Friday, April 9, 2010

Ed Ideas

I've been meaning to start a blog, just for my own reflections, for a few months now, so here it is. I think this will just handle my ideas, thoughts, rants, and other flotsam and jetsam on education. I hope that it helps someone else, but I am doing it mostly for me.

I just read an article from NPR about how the Washington D.C. teachers are going to vote on a contract of compromise. They are going to give up their right to tenure in exchange for the possibility for higher pay (as much as $20,000 per year more according to the story.) While I truly believe that the education system in this country is broken, and does need fixing, I do not believe that measuring student success and teacher/staff performance by test scores is the answer. I think most teachers would agree with me.

Those in the field know that students test scores are affected by so much more than the effectiveness of the teacher. We cannot follow the students home and be sure they get good, healthy meals, proper hygiene, loving parents (plural), attention, discipline, work ethic, morals, and so many more factors that ultimately impact standardized test scores.

We all also know that we have some colleagues who need to be removed from their jobs because they are ineffective. However, their ineffectiveness can be measured by much more reliable means than their students' scores. If we are truly to follow the "business model," why not give administrators and peers a little more power to remove ineffective teachers based on observation and peer review? I know, I know, the argument against this system is also flawed, and yes, some people will file grievances and complain that they are being singled out or targeted due to personality conflict. Others will get to keep their job because of personal friendships with administrators, but there is NO PERFECT SYSTEM. At least this system removes things that are out of a teacher's control.

And what about helping those teachers we call "ineffective" so that they can improve? In another blog post from Will Richardson, he talks about the severe lack of quality and quantity of professional development we give pre-service and current teachers in this country. In the article, entitled "The PD Problem," Richardson quotes a book by Linda Darling-Hammond called "The Flat World and Education." He reiterates Hammond's idea that we do not give many of our teachers a fighting chance in this country. Essentially he says that our PD is not robust, it does not help teachers do anything except sleep, and is a waste of time in many occasions.

I have to agree with these ideas. How many of us have sat in a classroom, auditorium, or school cafeteria and fought "the sleep monkey" while someone "brought in to help make us better" at our craft, or more effective speaks. Perhaps we should look at education more holistically and stop treating the symptoms and start treating the sickness.

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