DENVER — Mike Johnston’s mother was a public-school teacher. So were her mother and father. And his godfather taught in both public and private schools.
So when he expresses the concern that we’re not getting the best teachers into classrooms or weeding out the worst performers, it’s not as someone who sees the profession from a cold, cynical distance.
What I hear in his voice when he talks about teaching is reverence, along with something else that public education could use more of: optimism.
He rightly calls teachers “the single most transformative force in education.”
But the current system doesn’t enable as many of them as possible to rise to that role, he says. And a prime culprit is tenure, at least as it still exists in most states.
“It provides no incentive for someone to improve their practice,” he told me last week. “It provides no accountability to actual student outcomes. It’s the classic driver of, ‘I taught it, they didn’t learn it, not my problem.’ It has a decimating impact on morale among staff, because some people can work hard, some can do nothing, and it doesn’t matter.”