Thursday, July 24, 2014

Racing to the Bottom: The New School Leadership Challenge

As the assault on public education continues, school leaders face an unprecedented challenge-- how to win the race to the bottom without being too obvious about it.

Occasionally, somebody notices that a district is becoming too successful in trashing its own mission. Just this week in Indianapolis, members of the school board noticed that about 200 teachers-- almost 10% of the entire teaching staff-- had bailed out in the last three months. Theories included that teachers were leaving for neighboring districts that paid better (which is apparently all of them). Solutions included signing up with TNTP to get more bodies shipped in toot de suite, and strengthening the policy on giving notice.

Of course, some regions don't worry about tipping their hands. Cleveland has been pretty straightforward about its desire to gut public schools for a charter system, staffed with TFA temps. And of course when it comes to destroying public education wholesale and ending teaching as a viable career, nobody holds a candle to North Carolina (although Florida would really like to try). In addition to being poached by its neighbors, folks have come all the way from Houston to convince North Carolina teachers that indeed, many things could be finer than to be in Carolina in September.

Some inequality of destruction is good. In particular, it allows teachers to hope that Somewhere Out There is a district that it doesn't suck to work for. Hope may keep them a little more quiet and pliable. Winning the race to the bottom is about being worse, but not too much worse.

It's conceivable (though we have no NC proof yet) that accelerating the destruction of your public ed system might make enough noise to wake people up. To trot out a well-worn but handy cliche, you've got a boiling frog problem, and some places are just cranking the heat too high, too fast. The trick is to race to the bottom slowly and carefully, so that you are not too noticeably worse than everyone else. If people will just be patient, I'm sure they can drag down most of the country's institutions of public education eventually.


  1. The reported story is missing a few key details. 200 teachers or employees with certifications, could be a significant number of TFAs leaving after completing 2 years.
    Could it be that the IPS did not figure that out when they hired TFAs? I am curious to know exactly what these "better jobs" are.

  2. TFAs are not certified.

  3. According to TFA's website, they proved a "certification"

    more ed reform slight of hand.