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

Thursday, October 20, 2011

False Gods Are Not Appeased By Human Sacrifices

I noticed a few folks today beating up Andrew "Eduwonk" Rotherman on the Twitter machine for his column in this week's Time. Let me quickly recap, and then make a larger point about the ongoing reformy education debate:

Predictably, Rotherman first tells us that teacher quality is a serious problem without any real evidence that it is. Yes, there are bad teachers, just like there are bad pilots and bad architects and bad edubloggers - that's how life works. But where's the evidence that this is a huge issue in student achievement? Eric Hanushek's conjectures? Matt DiCarlo is able to dismiss those without batting an eyelid.

In his piece, even Rotherberg acknowledges that we're talking about one or two teachers per school. This is setting off alarms? I hate to point this out, Andrew, but if you have to rank everyone, someone will have to come in last. Even in a school with excellent teachers, some kids will have to have the worst teacher in the school - no amount of firing will change that.

Rothenberg also falls into the trap of calling for the firing of teachers without any sort of a plan to replace them. On his blog, he tries to dance around this issue, without directly addressing the rather obvious concerns of those like Bruce Baker: how are you going to get the best and the brightest into this field when you use wildly inaccurate measures to judge them?

All this aside, here's the part of the piece that made me bang my head on the desk:
Teachers themselves have the most to gain from an honest appraisal about their profession. Over the long run, better pay, improved working conditions, better training and professional development, and greater respect is politically conditional on creating a professional culture more in line with other fields. Neither the public nor the political class will go for it otherwise. A focus on instructional quality would also help defuse the bubble of enthusiasm among those who now see technology as a cure-all. What’s more, removing a small percentage of chronically low-performers would not only change perceptions, it would change educational performance. [emphasis mine]
Uh-huh. So, if I go along with your wacky scheme, Andrew, I'll make much more money and the bathroom will never run out of paper towels and I'll be loved and respected. But only if I stop whining and get with the program...

What a load of crap. Have you looked at the political climate today? Do you think dismissing a few teachers is going to change that? Do you think Jonah Edelman will stop his little machinations if we fire a few more teachers? And that Chris Christie will all of a sudden make nice with the NJEA and stop bad-mouthing teachers in front of kids?

Do you think Rupert Murdoch will just shrug his shoulders and walk away from a $650 billion "sector" once we cut off the tail end of the bell curve?

Please. Dream your dreams about this all you want, Andrew, but those of us on the front lines know the truth: we are under an assault that serves as a distraction from what is really causing problems in this country. No amount of firing - no matter how poorly designed - is going to change that.

These are false gods and they will not be appeased with human sacrifices. Fire us all - they will come after our replacements.

It's what they do; they don't know anything else.

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