This is not about hiring more effective teachers nor is it about pay-for-performance.
This is not about the achievement gap.
This is not about ensuring that we can "staff" our schools and that each child has someone to teach him or her.
It's not even about the instrinsic value a teacher brings to the classroom.
This is about why, more than ever, policy makers NEED teachers and why teachers NEED to critically analyze (and embrace) significant education research.
I will do my best to make this as generalizable as possible. But, in an effort to be as transparent as possible, it must be understood that my plea cries from not only the academic background I've been exposed to, the professionals I've dialogued with, the policy reports and findings I've read, or the environments I've worked in or have knowledge of. Combined in my statements are deductions from what I've felt around me, from what I've seen, and from what I know-- very concretely-- to be true.
Right there I've lost half of the readers. My appeal to authority has been undermined because I introduced conditions that are outside of objective, data based, or quantitative conclusions. I violated the Harvard-iron-clad law of "substantive argument." That I use my gut isn't good enough. At the least, I would be asked for my antecodotal notes. I need a central thesis, literature review, findings, results and analysis before I make my ultimate judgement. Sorry readers, I don't have any of those. Again, I've lost some.
But those whom I've lost probably wouldn't have accepted my plea anyway.
Actually, it's exactly "those people" who create the environment I'm suggesting we abolish. It's those people that (no matter how politically vulnerable it will make them if they were forthcoming) cringe everytime someone identifies herself as a "teacher." Those people-- these macro-level, policy analyst, think-tank professionals, education-reform stamped experts-- "know better" and "know more" than any teacher would, even though teachers, of course think that they have all the answers. I'm harsh. But I'm precise.
I understand that each education program or social innovation geared toward making improvements in education falls short of its gains. I even get the fact that identifying oneself as a Teach For America alumna builds a barrcade that's extremely difficult to overcome successfully. I even agree, in some cases, why these programs, entrepreunerial endeavors and movements should be challenged. What I don't get is why one's experience in the classroom isn't relevant to policy. Why interfacing with the same children that others count in a sample isn't as significant as the data trend that child produces. I don't understand why there is teacher-aversion.
It sickens me, as it would presumeably sicken any onlooker who's been at the dinner table in both houses, to be a part of a conversation where both policy maker and practioner sit together and dismiss the other.
To be skeptical, yes. To be synical, no. Big no. Brash disjointment is unacceptable when we have children not learning. They don't have time for adults to make themselves play nice or respect one another. They don't really have time for much.
Education policy makers NEED teachers now more than ever.
Perhaps I will develop this argument out further, and the implications of what I am saying, and most importantly, for what I am proposing and what it means for each party. I will list why I think teachers need to be given education policy professional development through university-leave opportunities after the first five years of teaching. And why I think education policy makers need to be recruiting, in high volume, teachers to fill in the seats around their idea tables and to be part of their research evaluation process. And, to get to my purpose in all of this, why every education policy maker or reformer needs to step into a classroom.
Best case scenario? If you wanna make decisions regarding education policy, you need to have taught for at least two-years. Because (and don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise), you don't really know unless you were there.
So, maybe I'll accept comparable education experience. Perhaps you were not a teacher in a classroom, but you have acquired comparable insight which includes being responsibile for implementing the policies you proscribe or support. Not through research or volunteerism, but something that has punitive and biting consequences. Again, still have to flesh this one out. I'll accept coverletters and counter-arguments until then.