how we get policy-makers to sit in actual classrooms, but I do know that they won’t be able to process what they observe without us (experts) translating the experience for them.
The only rational compromise I can envision is to severely reduce the power of the Federal Department of Education and devolve all curriculum decisions to each local school. This is only possible with universal public school choice. So, in essence every public school becomes a charter run by the parents and teachers in that community. This way, KIPP and TFA can run their own schools, but my kids don’t have to attend them. The system must be built upon the assumption that teachers are competent and that parents love their children. There is no viable alternative.
Absent of that, KIPP and TFA will change legislation to ensure that every school becomes like theirs.
We need a lot more democracy in education, not less. One might argue that effective education is impossible in the absence of democracy – see Chicago & NYC.
Dewey wrote entire books on the subject, as has Deborah Meier.
Will Richardson says
I’m sick and tired of you being right too, Gary. ;0) I’m wondering what “grabbing political leaders by the nose” looks like. Seriously.
Will Richardson says
I was having just this conversation the other day with a friend at our old school and you know what he said? You take each teacher, individually, and create a personalized plan for change with a mentor. Every one of them. You find out what they are currently using in terms of technology, paint a different picture for them, show them a more connective approach, and support the transition. All I can say is the teachers at our old school are a lucky bunch, and they, by and large, will shift, though it may take a while. But that represents .00001 of all schools in terms of vision, support, knowledge, leadership and dedication. For the rest? My brain hurts.
Gary Stager, Ph.D. says
Didn’t you have to create an annual professional improvement plan each year you taught?
Granted, it may not have been enforced, but this isn’t a new idea, is it?
Chris Champion says
I like this idea – if anything, it forces teachers to put their money where their mouth is. Those same teachers who are hesitant to change will not disagree that their students need to write, read, add, subtract, synthesize, empathize, and/or create better than they do today in order to succeed in life. So, now that we have consensus, what are YOU (asking the teacher now) going to do in YOUR class to make that happen? How are YOU going to change your own methods to get your students to the next level? I don’t care if you say “spend more time working on X”, but when the year is up, how will you show me/us that you had a better impact than the stupid, ridiculous “Policy” that the powers that be who have ZERO contact with students decided to force on you until now?
Oh, and I’ll answer the question while I’m here: I am going to require my students to not just put in effort but quality – what does that look like? Well, we’ll discuss it. Guess what? I’m willing to bet that excepting a few students, my students know what garbage and hard work look like. And so now I’ll put the same question to them: how will YOU do it better than the way I thought you should do it?
Stager, you always fire me up!
Robin Beaver says
As supportive as I am of Obama I have little hope that the kind of change we are looking for can come from above. It is just too huge. I really think this is one of those movements that has to be driven from the bottom up.
Thanks for the post. I too was hoping for a better direction for education. All of the talk about needing to prepare kids for the “21st Century” and yet reform means preparing kids to take standardized tests…preparing them to be inflexible thinkers.
Overall, I really enjoyed Obama’s address to Congress. However, the education piece was flat, lame and clueless.
“In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity â€“ it is a pre-requisite.”
What is this thing called knowledge that we can sell? Is it really something that can be measured on a standardized test? Is it something that I can look up on Google? I know a bunch of stuff…but I can’t sell it. I get paid to synthesize ideas. I get paid to learn and create new knowledge. I get paid to apply my knowledge and experiences to help others.
I was really put off by one specific word.
“the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow.”
Out-teach? Our nation’s teachers work hard, but the expectations of how & what they teach do not match what is needed. In the end, it doesn’t matter if we have the best teachers on the planet…we still won’t be competitive if they are shackled by an expectation to be on page 120 of the textbook by next Tuesday. It won’t matter if we have the best teachers on the planet if our society believes that “those who can, do and those who can’t, teach.” It won’t matter until our nation decides that we need to OUT LEARN other countries. Perhaps we should look to Singapore’s Ministry of Education for inspiration — “Learning Nation, Thinking Schools.”
Mary Worrell says
Great post. I’ve been thinking about all of this a lot now that I’m getting closer to my student teaching experience and ultimately my new life as an English teacher.
I too voted for Obama in hopes for a lot of change. I daydreamed, naively of course, that by the time I got to the classroom things would be a-Ok. But I agree with Robin Beaver that our monster of a federal government will not be the most effective leader in managing the change.
I wonder what preservice teachers like myself can do to help this shift along.
It seems like most teachers are opposed to standardized tests.
My question is this – how do you show that teachers are doing their job – if not by using tests? Many teachers regularly use tests in the classroom to measure a students understanding of the material covered. Why is it valid for this purpose – but not for the larger intent of making sure students are learning?
Do teachers feel they don’t need to be accountable?
How do you measure whether or not a student has been “adequately” (for lack of a better word) educated?
Does this need to be measured?
Will Richardson says
I think some standardized assessments have their place in terms of formative measurements. But it’s not so much what you know as what you can do with what you know. For one, we can ask for performance assessments as a way to see whether students are “educated” in the sense that they can act on their knowledge.
“But itâ€™s not so much what you know as what you can do with what you know.”
But how do you measure that?
“For one, we can ask for performance assessments as a way to see whether students are â€œeducatedâ€ in the sense that they can act on their knowledge.”
But don’t you have to make sure they have that knowledge before you can test to see if they can act on it?
The problem isn’t that there are “some” tests. Some form of assessment (for individual students) and program evaluation (for schools and districts) is very important. The problem is when a standardized test becomes the only measure of performance.
1. Good “standardized” tests are very expensive to create, so many states sign contracts with for-profit companies for their tests. These tests are loosely aligned to that states standards. Most of thee tests also test “facts” or in the case of science, often test the ability to read or look at a graph and not underlying concepts. A reliable test for understanding science concepts is a huge undertaking for every single concept being tested (Do some research on the Force Concept Inventory as an example.)
2. The frequency of tests is overwhelming. Do you really need to test in every grade (3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10) to evaluate a school? The day after NCLB was passed, my local paper (in Wisconsin) published a list of schools that were in danger of failing. They did this because Wisconsin already tested in grades 4, 8 and 10. They already knew that these schools were struggling. Each of these tests take multiple days to administer — each day represents lost instructional time. Testing over eight years results in about TWO MONTHS of instructional time lost to testing.
3. The results from the test do no get returned to schools for many months. Therefore, they are of no benefit to an individual child. There are other ways (including tests) to assess children that gives more immediate feedback. Because of that immediacy, that feedback can actually be used to help students and improve teaching.
4. Many “failing” schools face many issues that are incredibly difficult to address. They have problems recruiting and retaining qualified teachers and administrators. They have problems with truancy. Many of their students are more worried about finding food to eat than taking a test. Penalizing these schools because of poor test scores results in schools that focus on teaching test taking skills – skills that really don’t translate well to the 21st Century workplace.
5. The assessments that a good teacher uses is very different than a standardized test. Good teachers use a variety of formative and summative assessments, including performance assessments. Good teachers may use multiple-choice tests to use assess understanding of some concepts, but rarely is it the only assessment. Of course, if you have to give final exams to 170 students, you are more likely to use multiple choice…but that is a different blog post!
The bottom line is that accountability is important. However, standardized testing only creates an illusion of accountability. It is an easy way to collect data, but it doesn’t mean that the data is valuable.
Nanci Lee says
Collecting data and measuring school/teacher performance is more cost effective than providing quality professional development and offering higher wages to make the teaching profession a competitive job market.
Someone mentioned change in education must happen bottom up. Technology is supposed to be the leveling field where even teachers serving the poorest demographic can gain access to 2.0 apps and free open source software. And yet, most teachers do not know about it nor have the energy to find out how to get the most out of technology in their classrooms. Having sat through many public school inservice meetings I can see why they are resistant to new stuff coming down the pike. Politics so often dictate the next big thing and for some reason, almost all of the inservice speakers (in Ga.) talked to the audience as if we were children or dumb.
Obama implores parents to put away electronic games and spend time with their kids as education starts at home. I thought that was pretty powerful statement as the finger is usually pointed at teachers. I wish he would have elaborated and offered solutions to get all parents on board. I think education policy must take into account socioeconomic factors and work toward making improvements in providing education that will provide a sustainable profession within a student’s skill set. In addition to technology based classes, we should bring back home ec type classes that teach parenting skills and how to manage finances. In poverty stricken districts small steps like these could result in strides the following generation.
I don’t disagree with testing. However, it’s not a reliable method to determine how well a teacher is doing. Aside from all of the factors that make a school fail besides the teachers, it doesn’t take into account everything it needs to. For example, I have had a student who came to me 4 grade levels behind in reading. 4!! I worked and worked with her. By the time she left me, she was 1 grade level behind. She still failed her test. She raised her score by three grade levels, but it went from failing to failing, so it doesn’t count for anything in the current system. That’s not fair to the student, the teacher or the school.
I’ve also seen time mentioned in a previous comment, and I think it was a generous estimate. I counted the days I use for “testing.” Between state tests, district tests and time to review for those tests, it takes 10 weeks out of a 5th grader’s school year. Over 1/4 of the year! They test 4 times a year in 4 subjects for the district (as does every grade) and once a year in 5 subjects for the state. It’s ridiculous.
To answer your question, how do you evaluate the quality of what a teacher does… come sit in my classroom. Watch me teach. Then, if you have problems at least it will be because of something I did or didn’t do.
Carl Anderson says
The tests evaluate the school system as much as teachers. You are right that the current testing system does not adequately evaluate teacher effectiveness. I have heard Arne Duncan state that the current NCLB law needs some revision. Perhaps those revisions include evaluating teacher effectiveness based on growth while evaluating school performance based on achievement levels.
No question NCLB needs some revision. The problem is, what to do with it. I believe anyone trying to legislate the school system ought to be required to spend a few (consecutive) weeks in the classroom. They have no idea what needs to be done or how to accomplish it.
How do you separate teacher effectiveness and school performance? Isn’t one tied to the other? I know that there are other factors in the school effectiveness equation, but I don’t think you can evaluate teachers one way and the schools on another.
And what about the time requirements of all of this testing? How is that beneficial to anyone?
Carl Anderson says
“How do you separate teacher effectiveness and school performance? Isnâ€™t one tied to the other?”
There are elements within every school system beyond the control of the teacher that effect a student’s quality of education and effect a teachers ability to teach. There are systemic limitations, traditions, and social dynamics that contribute to the relative success or failure of a group of students. A teacher might be exceptional but under a poor system their students don’t reach the level of achievement that otherwise would have been possible. Some examples of this are:
1. Strict separation of content areas
2. Pavlonian bell schedules
3. Mandate that teachers assign extrinsic rewards for learning (grades, honor roll, etc.)
4. Degree to which staff members collaborate
5. Teacher evaluation rubrics (how the teacher’s performance is measured by administrators on performance evaluations shapes and limits pedagogy)
I could go on…
So, given these limitations teachers who perform well under the limitations they are presented with should be rewarded even though they might not be as effective as they would be in better schools. You can have a bad school with some good teachers.
As for the time requirement for all these tests, I don’t see the time requirement as all that large. How often do students need to take these tests? They don’t even take them every year. If you are taking a lot of time for the test that indicates that you are teaching to the test. That is not what the tests are meant to do. They are supposed to measure what they have learned and the data be used to help inform instruction and curriculum. You can’t really teach to the test anyway because you never know quite what will be on the test. Besides, if you did not “teach to the test” and the kids did poorly it should be designed to indicate that either the wrong curriculum is being taught, curriculum is not aligned to the standards, or there really is something wrong with the instruction. However, I don’t see this measure for teacher effectiveness to be a pass/fail condition. Rather it ought to measure student growth. Your student who improved by 3 grade levels in reading but failed the test anyway should give you high marks as a teacher anyway.
So, teach what you should be teaching. Align your curriculum to the state standards. Focus on learning content and teaching for understanding. Then, take the one day they have to take the test for the test. Now, what we should be discussing is the value this kind of testing has for the students. The value for assessing programs is evident but when is a high-stakes test ever good for kids?
These tests are required in grades 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10. Depending on the state, each test is given over multiple days. In many cases, it results in a lost week of instruction due to disruptions in the schedule. That’s at least 2 months of lost instruction.
Also, many of the tests have serious validity and reliability issues. They are reliable in measuring what is tested in the test, but not necessarily reliable in measuring the breadth of the standards for that test (ie: one question on standard E.4.6 is not enough).
The tests are not diagnostic in nature – in many cases, the tests do not provide teachers or parents with a true picture of the child – you don’t get any feedback that allows you to actually help the child. Sure, the test shows they are bad at math, but is it because they struggle with number sense? geometry? etc.
“My question is this – how do you show that teachers are doing their job – if not by using tests?”
So, if teachers in a school with high truancy rates have students with low test scores, does that mean that they are doing a bad job?
There are many ways to evaluate teachers. Standardized testing isn’t one of them.
Hilary McDevitt says
I had a similar reaction yesterday.
Much as I supported Obama throughout the primaries and election, I have always hated his education policies. Anyone who speaks of education only as a way to be “competitive” in a “global market” simply lacks a vision of what education can and should be about.
I too am terribly disappointed in both the speech and the choice of Duncan as S.o.E.
What an incredible opportunity wasted.
Tim Goree says
Everyone here is making great points about what is wrong with the current structure of education and state/federal assessment. What I’m not seeing is any real ideas for how it all SHOULD be setup.
I think we all agree that while state tests totally blow, school, teacher, and student assessment is still absolutely necessary.
Isn’t it obvious that state and federal governments are too far removed from schools to appropriately assess them? What the state and federal levels should be spending their money and time on is developing frameworks for whole school assessment by local communities. The educational experts on those levels could do a good job of creating the “rules” by which schools can be assessed, but only people who actually live and work in the communities that schools serve can fairly and completely assess them.
The more top-down that federal and state governments treat education, the more screwed up education is going to get. Since state and federal level people don’t have a clear understanding of the needs at the local levels, they tend to interpret the data they get from the local levels in all the wrong ways, making bad decisions based on incorrect assumptions.
These state/federal level people mean well, but they think that it is up to them to lead us all into 21st century learning by holding everyone to “higher standards” and cracking down on obviously misbehaving schools and districts. They need to realize that real leadership on their part is going to require them to, ironically, do the same things that the move to 21st century learning will require of teachers – to stop “teaching” the facts and start “facilitating” the the learning journey.
Carl Anderson says
Problems can always be seen as either obstacles or opportunities. The problem with the current system is it cannot change quickly. Clayton Christensen has illustrated the reasons why perfectly.
Traditional public school have fallen into a situation where three pillars of governance work against each other and have built a house that is rock steady and unmovable in a time when we need it to be mobile. School boards, administrations, and teacher unions tend to work against each other on issues of change. Additionally, the teacher unions hold a valuable and dangerous card in this game. The tenure system acts as a perpetual get-out-of jail card that simultaneously keeps good teachers with views opposing one of the two other pillars from being fired but it also keeps poor teachers from being removed from their positions.
Enter standardized testing and charter schools. There has to be a way of holding delinquent teachers accountable and removing them from their jobs if they do not perform. The traditional system has also created a condition where all motivation (for all parties involved) is extrinsic. The answer teacher unions always have for anything is “if you give us more $ it will happen.” So, if teachers in the traditional system will only respond to extrinsic rewards for good performance than merit pay makes sense.
The charter law, in states where it is written the way it was supposed to be written, provides a way out for teachers. By law schools by charter ought to be created, run, and managed by teachers. Teachers can choose to leave the traditional schools and form their own schools. This was the case with Minnesota New Country School, the first charter school in the nation. The stagnation, inflexibility, and extrinsic nature of the traditional system ought to encourage teachers who teach for the right reasons to want to leave and form schools that make more sense. Unfortunately the charter law has not always followed suit with this ideology and the same top-down garbage we see in the traditional schools publicly often occurs corporately with billionaire sponsored charter schools. If the charter laws are written to prevent charters from looking and acting like privately run traditional schools we have a chance of making this work.
Let the traditional schools be places where people can go to learn or work who need extrinsic motivators to do everything and reward those who do well and let the charter schools become centers of learning and teaching driven by intrinsic motivators. Or, lets just close down all the traditional schools and start new charter schools organized and run by teachers. When you run your own program and the existence of that program depends on its quality the motivation will be there. Teachers need to stop thinking of teaching as a job and start thinking of it as a career. If the pressures of NCLB, merit pay, and charter schools encourage this shift I am all for it.
Cary Harrod says
Okay, so if we all agree that this will only happen in a bottom up fashion, could someone please help those of us in the trenches understand how to go about doing it? I feel like our district is making slow, molecular progress but if we want to see true transformation, we’re going to need pretty hefty assistance. While I deeply appreciate the many opportunities I have had to learn about this how to transform our schools, each of them exist as a puzzle that has yet to be pieced together…oh, and many of the pieces are still missing.
I’d like to be able to tell you I can figure it out all on my own…but guess what? I can’t…and I’ll bet I’m not alone. I think we all agree that the old system doesn’t work and we can certainly all site the reasons why; but for the love of heaven, can we move past that discussion and begin to take action? Can we use our network to begin to truly articulate the steps that need to be taken to affect real change? I know this is a tall order but quite honestly, my head is dizzy from trying to make sense out of all the conflicting pieces of advice being thrown around out there. It has rendered me virtually immobilized and unsure of how to proceed.
Carl Anderson says
Great question. I think I have an answer to that question. We will go about it by participating in reflective practice and networking to share our knowledge, passion, and expertise. I am involved in a project right now exploring the start up of a teacher run charter school within schools (digitally connected classrooms) that will hopefully act to improve schools through the use of charter law. This school would be located in Minnesota but the model will hopefully be replicable in other states and communities. We are seeking transparency, mass input, and community participation in the planning of this project and we welcome all who are interested to join us in this project. To participate you can joint our ning: http://wetccharter.ning.com/
I agree with this perspective on President Obamaâ€™s stimulus plan and its educational aspects. First of all, I think the word â€œchangeâ€ was way overused during his campaign. It sets up too high of expectations that magically overnight everything that was going wrong in our country would be fixed.
Second, I want to comment on the following quote: â€œYou want to make the most of the stimulus? Invest it in getting teachers and students connected, and in professional development that goes far, far beyond the one-day PowerPoint workshops many are mired in to something that focuses on how learning changes in a networked world.â€
I think too much emphasis is placed on improving test scores and not enough on what matters the mostâ€¦student skills. And how are students going to improve their skills, if their teachersâ€™ skills are outdated? Teacher training is one of the most important aspects of improving the educational system. Without good teachers, the students would not be able to improve to the best of their capabilities.
” if you really want to use that money to improve learning, use it to help the teachers in the schools understand how to help the kids in the classrooms become the readers and writers and mathematicians and scientists that will flourish in a networked world.”
I totally agree. Too often, people think that the solution to problems in education is to buy more “stuff” or to test the children more. The most important component of quality education is a great teacher, but too many potentially great teachers are leaving the profession in the face of overwhelming public criticism and lack of respect. Public school education will not improve until TEACHING is valued by the general public, and TEACHERS are supported.