Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Speech

I gave a speech last night at a benefit for Today’s Business Leaders. The notes of my remarks are below. Here was the opening paragraph:

I want to talk to you about our public schools and how the rising tide of mediocrity – and, in some cases, far worse – threatens our nation’s future. It’s an issue I’ve been involved with since I helped Wendy Kopp start Teach for America 21 years ago, and I’ve become increasingly passionate about it for the simple reason that the more I learn, the more outraged I get. You see, not only are we falling behind our international competitors, but we have a system in this country that systematically denies low-income, minority children a fair shot at a good education. So it’s not just an economic issue, it’s a moral issue.

After my speech, a 16-year veteran math teacher who’s at one of the lowest-performing high schools in New York City came up to me. He said he especially agreed with my remarks about the craziness of doing layoffs solely by seniority and told me about one veteran teacher in his school who “everyone knew was terrible”. But when the principal tried to fire that teacher, the teacher fought it, with 100% backing from the union, and the teacher was not only reinstated, but is now a dean at the school “and enjoys bullying people.”

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