Kudos to the 16 heads of big city schools who affixed their names to the “Manifesto” published in Sunday’s “Outlook” section of The Washington Post. Bravely entitled, “How to Fix Our Schools,” its main point is simple and direct: Give kids the good teachers they deserve and release teachers who are not up to the task.
The writers believe that the current political climate presents an opportunity to make real change in our public schools, which, up to this point, they say, “have long favored adults, not children.” Taking aim at tenure and seniority, the writers declare, “There isn’t a business in American that would survive if it couldn’t make personnel decisions based on performance.” In addition, these leaders want to be able to deliver education to children in a wider variety of ways and to give parents greater options in determining how their child is educated.
What is remarkable about the manifesto isn’t the original thought; it’s that these leaders publicly put their names to a document calling for an end of union control of our kids’ education. What is also remarkable is that the manifesto is written by those actually responsible for the education of our nation’s children on a day-to-day basis. They are not professors, researchers, or politicians (although school leadership requires a little bit of all of these professions).
So the writers constitute and impressive group of educational leaders who are actually on the job. But I would make one observation. This is a transition period in American education. Schools have favored adults over children, but we want to be careful not to promote another of those false dichotomies so common in education. When schools hum with fine teaching and competent administration, they are great places for both children and the adults who work with them.