Why the ‘GREAT Teachers and Principals Act’ is not great

Oct 10, 2013 by

star teacherBy Kenneth Zeichner –

During the last few years, The New Schools Venture Fund (NSVF), a major private funder of K-12 charter schools, has been intensely involved in creating and promoting a bill (the GREAT Act) in the U.S. Congress. This bill, if passed, would lead to the establishment of teacher and principal preparation programs that would not be subject to the same level of accountability as other state-approved programs. The bill is a part of a broader movement to disrupt the current system of college and university teacher education and replace it with deregulation, competition, and a market economy.

There is a need for greater transparency of these private efforts to influence public policy in teacher education so that the consequences of the proposed legislation can be more clearly understood, discussed, and debated. Discussion and debate of public policy issues are cornerstones of a healthy democratic society. There is reason to believe that the adoption of the GREAT Act would only worsen the current inequitable distribution of teachers where the least prepared and least experienced teachers are often assigned to teach our most vulnerable students.

We should be concerned over the lack of public discussion about the assumptions underlying the proposed legislation for it would have a major impact on how teachers and principals are prepared. The questions of whether or not deregulation, competition and markets are the ways to improve teacher education, how to assess the quality of teaching and teacher education programs, and what the peer-reviewed research shows about the impact of different pathways into teaching – these are all matters that remain unsettled among serious scholars. They warrant trenchant public discussion and debate.

NSVF was founded in 1998 by social entrepreneur Kim Smith and venture capitalists John Doerr and Brook Byers. According to its 2012 annual report NSVF operates 331 charter schools that enroll 130,500 students (83 percent of whom are low income). If these schools were put together they would make up one of the largest 20 districts in the United States. To date, 350,000 students have been taught by teachers trained in NSVF ventures. Its K-12 ventures include ASPIRE, the Achievement Network, KIPP, MATCH, Rocketship, Uncommon Schools and the Academy for Urban School Leadership.

via Why the ‘GREAT Teachers and Principals Act’ is not great.

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