My premise is straightforward: because conservatives feel comfortable in fighting against the empowerment of women, they will naturally gravitate toward "reforms" in education that disempower teachers. After all, three-fourths of the teacher workforce are female, so bashing teachers is, for all intents and purposes, the same as bashing women.
But let's break this down even further: are there specific "reforms" these people are proposing that target female teachers more than males?
Let's consider the latest uproar over the value-added model (VAM) ratings of New York City teachers, based on student test scores, that have been published by the press this past month. We'll leave aside the many, many, many, many problems with the ratings themselves. We'll even leave aside the truly shameful behavior of the media during this sordid affair.
Let's instead ask if there may be a gender bias against female teachers in the use of VAM. Start by looking at this:
The data here is presented by Dr. Bruce Baker at Rutgers, who my long-time readers will know is one of the foremost authorities on school finance in the world. Bruce has access to data that isn't available publicly, and produced this chart showing the breakdown, by gender, of the NYC teacher corps in each grade.
Those of you who are teachers will hardly be surprised: elementary schools are staffed primarily by women. There's more balance between the sexes as the grade level rises; the upper classes in high school have nearly equal representations of men and women on the faculty.
How does that relate to VAM? Well, the entire model is predicated on standardized test scores, which are administered in third through eighth grade. Since you need a pre- and post-test to calculate a teacher's score, only fourth through eighth grade teachers - and only in math and language arts - are subject to receiving a VAM rating. And, looking at the distribution above, it's clear that those teachers are overwhelmingly women.
Wait - it's gets worse. Here's Bruce's second graph:
The blue bar in Bruce's graph shows the percentage of the total grade level teaching staff that is female; the red bar, however, shows the percentage of female teachers out of the total who are VAM-able at each grade. In other words, 86% of fourth grade teachers are women; however, 92% of the fourth grade teachers who would get a VAM rating are women.
In every grade, there is a greater percentage of women who are VAM-able than the percentage of women in the total staff. In other words: if you are a Seventh Grade female teacher, you are more likely to have a VAM rating published for you than if you were a Seventh Grade male teacher.
Let's say this again, so we're absolutely clear: female teachers are far more likely to have to suffer the humiliation of having a VAM rating published than male teachers.
I find this incredibly disturbing, but I can't say that I'm surprised. As Dr. Catherine Lugg points out:
And here's a bit of historical context: In 1933, the father of educational sociology, Willard Waller opined in standard his college text,SIGH! indeed. This is the latest strain of a particularly virulent disease that has plagued our country for far too long. But it's an especially nasty mutation this time around, because this push for "accountability" is threatening to destroy both the teaching profession and the reputations of many more women than men.
"Education is a profession for second rate men and unmarriageable women."
Duke, you're correct. With public school teacher bashing, it's all about gender. But that's always been the case in the US. *SIGH!*
I'm no lawyer, so I sincerely hope someone takes a look at this from a legal perspective (Bruce has already looked at some other legal matters related to VAM). I can't believe it's legal to impose a system that has built into it such an obvious gender bias. I'm sure the reformy-ists will try to pass this all off as a mere coincidence, but no one should buy into that crap.
In any case, I hope this opens a few more eyes about what's really happening in the corporate "reform" movement. Teacher, parents, administrators, and citizens - both women and men - should be pissed off. This kind of gender discrimination - and, yes, that's exactly what it is - is unacceptable in modern America. It needs to stop.