This came across my Twitter feed this morning.
Keith Reeves is a teacher, and he decided to help Whoopi Goldberg better understand tenure. Ms. Goldberg needed the lesson because in the wake of Campbell Brown’s publicity tour for her lawsuit against New York State’s tenure laws, The View did a brief segment on the suit, and, charitably, the segment could have been written by Michelle Rhee’s publicity agent. One host repeated the boilerplate claim that teachers have a union but nobody is watching out for the kids (as if teachers, on the whole, did not do that). Another host said, with emphasis, that a HARVARD ECONOMIST had estimated that a good teacher makes a difference of a quarter million dollars per child in the classroom — despite the fact that said economist, Raj Chetty, is hardly beyond professional criticism of his research techniques.
Then it was Ms. Goldberg’s turn who professed herself a “thinker” and then more or less demanded that all teachers go after the “bad teachers” and even suggested that “maybe some of those folks should go” from the Democratic party. Presumably, she meant people who think that going after teacher tenure is not a good policy and who oppose changing it via lawsuits funded by — well, we don’t know by who. Nobody is telling us.
The segment was brief and extremely low information. Nobody disputes that there are bad teachers in classrooms, but nothing has been presented that demonstrates that tenure rules specifically are the main reason that they are there. Nor has anything been presented that demonstrates that removal of tenure for ALL teachers is an effective policy for addressing that portion of the teacher corps that should be removed from teaching. No amount of sincere shouting for the cameras is going to make that evidence appear.
Teachers and supporters took to Twitter to explain some of Ms. Goldberg and her compatriots’ misconceptions:
That’s obviously a small sample. Well, Ms. Goldberg heard the words, but not the message and offered what can only be described as a trite and trivial self defense:
In steps Mr. Reeves with an eloquent and high information response for Ms. Goldberg:
His complete reply can be found at his blog, here.
As Dr. Alyssa Hadley Dunn of Michigan State University made clear in the Washington Post, the standard arguments against teacher tenure lack evidence and they are often thin on logic as well. If teachers having tenure protections were highly correlated to ineffective teachers being in the classroom, then our wealthy suburbs that have the most experienced teachers with the lowest rates of teacher attrition (and thus the highest proportion of teachers with tenure) would have ineffective classroom after ineffective classroom. Stripping all the teachers of a state of the due process rights they are afforded by tenure because it “makes sense” to people who have either not examined the research or who are falling for blatant distortions of the truth is not the best way to serve students.
I would like to think that with enough exposure to this argument, that it will begin to make sense to Ms. Goldberg, and that it will be taken into account the next time this topic is discussed in front of millions of viewers.