I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Death of Teaching

The corporate reformers will kill this profession yet:

What if we paid doctors based on how well their patients recovered? OK, Dr. Welby, you may have tried your best to treat and make your patient, Joe Smoker, comfortable in his final days, but Joe still died of lung cancer; no payment for you! Yes, I know that 20-year old Jane was basically ignored by you, Dr. Kildare, but she recovered beautifully from the flu - full payment for you!
Hey wait, you say, this makes no sense! Every doctor will vie for those patients who have great genes, who are younger, who have taken care of themselves, and who have the most minor ailments. No one will want to treat the more difficult cases, and forget doctors consulting with each other - it's every medical professional for himself!

Sound a bit crazy, or even comical? Merit pay is no laughing matter to teachers who seem to have no say with government officials who think that this "reward" system will motivate teachers and better serve their students. Let me start by saying that if a teacher is not doing a good job, there should be an intervention. More training should be given, or the teacher should be placed in another teacher's classroom to learn better techniques. If adequate training doesn't work, that teacher should not be teaching students.
However, how do you determine if a teacher is doing a good job? Ah, that's where we employ accountability with test taking! If a student bombs on a once-a-year test, then that teacher must have done a poor job. It doesn't matter that the student may have had a learning disability; may have had test anxiety that day; may have been ill; may have missed penciling in a circle; may come from a family that doesn't value education or encourage their child; may have moved that year, or had their parents separate or divorce; may have had their favorite relative die; or may just happen to have a low intelligence quotient. It's even possible that one class just isn't as bright as the class from the year before.
If you want to pay me based on my superior teaching, as opposed to my colleagues' methods, then please give me the brightest students without any genetic deficiencies. Make sure their family structure is stable, and that their family members love to read and help with homework. Please make sure that my students don't go to Disneyworld in the middle of a school week, but that their socioeconomic status is such that they are exposed to museums, and cultural activities outside the community. Please make sure that their mothers and fathers respect teachers, and support them to the best of their ability.
But, but, but... we can take student characteristics into account! We have this!

Everybody in the "real world" gets judged by formulas like these. Well, most everybody... well, OK, not too many workers... all right, no one gets evaluated like this...

Hey, look over there! A five-figure "job for life"!

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