During the group interview there was a hypothetical situation -- pretend you are a teacher at a cash-strapped urban school who just found out, a week before school starts, that you're going to use a curriculum the rich suburban district has been using. I said I would probably be really frustrated because I would not have the resources that the suburban district has to implement the curriculum and not only that, but that my students probably wouldn't be starting at the same place so they would need even more resources and time just to catch up. I didn't say that because urban kids are stupid, but because I worked with urban teenagers who couldn't read or add and who needed tremendous help to increase a grade level never mind get to grade level.
Given a moment to collect my thoughts, I'd say "The curriculum the rich suburban district uses probably sucks."
Questions like this make less sense in the particular disciplines than the handwavy abstract. Is the Algebra II curriculum different in the suburbs? In what sense? Does it not matter if one school actually has lab facilities for science class and another doesn't? Do they actually do science labs in the suburbs? Or do they just memorize way more stuff? Do we just have to read the same books in 11th grade English, or do I also have to give the same crappy assignments? The biggest challenge there is that suburban kids are much better at writing and talking about books they haven't read than city kids. If I can tell the suburban kids to come back on Monday with a six-page research paper, and they do, and I do the same thing in the city, and they don't, then what? Is it the same curriculum if they need more support? Do I still have to cover as much?
Actually, Ms. Rhee and I are sort of on the same page with this one. She says:
Those teachers should teach in Fairfax County or somewhere where the challenges are not as great. And they'll do good things for those kids. No issues with that. But we need people with a different mindset for our kids.
Is it "no excuses" to say that about about personnel but "low expectations" to think it about curriculum? Suburban schools slide by with lousy curricula just as much as they do with mediocre teachers.