Diane\'s Blog

Maggie Thornton

Dear Dr. Ravitch,

First of all, I hope that you are in the midst of a very happy holiday season with your family and friends. I am a preservice secondary English teacher at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education. I received your new book for Christmas and I just wanted to thank you so much for writing it! I get so disheartened when people beat up on teachers for student performance without thinking about outside factors or how we are measuring that performance. It’s also so frustrating to be labeled as “anti-reform” when one speaks up for teachers.

One of my basic questions for the “choice” reformers is that if every student is able to learn and the teacher is the most important part of the equation, then surely people who are willing to take on a career as difficult as teaching are able to learn with good teachers themselves. Why can’t we have meaningful professional development as part of this reform conversation? How will we “professionalize” teaching if all that potential teachers hear is that they will be to blame for all of their students’ problems and receive very little professional support?

So, one day next December, I will receive my teaching credentials and go in front of a classroom on my own for the first time. I don’t think I have all the answers and I’m excited about what I will learn in the years to come. But after a year in education school, a six-month stint on a Congressional campaign, and reading all the education policy books I can get my hands on, I’m not sure how long I can stay in the classroom. There is so much we need to do! I am making a list of the things I think will make a real difference in American education. This is what I have so far: Pay teachers better, create a ladder within the profession, make better standardized tests, longer school days and school years, more meaningful professional development, and a more meaningful curriculum (I, too, enjoy Dr. E.D. Hirsch’s work). What do you think? How can I do these things? How can I find people who will do them with me and not be distracted by the silver bullets promised by the Michelle Rhee-style reformers?

I’m sorry if I’ve taken up too much of your time. I’m trying to get as much information and as many ideas as possible as I go forward in my career.

With thanks,
Maggie Thornton