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Why I Joined Educators 4 Excellence

This post is long overdue, and I want to apologize for that, or any appearance that I was hiding my involvement with Educators 4 Excellence. The truth is, I work with E4E because I believe in what the group is doing. And I don’t believe what I believe just because I work with E4E.

Until recently, I didn’t know anything about E4E. I had read GothamSchools’ profile last April and joined their Facebook group, but that was the extent of my “membership.” Right after my (heavily edited) column on teacher data reports appeared in the New York Post, several commenters mentioned E4E, assuming I had some deeper affiliation. I didn’t, but ironically, these comments stoked my curiosity in the organization.

A week or so later, I attended an education policy panel featuring Diane Ravitch, then-Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky and … Education 4 Excellence’s co-founder Evan Stone. When the panel was over, I introduced myself to Evan and E4E’s outreach coordinator, Ryan Black. Soon after I sat down with Ryan, Evan and E4E’s cofounder, Sydney Morris, to talk about how I could be a part of the group.

But I realize how I got involved with E4E is much less important than why I got involved. The truth is since I started teaching, I have looked for ways to connect with other teachers who were not only passionate about our work as educators, but viewed it as part of a broader fight for social justice.

My closest peers in teaching were those who shared my passion for education and my belief that our work was inextricable from the larger conversation developing on education reform. We constantly shared challenges in our classrooms and our school, and we often discussed how that work was affected by local and federal policies. We also talked about how we might do things differently, or what we might say if we ever had the chance to talk to Chancellor Klein or Mayor Bloomberg.

At its core, this is what E4E represents. It is a group of teachers who believe in the importance of their work, who believe that education can and must be better, and believe that they have an important voice to lend to the discussion of how to make this change occur. If you read E4E’s declaration of principles there are definitely points that would draw fire from some teachers. E4E is not meant to represent all teachers, but the principles are generally intended to invite as broad a spectrum of educators as possible.

There is a lot of room for discussion within those principles. How to create a “holistic and equitable system” for evaluating teachers is a debate I’m a part of as a member of E4E’s Teacher Evaluation Policy Team. Over the past month and a half that the team has worked on developing an evaluation system, there has been plenty of disagreement. This has only made our work stronger. However within this diverse group of 16 educators, there’s a unity of opinion that the current evaluation system is inadequate, and a better one must be created.

If you believe that the current satisfactory/unsatisfactory rating system is best for teachers and values their work, you will probably disagree with E4E’s platform. If you believe that “last in, first out” hiring rules make the best policy for teachers and students, that three years of service is a reasonable amount of time to earn tenure, or that the current pay structure is fair, you’ll disagree with E4E’s platform.

You’re free to disagree with these points, or any others included in the E4E declaration of principles. But to discount E4E’s members as puppets, or to base arguments on vitriol instead of facts, does a disservice to our profession. The more teachers that take an active role in the education debate, the better, because whatever our differences, we all share a common commitment to our students.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.