Someone needs to check into Arne Duncan. Â Reading this snippet from a speech he gave recently, might lead you to think his body had been possessed by someone advocating for genuine education reform.
The factory model of education is the wrong model for the 21st century. Today, our schools must prepare all students for college and careers–and do far more to personalize instruction and employ the smart use of technology. Teachers cannot be interchangeable widgets.
Of course, the official federal philosophy of learning, the one normally promoted by the Secretary, is exactly that factory model, complete with a narrow, regimented process, and lots of standardized “quality” control.
But don’t worry. Duncan hasn’t really had a change of heart.
Zooming out to see the context of his remarks reveals that his primary message in this lecture was not about improving education but in finding ways to make the factory cheaper to run.
Yet the legacy of the factory model of schooling is that tens of billions of dollars are tied up in unproductive use of time and technology, in underused school buildings, in antiquated compensation systems, and in inefficient school finance systems.
Rethinking policies around seat-time requirements, class size, compensating teachers based on their educational credentials, the use of technology in the classroom, inequitable school financing, the over placement of students in special education–almost all of these potentially transformative productivity gains are primarily state and local issues that have to be grappled with.
However, Duncan’s remark that really intrigued me was this one.
Districts currently pay about $8 billion each year to teachers because they have masters’ degrees, even though there is little evidence teachers with masters degrees improve student achievement more than other teachers–with the possible exception of teachers who earn masters in math and science.
Is he saying that a person, other than us special people with math or science degrees, needs no additional learning beyond that which was included in their undergraduate program to be a good teacher?
Or maybe he wants to drastically improve and target staff development programs so that it’s a continual, expected part of a teachers job to advance their own learning.
More likely it’s neither. Duncan just wants a less expensive factory.