Due to troubling school reforms like Common Core, it is important to study those who are running schools very carefully. Whenever anyone new is placed in a position of power, we must figure out what they will do to improve public schools and be good stewards of children. This isn’t always easy, because the language of school reform can be confusing. But there are key words and issues that tell you when someone will be for or against reform in their leadership position. And I have figured out (maybe you have too) those words and issues.
Since leaders come and leaders go, I will share with you what I look for in someone new. I will use the appointment of Candace McQueen as education commissioner in Tennessee, because she was in the news this past week, and because everyone concerned about education should be watching the goings on in Tennessee education reform.
Here is what I found rapidly skimming through articles, after hearing of Dr. McQueen’s appointment.
- Degrees. McQueen has the degrees. She sports a bachelor’s from Lipscomb University, a master’s in education from Vanderbilt, and a PhD from the University of Texas in curriculum studies.
- Experience. I could not find how long McQueen taught children. She won multiple awards and did something successful regarding a magnet school. I would like more specifics. What did she teach and how long? What were the awards for? What was her involvement with the magnet? Much of McQueen’s praise is for her work at Lipscomb University—a private religious college given much credit for teacher preparation as of late.
- Personal. McQueen is from Tennessee and speaks positively of her public school experience. Her mother was a principal and her brother has special needs. She sounds like a nice person. But, a lot of reformers might be nice people. Still, they like the privatization of public schools and changing the way teachers are made.
For all the above, McQueen sounds like she will work for schools, and since I have a background in special education, I should be encouraged that her experience with her brother will make her sensitive to SPED needs in the state. I could find, however, nothing else about special education in regard to Dr. McQueen.
But here is what I also found as I continued skimming:
- Common Core. Tennessee saw push back on Common Core in the legislature. There are many parents who don’t want it. Andy Spears reminds us in the Tennessee Education Report that McQueen testified on the side that endorsed Common Core. She also serves in Tennessee’s Educator Leader Cadre for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Consortium.
- Teacher Education. In discussing McQueen’s reign at Lipscomb University we hear Teach for America and Lipscomb teachers are the best in the state. TFA began cozily working with Lipscomb in 2009. Indeed, Lipscomb partners with TFA types. The lines between the two programs are blurred, and TFA can get credentialed by taking two of Lipscomb’s courses. Two courses, pass the Praxis, and you are a teacher! HERE. This should be worrisome for education schools in Tennessee.
- Charter Schools. McQueen seems to have been careful about her words in regard to charter schools saying that both district and charter schools are good and should work together sharing ideas. But when the Achievement School District takes over there are no more regular schools and teachers to share ideas with!
And then, still skimming, there were the following words and groups that leaped off the page, who you know, or learn quickly by Googling, are all about the school reforms of today. In Tennessee they are:
- Ayers Institute for Teaching Learning and Innovation They like Common Core.
- National Council on Teacher Quality Includes the Teacher Prep Review. TFA Wendy Kopp is on the Board–Along with Michael Feinburg of KIPP charters. I don’t get how that’s not a conflict of interest, but there it is.
- Tennessee Report Card on Effectiveness of Teacher Training Programs Confusing to understand.
- Alignment of curriculum
- College and Career Ready
- American Diploma Project
- SCORE (Tennessee)
- TNReady Standards (Renaming Common Core?)
- entrepreneurial education ventures
So in five minutes I pretty well figured McQueen may have the underpinnings of a real educator, but in my estimation she is for privatization of public schools and making fast-track teachers. She, you could say, is another Kevin Huffman only well-educated and somewhat experienced.
She claims to want to listen, though, so speak up and we will see if she is truly different. Click HERE for what she has to say to teachers.
Time will tell.