Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Cutting Through the Fog on Teacher Pay/Performance

The corporate world thinks they have found an answer to improving teaching: by tying increased pay to increased student performance on a state-sponsored, standardized test. The liberal answer is, as always, throw more taxpayer money at it. That is the answer we have been trying for the last 20 years without notable success.

The best teachers do deserve more money. I am not opposed to merit pay in principle, but in practice I have never seen one that would not send the money to the wrong people- those who would ruthlessly focus on what is being tested to the exclusion of all other lessons. That includes character and life lessons as well as things that the community, but not the state, thinks are worth knowing. Anyone who has faith in the state to produce a perfect test is, to put it mildly, naive.

The corporate people's guy wrote an article saying teachers were not underpaid. We have teacher shortages in every state in this union. That alone ought to tell you he is wrong. But teachers are not underpaid in money, but in respect and in working conditions. It is gutless administrators and unrealistic parents along with megalomaniacal government types who send down impossible edicts from on high that run teachers out, or over time beat them down until they are less teacher than they were meant to be.

To fix it, we are going to have to liberate teachers to serve their communities and control their classrooms. To the state, the only test that counts is the one they give, the ones that the teachers give all year count as nothing. A lack of respect. Teachers are no longer allowed to discipline unruly students so classrooms have this unspoken agreement between cowed teachers and the unruly elements, you don't push me too hard and I won't disrupt this room too much- which is not fair to the kids who work hard and play by the rules.

Disrespect and bad working conditions are what is producing the teacher shortage, not pay. Disespect and bad working conditions are what is preventing the teachers we have from being better, and stopping more good ones from coming in. This cannot be fixed with the current school framework in which the school is the agent of the state there to impose the states values on communities. The community is not going to respect that, they are going to buck it in a multitude of ways. An example is the idiotic BMI index, but it extends to curricula and testing. When communites don't value the same things that educrats value, and the schools are the institution that is there to impose foreign values and knowledge (or disinformation when viewed from the community's perspective), then there is going to be tension. Right now teachers are caught in the middle. Each side, parents, far left state-educrats, and corporatists all assume the schools and the teachers are there to advance THEIR interests and wondering why they are doing such a crummy job of it.

We have to decide what schools are supposed to be, then empower teachers to serve those interests.

3 Comments:

Blogger Steve Harrelson said...

Good entry. Can't complain with much of that.

7:13 AM, February 06, 2007  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Thank you. It is another one that is mostly "beyond left and right". It comes down to whether you are statist or freedom-loving.

5:25 PM, February 06, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah, I went to school when teachers taught those "character" lessons. Had to watch "I am Joe's Liver" in my junior high English class. I seem to recall the teacher telling us after the film, which prescribed a low alcohol intake, that we should not drink any alcohol EVER. We watched more films about health and drinking IN ENGLISH CLASS. I got to college and had to learn all the English that I didn't learn in school such as difference between lay and lie, set and sat, etc. Too bad my science or health teacher didn't take it upon his or herself to teach me English the way my English teacher took it upon herself to teach me science and health when I was supposed to be learning English.

6:51 AM, February 07, 2007  

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