Race to the Top has already changed the landscape–that and Obama and Duncan’s backbone.  They’ve done what no Republican president has had the nerve to do–take on teacher effectiveness.  Their willingness to incorporate tough language in RttT resulted in 40 states developing very aggressive plans to dramatically improve teacher effectiveness.  They all include a focus on building quality, but they all include measures to get rid of bad teachers.

The media is on board.  Today’s USA Today ran a great op-ed in favor of more aggressively efforts to rid the system of bad teachers.  Randi’s reply was lame and defensive.

Newsweek ran an article called  Why We Must Fire Bad Teachers that opened with this powerful declaration, “In no other profession are workers so insulated from accountability.”  In another piece, Schoolyard Brawl, Newsweek said,

Weingarten has been on the defensive lately, fending off hostile questions on Morning Joe and other TV shows, which have begun to zero in on the difficulty of getting rid of poor teachers in the public schools. The cruelest blow was struck late last summer by The New Yorker in a widely read article by Steven Brill titled “The Rubber Room.” It described, in vivid and sometimes ludicrous detail, how New York City teachers charged with misconduct or incompetence kill time outside the classroom in the “rubber room”—on full pay—while union lawyers and administrators wrangle and dither over firing them.

RttT has already been the most successful edu-grant program in history.  It’s because the President and Secretary took a series of difficult stands. There’s a long road ahead including thousands of bad bargains to be unwound, but they changed the landscape.

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Tom Vander Ark is author of Difference Making at the Heart of Learning, The Power of Place, Better Together, Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and serves on the boards of Education Board Partners, 4.0 Schools, Digital Learning Institute, Latinx Education Collaborative, Mastery Transcript Consortium and eduInnovation. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.


  1. […] As much as I agree with Tom on the need for clear accountability rules for schools and teachers – and on the need to root out and eliminate systematic and individual bigotry in education – his decision to blame the blob bothers me. After all, I’m part of the blob, right? However, regardless of what I believe or how I teach, the ESEA reauthorization blueprint is President Obama’s, even though 3 days ago, according to Tom, he had backbone. […]


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