As ESEA talk heats up, reform groups are tossing ideas on the table (e.g., see here, here, and here). We can debate the details, but most have some merit. Here’s the problem: even if our nation fully implemented most of the recommended legislation in the next decade, we still would be far behind other nations that made bolder changes years ago. In contrast, of course, many conservatives want to leave education up to state legislators, on whose watch K-12 education has plateaued and declined.
Is there a bolder alternative that might actually induce our nation to achieve widespread learning excellence?
Here’s a simple idea: put excellent teachers, the top 20 to 25 percent who achieve well over today’s “year of learning progress,” in charge of every child’s learning—consistently. Even with solid teachers who achieve a full year of progress, students who enter school behind stay behind, and those in the middle do not leap ahead. Moreover, the current teacher pool feeds the anemic principal pipeline, meaning excellent teachers are often pulled from instruction—or forced to work under inadequate leaders.