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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Merit Education

Just about everyone thinks they know how to improve education, and they all start by mentioning merit pay and raising test scores.
In the NY Times today some republican retard was praising the charter schools of Harlem for raising their test scores, he even mentioned that they did it by teaching standardized testing in their curriculum. See previous post on gaming the system.
Now on Huffington Post Joel Klein has his lame brain idea of how to improve teaching. Here's his formula:
  1. Lower entry barriers for incoming teachers
  2. Set up longitudinal data systems to evaluate teacher performance
  3. Use outcome based measures to assess teachers
  4. Assess and document impact of probationary teachers
  5. Makes tenure based on progress measurements and assessments 
  6. Bonus and merit pay for teachers in inner-city schools and hard to find subjects like science and math
  7. Tenured teachers periodically reassessed on student achievement
Half of this bullshit is pure gibberish and the other half is unrealistic. All of these assessments and measurements of students would still impact a teacher's evaluation years after the teacher had them in his or her class.

Let's take item 1. Lowering entry barriers. It's a mixed bag. Intel has a big plant here and after every lay-off a number of those out-of-a-job use the schools as a back-up. They don't have to do the usual year of pre-student teaching and student teaching. We have an apprenticeship program that lets them come into the classroom. The program changes every year so I'm not sure on all the particulars, but they are supposed to have a mentor teacher keep tabs on them for two years. Those with college degrees in other fields can also go through this program. Some retire military and other business professionals have become teachers this way. They're about as mixed a bag as baby teachers coming right out of college. About half last less than a semester. They find out that about fifty percent of teaching is trying to get the students to: be quiet, stop texting, get their heads up off their desks, stop writing grafitti on the desks, stop talking back and calling me filthy names. Some quit and others find better jobs. Those that can get control of the classroom do just fine. If retiring military were NCO's they do better in the classroom than retired officers as a whole. Officers have never had to deal those under them talking back. A good number of those coming in this route teach only long enough to get an administrators degree and then leave the classroom for the admin ladder.

Items 2-5 and 7 is the attack of the anal retentives. The numbers crunchers want to micro manage the classroom. The classroom is not a laboratory filled with rats or guinea pigs, and I really wish the politicians and colleges of eduction at our universities would stop treating them like they are. Sometimes what we learned from a teacher doesn't kick in for years afterwards. The teacher you hated the most at the time will become the teacher you admire when you reach a higher level of academia and they prepared you better than the teachers you really liked. A hard C has more value than an easy A. Standardized test scores don't gauge this. When all teachers are forced to game the system and teach only how to pass a standardized test instead of the subject the miracle of learning will die. We'll only graduate robots without the metal skeleton.
Item 6 is laughable. Inner cities don't have the tax base or political base for this to happen in the real world. And if you did implement it all those wonderful, successful teachers leaving the suburban, upper middle class schools for the extra pay, would get fired as their measurements and assessments would reflect the ability of students they're teaching.
Snide aside: If all these computerized data measuring systems were correct, wouldn't coaches like Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry, Don Shula. Wouldn't they have won the Super Bowl every year instead of once or twice a decade? I wouldn't matter what kind of athlete was on the team, how much talent they had, the coach is who makes champions. Point being teaching and students are a symbiotic relationship just as coaching and athletes. It takes both working together to make learning possible or winning games possible.
There is nothing on this list that mentions the responsibilities of parents or students in their test scores. These test scores will determine if a teacher makes tenure, or keeps their jobs. How stupid is that?


Unknown said...

Whether a Republican or Democrat, I read and re-read Klein's list and it is plain bluster. I may have mentioned that I have at least 6 friends who teach high school and my eldest brother taught high school in the turbulent 60's. Number 1 is where his argument begins to shock me. The rest is ridiculous. I quite agree with your assessment, P M. I also feel badly that you and others took no "short cuts" to get where you are. I've never heard of this strange program. Teachers had degree's in Education when I was in high school. A Great post!

P M Prescott said...

With a real shortage of teachers this approach can be a good way of getting people into the field, the only real problem is that when you have so many people coming in with teaching being a second income there's not the drive to sufficiently raise wages for those of us that depend on this as a livable income.