The Dangers of not Having any New Ideas

Al Shanker states that teachers should take charge of education reform rather than waiting for legislators with little to no expertise to write mandates that make little sense and are nearly impossible to meet. He cites three areas that should be addressed: increasing teacher pay, reducing class size, and giving teachers more time to grade work and plan lessons. Yet, Shanker said this would cost more money than they can ever realistically expect to receive. So what is the answer, he asks? Radical, new ideas. Shanker implores the conference participants to come up with creative, innovative ideas and act on them. Next Shanker discusses the NEA and its position on certain issues like teacher certification and cultural bias in testing. Shanker then discusses the concept of retesting teachers throughout their careers, based on a new requirement in Arkansas. He likes the idea in theory, but he believes that in practice it singles teachers out in a negative way. Next Shanker turns to the issues of merit pay and of teachers teaching subjects other than the ones for which they are licensed to teach. Shanker cites an idea promoted in an article by Myron Lieberman as a solution that would reward merit and emphasize quality without encouraging favoritism. Lieberman would create boards to certify teacher specialists in the same way that the medical profession has board-certified specialists. The boards would certify teachers in various subjects and union contracts could include provisions of higher pay for board certifications. Because the boards would be national, they would not be involved in local politics, and the certifications would be portable nationally, whereas currently different local laws dictate teacher actions. Shanker argues that creative ideas like this should be coming from the teachers.

Washington, D.C.
16 pages
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