Teacher Diversity, Teacher Tests, Plus, Testing Like Reading Is A Political Problem, Too…

Here are a few on teacher policy.

Yesterday Bellwether released this policy brief that Tom Gold and I did on how you can use ARP dollars to diversify the teacher workforce. It includes a bit of the why and the research but then gets into specific strategies and some case studies on places doing various things. Hard to imagine a better time to put rhetoric into action on this issue than right now given all the money states and LEAs have to deploy.

Today, NCTQ is releasing an important look at teacher tests and the still pretty dismal state of teacher preparation.

Elsewhere, AERDF is spinning up, they’re already doing math and now are turning to assessment and rolling out of New Schools to operate independently.

From where I sit this kind of initiative is welcome and valuable from an innovation standpoint and focus on students who have been historically underserved. And I’m generally a pro-let’s do things like DARPA in education type, and a big adherent of ideas like Kelly’s Rules and how Skunk Works operates.

But, and there is usually a but on this kind of stuff, there are some differences here worth noting. Under law there are constrained buyers for defense weaponry and related systems. There is also general agreement on goals and success. These are not trivial dimensions. And they are non-existent in an education sector that’s decentralized, balkanized, and has little agreement on acceptable outcomes.

In pre-pandemic 2020, I wrote about reading instruction and how the problem is more a problem of politics than a problem of craft per se. We usually think, if we just get the craft right the policy will take care of itself. But the inverse is arguably true with reading: We’ve politicized reading in ways that damage the craft.* You could write the same thing about testing, though testing seems like both politics and R&D whereas reading is more politics at this point.

Defense, however, is about the controlled application of force. Education is about, well it depends who you ask. That’s politics and any initiative that doesn’t play attention to the politics of testing and structure of the market as much as the craft is going to struggle with impact.

*This is one reason it was exciting to see the Oakland NAACP say enough and demand better reading instruction.

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