Douglas Crets


Giving Credibility to the Shadow Education System

Lisa Graham Keegan: President, Education Breakthrough Network

I like to call up education leaders and ask them what they are thinking right now; it’s kind of a live version of a blog post. Today I talked to Lisa Graham Keegan, President at Education Breakthrough Network. The question was, “What are we going to do with teachers, who seem to be caught in the middle of political and budgetary fights that limit their ability to express innovative ideas and implement them?” Here is what she said.

Lisa had earlier been on a radio show at KCRW, where she talked with other education thought leaders, including Diane Ravitch, author of xxxxx. That archive can be found here. That radio show was supposed to be about teachers under fire. The show, in my opinion, actually became more of a polite mud-slinging match, where Ravitch disparaged and blamed charter schools as the reason why teachers were suffering. During the interview, the one teacher on the panel says something like her school is doing well because there are no other schools competing with it.  That’s not really the issue. It seemed the real issue was, teachers are the best positioned to change the school system, but they are limited by the system that aims to protect them, but that really seems to limit their thinking and action.

I called Ms. Graham Keegan to re-address the issue, focusing specifically on how do we enable teachers to have the more powerful voice in their own administration of education. Here are some of her thoughts:

I think that is precisely the issue. teachers need to be leading the industry. In my world of education choice, the innovations that have been most effective were envisioned and enacted by fabulous teachers.

There is a way for them to bring their visions directly into the space. Right now, I don’t know how many people get excited about getting up and doing what they do every morning. They wake up and get treated like punching bags. I hate it.

It’s holding teachers back. I am not looking to patronize teachers…what I watch are the efforts of succesful teahers breaking out of that system where they are all treated the same. They break out and they do something completely different. They create their own rules, their own everything; their own infrastructure. That holds so much more promise for us than the traditional system, where we basically document their day down to the minute. There is just no room for that innovation right now in the current system.

Then Ms. Graham Keegan brought up her response to a recent article in an Arizona paper that said cheating was the cause of variances in the test scores of children, where some test scores in low-performing districts and schools rose. The accusation, said Ms. Graham Keegan, was like saying that there was no way any teacher could have helped these students perform better, because some students are just destined to fail. In her defense, she supports great teachers, who are the more likely cause for rises in performance.

It’s so dominant, this ethos that everyone has to be operating at the mid-line, and anytime you see someone break out of that, you have to smack that down and discredit it. [For a teacher] to work in that environment has to be exhausting if you are trying to be excellent.

It’s the same tired and poisonous rhetoric that holds the whole system back and harms kids.

And what would you have teachers do, I asked Ms. Graham Keegan? “It’s either they defend the system, which I think is indefensible…or they get out,” she said, because if there is a group of people who can innovate a learning environment, it’s teachers. That’s what they do.



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One Response

  1. […] Lisa Graham Keegan: President, Education Breakthrough Network ( […]

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