by David Safier
John Huppenthal's opening move as Ed Supe elect is to strike a reconciliatory pose. He's making nice.
Talking to Michelle Reese of the Easy Valley Trib, Huppenthal talked about how he wants to support teachers.
"All our decisions have to center around supporting teachers in the classroom. Everything is about the disciplined, organized classroom with well-supported teachers. There's enough money in the system to get that done even with a severe resource restraint."
Support teachers while you cut budgets? That means cutting elsewhere — you know, all that fat, like our lower-than-the-national-average administration, support services and things like that.
And in keeping with Huppenthal's emphasis on research, which always seems to reach conclusions supporting his preconceived notions, he wants to spotlight all the failed educational policies of the past to avoid them, and find out what works. Sounds good, if you see Hupp as a semi-objective reader of research, or if you like his preconceived notions.
One of his first actions will be to gather and analyze data about school districts with high teacher satisfaction. Research shows, he said, that those districts also are doing the most to academically move students forward.
Huppenthal wants to identify details about what the top 10 districts in the state are doing, from their teacher development programs to their technology to their accounting systems. He then wants that put out there for others to replicate.
Teacher satisfaction? I think it's great when teachers are satisfied, but you can't compare teacher attitudes at a high income, high performing district with those at a low income, low performing district, nor can you simply transport the "successful programs" from a district with one set of demographics to a district with a different student population. But if you're Huppenthal, you can cherry-pick what you like at districts with high teacher satisfaction and move those items to other districts.
Replicate practices of the top 10 districts? During the campaign, Hupp talked a lot about the successes of the Sedona School District, which is as atypical a district as you'll find in Arizona. If it's one of his top 10 districts, I don't know what valuable lessons he can draw. And if the top 10 districts are those with the highest number of high performing schools, that's not going to provide much valuable information.
To be honest, I expect the worst from Huppenthal. He's a true believer whose view of the real world is obscured by his ideology. And he has the legislature on his side when it comes to education, even more so than Horne did. But other than killing Ethnic Studies at TUSD — that's a sure thing — and doing everything possible to bolster charter schools and tuition tax credits, it's hard to know how much he'll do beyond maintaining the educationally conservative status quo.