I reported last week that, in advance of receiving the Gates money, some schools in Pittsburgh have suddenly started handing out a flurry of negative evaluations to veteran teachers. Last night in a meeting superintendent Mark Roosevelt explained the reasoning. If you're not a "rock star" teacher, they're going to get rid of you and find somebody who is (preferably somebody younger, cheaper, and less willing to object to district policy).
I'm all in favor of hiring the best teachers possible, but here's the problem with the statement: it's based on the theory that exceptions are the rule. In all other walks of life, we seem to realize that exceptions don't disprove the rule. Just because your buddy drove home drunk without killing anybody last night doesn't mean that everybody should be able to drive drunk without endangering others. But apparently the fact that there are a few "rock star" teachers means that everybody should be a rock star teacher. And Roosevelt has fired a warning shot: be more like them, or find a new job.
It's as if Roosevelt pulled aside every teacher and said "why can't you be more like your brother?" "Your brother manages to create miracles in the classroom, why can't you?" For the sake of our kids, let's hope that strategy is more effective in schools than it is in families -- because if not, he's going to find it awfully difficult to recruit and retain a bevy of rock star teachers to come work in a hostile environment.