TIME Mag Highlights Problems with Tenure, Unions Lash Out

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Educators across America are up in arms over a new TIME Magazine cover that highlights Silicon Valley education reform efforts while simultaneously criticizing bad teachers.

The cover, released online this week with the print edition set to enter stores on November 3, reads “Rotten Apples,” following with “It’s nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher. Some tech millionaires may have found a way to change that.”

The cover pertains to an article written by Haley Sweetland Edwards discussing the work of education reformers and their efforts to increase teacher accountability and to take down teacher tenure laws.  The article focuses on David Welch, a businessman in Silicon Valley and founder of the group Students Matter, the group who the led the fight for the Vergara vs. California decision which said teacher tenure laws in the state violated the constitutional rights of children to an equal education.

In the last decade, fewer than 100 of the 300,000+ teachers in the state who hold tenure have been fired.  This statistic is far below any other professional field.

Yet the cover has brought on feelings of anger from several teacher advocacy groups.  Last week, president of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten expressed these feelings to the organization’s 1.5 million members in an email.

“When I saw this today, I felt sick. This Time cover isn’t trying to foster a serious dialogue about solutions our schools need—it’s intentionally creating controversy to sell more copies,” she said.

It’s not the article itself that Weingarten is upset with, which she says “looks at the wealthy sponsors of these efforts… [and] also questions the testing industry’s connections to Silicon Valley and the motives of these players.”   She is angered over the cover, which she believes millions of people will walk past on news stands and see without taking the time to read the full article.

“[F]or millions of Americans, all they’ll see is the cover and its misleading attack on teachers,” she said.

Former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch has also spoken out against the cover and its advancement of “poisonous, non-stop teacher-bashing.”  She argues that the real cause of lacking teacher quality is the drop in enrollment in teacher training programs, raising concern that not enough high-quality students are taking an interest in the education field.

Valerie Strauss, an education blogger with The Washington Post, also expressed her anger at the cover, reminding readers of a previous cover released by the magazine in 2008 featuring then-DC school superintendent Michelle Rhee and a broom metaphorically used to “clean up” area schools, primarily by firing ineffective teachers.

Teachers are furious,” Strauss concludes, “especially at the magazine cover, which they see as sending the message that there are loads of ‘rotten apples’ that only ‘tech millionaires’ know how remove from the classroom. Yet again, wealthy philanthropists and businessman are being cast as the saviors of public education when, in fact, they aren’t.”

The cover has caused the AFT to begin a campaign asking TIME to “apologize to America’s teachers for the misleading and hyperbolic attack on your November 3 cover.”