Case in point: Newark Superintendent of Schools Cami Anderson:
Research shows that effective teachers put students on an entirely different life trajectory — toward college, a higher salary, even a more stable family life. I am committed to ensuring that we have a strong teacher in every classroom and great leader in every school. Based on my 20-plus years in education, I know we must significantly change how we recruit, select, develop and retain our educators.[...]
I would dearly love to see this "research." I would love to evaluate it for myself and decide whether it's think-tanky nonsense or serious work done by serious people. But I can't, can I? Because Anderson won't tell me what it is, and the Star-Ledger thinks it's enough for her to cite it without checking it for themselves.Some research shows that we lose our best teachers to charter schools and other professions because they feel they are not growing and they become disheartened seeing students in ineffective classrooms. After multiple poor ratings validated by several people, we should presume that these few teachers are ineffective and partner with the union to manage them out — efficiently. [emphasis mine]
This sort of laziness - and, really, that's what it is more than anything - just galls me. I spend all this time here providing links to everything, but the largest paper in the state can't even be bothered to give me the name of a study when an op-ed mentions it. Is that really too much to ask?
Because what Anderson is saying is very, very provocative. Yes, I agree that a good teacher can change a kid's life; I've seen it, and I've lived it. But is there is research that shows that we can identify these teachers on the basis of a metric that can be fairly and evenly applied to a large body of educators? Not even Chetty, Friedman and Rockoff (my best guess as to who Anderson is referring to here - but who knows for sure?) could possibly make that claim based on their study.
As to the other research Anderson cites: I can't even guess what she's referring to. There's certainly research that shows the attrition rate for teaching is very high (it's an open question as to exactly how high). But the assertion that we're losing these teachers to charter schools is awfully bold, especially considering that charters don't do any better at raising student achievement when accounting for those students' characteristics.
Certainly we know that teachers are becoming increasingly demoralized, but I have yet to see evidence that they aren't enjoying their jobs anymore because of collective bargaining. Where is the proof for what is Anderson citing? And why do I even have to ask the question?
As to the rest of her editorial:
A great fifth-year teacher makes $35,000 a year less than a mediocre 14th-year teacher. We want to reward our most talented educators with higher compensation — especially if they teach in hard-to-staff subjects or excel with our highest-need students.Superintendent Anderson, where are you going to get the money to pay that fifth-year teacher more? Because unless and until you are prepared to substantially increase the entire payroll of the Newark Public Schools, what you are really talking about here is taking money away from "average" teachers and giving it to "good" teachers. Most likely on the basis of standardized test scores. Do you really think that's going to help your teachers' morale?
Just once I'd like to see someone with Anderson's views admit that this is the plan. Because that admission would beg the next question:
If the goal is to put a "good" teacher in every classroom, won't any merit pay scheme eventually raise the entire payroll of the school system? If not, how do you propose we allocate students to the select few "good" teachers? A lottery?
If said it before: they haven't thought this all the way through. And the reason they haven't is that they are never asked the hard questions about the details of their schemes.