The Ed Trust White Hat

If the latest movie reviews are any indication, westerns are back.  And they are back for a very simple reason.  They effectively tell a story.  We have a protagonist.  We have an obstacle to overcome.  Things seem bleak.  Then the hero rises to the challenge, saves the town and wins the gal.  If that were too hard for us to follow, we just need to know that the good guys wear white hats; the bad guys black.

In many ways, education reform is like that time-tested genre.  And we only need to look west to California to see what Eduflack means.

The setting — California public schools.  An old regular around the corral, going by the name George Miller, notices that his education town is lacking.  It’s missing those experienced or enthusiastic hands needed to lead in the classroom.  Without such teachers, Miller will never strengthen the schools and bring academic hope to those who had lost it.  The town may just fade away, the victim of another lost generation of students.

So Miller gathers his posse of Democrats and Republicans, advocates and business leaders, and draws up a plan.  We’ll bring those teachers to town the way we recruit good sheriffs or businessmen or such professionals.  We reward success.  We incentivize the job, paying more to those teachers willing to take on tough assignments and to those teachers who succeed when all said it was hopeless.  We recognize achievement, tipping our cap to outcomes, and not just inputs.

As Miller unveils his new plan to the town council, in rides the California Teachers Association, intent on thwarting Miller’s plans for improvement.  Topped in the black hats of the status quo, CTA calls Miller’s plan “unfair” and “disrespectful.”  Implementing it will destroy the town, driving teachers away and leaving our classrooms rudderless.    If there is money available for incentives, use it to give all teachers a raise, regardless of their effectiveness.

In the past, when CTA has ridden into town, community elders have acquiesced to the demands of the CTA.  One can’t risk standing against an organization as large and powerful as the CTA, particularly on an issue like teacher pay.  After all, if you cross these rhetoricians in black, their omens may come true and all could be lost.  Better to stick with the status quo than to raise the ire of the CTA and its supporters.

Out in the distance, though, approaches a white horse.  With six-shooters loaded with research data, the Education Trust has ridden to Miller’s defense, and to the defense of those inner-city teachers determined to make a difference and improve student achievement.  Performance pay works.  Our schools need change.  The status quo cannot remain.  Incentives boost student achievement and teacher satisfaction.  This should be the law.  And EdTrust will stay here until it the legislation is wearing its little tin star of “law.”

Will our reformers on the white horse succeed?  Will Miller find a way to incentivize teachers?  Or will the CTA keep its grip on public education in California?  We’ll all stay tuned for the next installment, as we wait to see who rides in to join EdTrust in this showdown at the performance pay corral.

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