Why I Wasn’t Able to Talk to New York City’s Teachers

Joel Klein:

What makes for a great teacher? For generations, educators operated on the belief that great teaching was mostly an art, which the talented refine in the privacy of the classroom over many years of work. Think Sidney Poitier’s Mark Thackeray in To Sir with Love or Richard Dreyfuss as Glenn Holland in Mr. Holland’s Opus. The trouble with this romanticized idea is that it all depends on the individual. Yes, some educators grow and develop on their own initiative. But this model assumes that all teachers will naturally progress and negates the possibility that any educator can be coached or challenged to improve.

And because teaching happens behind closed doors, this conventional wisdom protects less-competent teachers from being assessed and, if necessary, removed. Truly awful teachers can effectively commit malpractice (like bad doctors) against thousands of unsuspecting students throughout a thirty-year career and still collect the same pay, benefits, and pensions as their most effective peers.