A few months ago, two of the most renowned scholars in the field of education—Drs. David Berliner and Gene Glass, who are both mentors of mine here at Arizona State — wrote a book that is sure to stir up some engaging dialogue regarding public education. The two teamed up with a group of our PhD students as well as PhD students from the University of Colorado-Boulder in order to tackle what they have deemed the 50 Myths and Lies that Threaten America’s Public Schools: The Real Crisis in Education. While the book covers a wide range of topics including everything from charter schools, to bullying, to English acquisition programs, and even sex education, there are several chapters (or myths) that would likely be of particular interest to the readers of this blog (i.e., on teacher accountability and VAMs — see post forthcoming).
Otherwise, eight of the other myths, specifically, deal directly with the lies often told about teachers, including the way in which they should be evaluated based on student test scores (via VAMs). They include the following myths, again, deconstructed in this book:
- Teachers are the most important influence in a child’s education.
- Teachers in the United States are well-paid.
- Merit pay is a good way to increase the performance of teachers. Teachers should be evaluated on the basis of the performance of their students. Rewarding and punishing schools for the performance of their students will improve our nation’s schools. – See forthcoming post about this myth specifically
- Teachers in schools that serve the poor are not very talented.
- Teach for America teachers are well trained, highly qualified, and get amazing results.
- Subject matter knowledge is the most important asset a teacher can possess.
- Teachers’ unions are responsible for much poor school performance. Incompetent teachers cannot be fired if they have tenure.
- Judging teacher education programs by means of the scores that their teachers’ students get on state tests is a good way to judge the quality of the teacher education program.
At a time when corporate reformists are more interested in making money off of education than actually attempting to improve educational quality for all students, books like this are critical in helping us decipher the truth from the perpetual myths that have become the bedrock of the reform movement. Berliner and Glass do not hold back – they name names where possible and provide enough research to support their claims… but not too much to slow them down. Instead, they call upon decades’ worth of educational research, the trusty work of their students, and a bit of logic and humor in order to pack a powerful punch against those most responsible for spreading the myths and, often, flat-out lies about America’s students, teachers, and schools. This book is for teachers, parents, policymakers, school administrators, and concerned citizens alike. I definitely recommend that you add it to your reading list!