Monday, December 17, 2007

Why CTA should change its stance on merit pay

Julia Rosen started the following discussion on the Calitics website:

Nancy Pelosi and George Miller are getting it wrong: No on NCLB
by: Julia Rosen
Mon Sep 10, 2007

(full disclosure, CTA has hired me to work on blog outreach about NCLB)

The main flaws of NCLB have been known for years.

The program is woefully underfunded to the tune of a whopping $56 billion

It relies too heavily on one measurement of student achievement,: standardized testing.

...My sister is getting close to getting her teaching credential. How are we going to keep people like herself in the profession, when we are going backwards with this law? California needs to hire 100,000 teachers in the next ten years. The law would make it more difficult to hire and retain the teachers we need to improve California's schools.

The Democrats were elected to Congress with a mandate for change. NCLB was on their lists of things to fix. Why do we have a Bush Dog bill instead of a real bill? Are we saving gunpowder on this issue too?

We can't let the past repeat itself. This law is too important for the future of our public schools. Find out more on the NCLB page. And take action.

by: Julia Rosen @ Mon Sep 10, 2007 at 15:50:14 PM PDT

Do you know Pelosi and Miller's rationale on this issue?

When I saw that ad on DKos, I had two reactions. One was depression, because Pelosi and Miller were apparently on the wrong side. The other was depression because if we don't even have their votes to fix NCLB, it's hard to imagine where the votes will come from. (The GOP?)

Is there any constructive engagement going on with them to figure out what they could possibly be thinking and why, and what better approach they might support?

by: Major Danby @ Tue Sep 11, 2007 at 12:20:52 PM PDT

Thanks for Posting This (8.00 / 1)
I called B Lee's office (my rep) Pelosi & Miller. Miller's local staff took detailed notes on my comments. I told her Representative Miller has been great on a lot of issues, but that he is very misguided this time. I also suggested that he owes the parents, students and teachers in the West Contra County School District (in his Congressional District and one of the worst in the nation) a visit to listen to their concerns.

by: caligal @ Mon Sep 10, 2007 at 16:05:05 PM PDT

thanks so much for taking action!!

by: Julia Rosen @ Mon Sep 10, 2007 at 16:07:34 PM PDT

CTA limits reform, leaving few options

Julia, the way to keep your sister in the teaching profession is to:
1) Reward her with a salary commensurate to her ability and efforts; This won't be possible until CTA accepts that teachers do not all bring the same ability and effort to their jobs;
2) Take the politics out of schools, and institute a meritocracy;
3) Give below-average teachers less responsibility and less money than far-above-average teachers, instead of putting politically connected individuals in a position to force your sister to turn her back on the methods she knows are superior, and teach in lock-step with people who don't care where they are going, only that they go there in lock-step.

by: MauraLarkins @ Sun Dec 16, 2007 at 15:52:14 PM PST

Again, this sounds great
Take the politics out of schools, and institute a meritocracy;

Now the question is how is that done? This is a serious question, because a LOT of people say this, and what we get is endless standardized testing, which results in nothing but teaching to the test. I know a couple teachers, and that's what they're expected to do, which pretty much destroys any joy or creativity in teaching. Moreover, if they (for example) have a classroom of kids with bad chemistry, or below grade, or with poor English skills, how are they measured?

For that matter, how are they measured if they have a classroom of great kids? 20-30 kids is not a good sample size. 20-30 kids year over year is still not a good sample size.

The reality is that unless every kid is tracked individually for their entire classroom career, and all of their non-school environmental factors are also tracked, it is very very difficult to "institute a meritocracy". That's very difficult in any organization -- think about how many corporations get it so very wrong, even with millions of dollars of study and consulting going into that question. And with teaching, you have to have a standard clearer than "I know it when I see it" or you're just throwing the question back to politics.

by: jsw @ Sun Dec 16, 2007 at 16:14:14 PM PST

How to evaluate teachers

I agree that we'll never be able to completely eliminate politics from evaluation procedures, but we can do better than the current system, which serves no real purpose, since teachers are fired rarely, almost always for political reasons or moral turpitude.
But what if the evaluations had a purpose? What if we had a two-tier system, where teachers could advance to master-teacher status with double or triple pay?

I think that direct observation of how a teacher teaches is the most useful method of evaluation. Evaluators could be sent to schools where they had no political contacts. This would provide a wonderful education for the evaluators, and the observed teachers would get some unbiased feedback about their performance. Perhaps beginning teachers, and teachers who are making slow progress, could accompany master-teacher evaluators in order to learn more.

Master teachers could be responsible for several classrooms, where they would give instruction several hours a week, and guide the regular teachers in how to do instruction the rest of the time.

Stuent test scores should be used in evaluating teachers, but only as one part of the process. It might actually be more useful to test teachers. School districts could give standardized tests to teachers every few years, to make sure that teachers understand math, comprehend the written word, and are able to write and think effectively. Those who fail could go to summer school.

by: MauraLarkins @ Mon Dec 17, 2007 at 11:23:10 AM PST

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