It's an article of faith among reformers that recruiting teachers from the top tier of their class will assure top performing schools.Article of faith? Or deduction from research? You be the judge.
It’s not like Walt has his own article of faith.
There's only one problem with their case. They say absolutely nothing about the role that poverty plays in performance…Walt’s conceit (and others) is that they simply “know” that poverty CAUSES “huge deficits in socialization, motivation and intellectual development.” But maybe, it’s that affluent kids possess traits like self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, and cognitive ability that will allow them to stay out of poverty and do well in school. Maybe Walt has the causation backwards.
I don't believe that even the best teachers can completely overcome the huge deficits in socialization, motivation and intellectual development that poor students bring to class through no fault of their own. They can help narrow the gap between these students and those from advantaged backgrounds, but they can't eliminate it. That's a vital distinction given short shrift in today's debate. It's one thing to improve academic performance in absolute terms, but it's quite another to improve performance in relative terms.
If Walt were right, then we’d be able to ameliorate these deficits by reducing the influence by poverty. But, there’s ample evidence, such as all the failed programs aimed at remedying these deficits rattled off in this post, that suggest that reducing poverty doesn’t ameliorate these deficits. Further, no one has been able to accomplish the things Walt thinks need the be accomplished to eliminate the gap. And, it’s not for lack of trying.
I assure you that Walt Gardner is well acquainted with articles of faith.