The Tide is Turning: TeachStrong has Backfired

Written by: Mitchell Robinson

Primary Source : Keep Talki, November 13, 2015

It’s becoming clear that recent events in the education reform movement, like the bungled rollout of the #TeachStrong initiative, are actually the first vestiges of the death knells of the reform agenda.

For those unaware of TeachStrong, its an initiative that brings together the two national teachers unions (i.e., NEA and AFT) with over 40 of the leading organizations from the corporate reform movement, including Teach for America, the National Center for Teacher Quality, Education Post, and the CCSSO–the good folks who helped spawn the Common Core. (For a comprehensive review of TeachStrong’s 9 Step Plan, please read Peter Green’s excellent essay here.)

If you think this sounds like an unlikely alliance, then you are seeing the issue more clearly than the leaders of the 2 unions, who are either denying that a partnership actually exists (Lily Eskelen: “These are not the Droids you are looking for.”), or trying to unionsplain it all away as “just good policy” (introducing Randi Weingarten: your new Secretary of Education).

It has also become increasingly clear that the reformers’ efforts have had no positive impact on anything other than their investors’ bank accounts, and now some of the big online vendors are starting to go down the tubes. Savvy political pundits are even speculating that conservatives are so concerned with losing power that they are considering the unthinkable–aligning with their sworn enemy, Hillary Rodham Clinton. We truly do live in interesting times.

The public is also wising up to the hijinks being perpetrated by K12.com, Eva Moskowitz and her Success Academies, and countless charter schools across the country and the reformers are scrambling by throwing out a flurry of “new” initiatives, each one nuttier than the other.

  • Evaluating student teachers with avatars
  • Evaluating music and art teachers with math and reading test scores
  • Evaluating teachers by test scores of students they’ve never met
  • Virtual charters run by religious fanatics using public dollars
  • Teachers unions aligning with groups dedicated to destroying education
  • States approving bills to allow uncertified persons to teach in our schools, even as legislators claim to be “raising standards” for the teaching profession
  • State curricula endorsing young earth creationism and whitewashing slavery and the Holocaust from textbooks

And much, much more.

These are the acts of desperate people. They know their window for gaining control of public education is closing, and are responding by coming up with ridiculous, outlandish ideas in an attempt to attract attention from the public and the media. Their actions are not unlike the lunacy of Trump and Carson in the Presidential campaign. Walls and pyramids, anyone?

Although it looks pretty dark out there for students and teachers, now is the time for those of us in the resistance to redouble our efforts. Our opponents are scared, and we have them on the run; and rightfully so–because they know they are on the wrong side of history.

Stand up and speak out!

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Mitchell Robinson
Mitchell Robinson is associate professor and chair of music education, and coordinator of the music student teaching program at Michigan State University. Robinson has held previous appointments as assistant professor and coordinator of the music education area at the University of Connecticut; assistant professor of school and community music education at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.; and director of wind activities and wind ensemble conductor at the University of Rochester. Robinson’s public school teaching experience includes 10 years as an instrumental music teacher, music department facilitator and high school assistant principal in Fulton, N.Y.