Andy Rotherham wrote a provocative Time blog suggesting that parents should take great care in choosing their child’s teacher. He suggests that teacher choice is more important than school choice because differences within schools are often more pronounced than between schools.
His advice to parents: get involved. “Don’t be shy about telling school officials well in advance of class assignments if you have a strong preference or concerns — there’s no guarantee they will accommodate you, but at the same time, they won’t even think about reassigning your kid to a different teacher unless you push for it. And squeaky wheels do get the grease.”
As he suggests, this dance goes on in every school where some kids have informed advocates and some don’t. But he doesn’t think it’s a good idea to publish data that would equip parents for advocacy.
Let’s pause and consider the administrative nightmare that parents choosing teacher poses for principals in traditional schools. Most elementary schools have two sections at each grade. What’s a principal to do if there is one good teacher and one lousy teacher in fifth grade?
The obvious long term answer is that principals should endeavor to hire and retain the best possible staff so that these terrible choices are avoided. Beyond the talent development strategy, online and blended learning present a variety of solutions to this problem.
If that same elementary had a multi-age blended model where the intermediate teachers worked together as a team with paraprofessionals and specialists, all students would benefit from quality instruction.
Digital Learning Now recommended choice to the course level and we’re beginning to see the effects of families with options. Last semester in Utah, 10 students from a rural high school with a lousy English teacher enrolled in an Open High course instead. DeLaina Tonks, Director of Open High of Utah, said, “Students from that same school are hearing how great the OHSU English course is and we have picked up another couple of students at semester as they escape the tyranny of the dull and boring classroom of an inept teacher.”
Andy is right, parents should be able to have choices. Online and blended learning expand the world of options for students, parents–and teachers.