Education Week - May 16, 2018 - 23
It is harder to
standing in your
AMY CURRAN is a lifelong Oklahoman and the state's site director for
Generation Citizen, a national nonprofit organization that promotes civics
education. ELIZABETH SIDLER is the organization's state program associate.
to learn about different types of studentprogress measurement tools to refine what
works best. And in feedback meetings with
school leaders, teachers would have space
to reflect upon areas of their success and
weakness. In turn, principals would devote
time and energy to framing evaluation as
an opportunity to learn about-rather
To begin the transition toward this kind
of evaluation, state and district administrators must shift the balance of resources
away from measuring and sorting teachers into categories. School leaders must
focus on subject-specific questions about
teaching and learning, rather than apply-
ing a generic set of indicators. And instead
of boiling teachers' work down to a rating,
leaders must share observations that help
teachers extend what they do well and
identify where they can grow.
Only when we involve teachers in the process of evaluation policymaking will we come
up with a system that supports and develops
the teaching expertise students deserve. n
RACHAEL E. GABRIEL is an associate professor
of literacy at the University of Connecticut.
SARAH L. WOULFIN is an assistant professor of
educational leadership at the same university.
They are the authors of Making Teacher Evaluation
Work: A Guide for Literacy Teachers and Leaders
whom we met during student demonstrations on the first day of
the walkout, began the campaign with a desire to highlight the
experiences of students and clearly articulate how firmly they
stood with teachers. Over the next two weeks, she learned to
identify those in key positions of power and those who influence
them and to leverage media to strengthen her group's position.
She rallied hundreds of students across the state and helped
prepare them to meet with legislators.
When students spoke to large crowds at the protest and to
legislators, they were angry, eloquent, and moving. They were
neither filtered nor unnaturally enthusiastic. They were honest
The student leaders of the walkout were perspicacious organizers who could see exactly how 10 years of relentless cuts to
public services had maimed schools, disheartened communities,
and darkened their futures.
And Oklahoma recently passed legislation to include content
from the U.S. naturalization test in the state's standards, thus
prioritizing civic knowledge for all Oklahoma students.
But knowledge alone will not sustain such a movement. Students we spoke to during the walkout shared how much they
learned by spending time at the Capitol and participating in
direct civic action. And once back in the classroom, students that
we have been serving through our work at Generation Citizen
expressed how grateful they were that it didn't take the walkout
for them to learn how to participate. They already knew from
class. Students learn deeply when the realities of their communities and the machinations of their government are directly
connected to their classroom experiences.
The honest ferocity of youth, the ability of young people to
be attentive and resilient in the face of bureaucratic adversity,
and their motivation to see their state truly change is what will
make the civic engagement of the Oklahoma teacher walkout
The path forward is authentic curricula that invites students
to see their community honestly and to address its flaws head
on with concrete skills so that students don't have to wait for
their teachers to walk out of their classrooms to have an effective civics education. And if it can happen in Oklahoma, it can
happen anywhere. n
No, Strikes Do Not
By William J. Bennett & Karen Nussle
here is a fundamental
problem in education
that has been on vivid
display recently: confusion about whom our
schools exist to serve.
Our public school system exists to give our
children a foundation in literacy and
numeracy and to help them become
informed citizens. It is not the purpose
of the public schools to use children as
leverage for the gains of others.
Only that base misconception could
drive mass school closures and disruptions right in the midst of a critical time
in the school year. Only that misconception could lead adults to go on strike,
thrusting chaos and untenable choices
on the most vulnerable families least
able to cope with abrupt changes in the
routines of their children.
We strongly believe in the importance and honor of great teaching and
teachers. We believe policymakers
should set budgets so that the best
teachers are attracted and retained.
Those decisions must be made at each
state and district level.
We strongly disagree that adults in
our public schools should use systematic
disruption of students and families-
that is, strikes or walkouts-as a tactic
to secure financial outcomes. There are
several basic reasons for this:
First, abrupt school closure interrupts
and damages the progress of students.
We either believe that school and teaching time matters, or we do not. Teaching
time does matter, and we should be very
reluctant to interrupt it. Strikes (and
walkouts) do exactly that. When coal
miners strike they lay down their equipment. When teachers strike, they lay
down their students' minds.
Second, teachers want us to treat
them as professionals. To be treated as
such, they must act as such. Certainly,
individuals and groups have every
right to seek changes to their compensation or pensions. But to do so in a
manner that damages both students
and the critical role public schools play
is the antithesis of professionalism. No
other professionals have a summer in
which they can pursue their financial
goals or other endeavors.
Let's be honest and recognize that
the past weeks have not been about
serving students, but rather pursuing
financial ends, thus hurting the cause
of professionalism. There is a time,
place, and manner for these fiscal
discussions. Strikes during the school
year are not it.
Finally, many publicly stated "demands" associated with these strikes
and walkouts do not withstand review. In Kentucky, teachers are angry
at their state's current governor when
their anger should be directed at the
pension-fund board that set policies
rife with selfish abuse and headed to
collapse over the course of decades. The
current leaders are left to stabilize the
situation. In Colorado, state legislators
do not set teacher salaries-that is the
role of the local school boards. But the
walkout organizers in Colorado clearly
think they can maneuver a sweeter
deal through disruption, regardless of
the consequences for the state's children and families.
When coal miners strike
they lay down
When teachers strike,
they lay down
their students' minds."
In any system of limited resources,
competing demands, and employees
desiring more money, friction is inevitable. People speaking out for their
financial interests and what they perceive to be the interests of their group
is appropriate. But, attempting to create leverage through educational and
family disruption by going on strike is
It's ironic that these same education
leaders fear family choice as the major
threat to public education. Perhaps
they should examine how their own
actions are eroding public trust in an
institution so vital to our nation and
our future. In doing so, they are driving
people to be against public schools. n
WILLIAM J. BENNETT served as the U.S.
Secretary of Education under President Ronald
Reagan and is the chairman of Conservative
Leaders for Education, a coalition of leading
state policymakers focused on ensuring
conservative principles gain traction. KAREN
NUSSLE is the organization's president.
EDUCATION WEEK | May 16, 2018 | www.edweek.org | 23