Great teacher and school beat dumb ideas

Oct 24, 2013 by

Jay_MathewsBy Jay Mathews – Nothing I have read in The Washington Post lately has been more lucid and bracing than Patrick Welsh’s assault on catch-phrase school reforms in the Sept. 29 edition of the Outlook section. It was vintage Welsh — detailed, angry, literate. It’s what you expect from one of our best education writers and high school teachers. He added a dash of melancholy for fans like me as we learned he had just retired after 43 years at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria.

My only complaint about the piece is that it did not celebrate Welsh or his school enough. It would be out of character for him to mention his own accomplishments. He did say how superb several of his colleagues on T.C. Williams’s faculty have been, but someone reading his piece too fast might think that dumb programs such as Effective Schools, SPONGE and Standard-Based Education had turned T.C. Williams into a bad school. The truth is that they failed to diminish a great school.


As Welsh explained in his piece, T.C. Williams became an 11th- and 12th-grade high school in 1971, “to achieve full integration of black and white students while avoiding the inflammatory issue of who got bussed where.” The film “Remember the Titans” recalled that year’s football championship, but it did not mention one reason it won: Huge schools have an advantage in sports.

The same is true of T.C. Williams’s strong academic program. Big schools can be scary, but they can also afford more courses, more activities and more new equipment, which in turn attract good teachers. That helped persuade a significant number of middle-class Alexandria families of all ethnicities to stay there, even as neighbors left town for fear that a school where most of the kids were poor could not maintain high standards.

via Great teacher and school beat dumb ideas – The Washington Post.

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