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Three weeks into her job last year, Secretary of Education-designate Hanna Skandera had a teachable moment in the Capitol elevator.
In a chance conversation, a woman told Skandera that she left the teaching profession because there was no recognition of excellence; her students were performing well, but next door, another teacher who was just marking time earned more because of longevity.
“We have no way to acknowledge their excellence in a meaningful way,” Skandera said last week, speaking to business leaders. “How do you capture the art and science of teaching?”
This question drove a governor-appointed task force on teacher evaluations that met all summer and released its recommendations in late August. Skandera’s talk was to explain and sell the task force recommendations and enlist support ahead of the next legislative session.
What was refreshing about Skandera’s message was its overtone of support for teachers and its marked departure from the blame-the-teachers bombast that usually accompanies any discussion of reform.
“I believe in parental involvement and business activism, but our teachers are the agents of change … I believe in reading and getting a better return on investment, but who brings that? It’s our teachers.”
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