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

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hubris Of the Incompetent

Let's leave aside Jersey for a sec and mix things up a bit.

Down in Tennessee, the ruling elite have been waging a war on teachers, funded in large part by disgraced junk bond king Michael Milken. As regular visiter to this site "jcg" has pointed out in comments, the evaluation tool Tennessee uses assumes a standard distribution of scores; if the actual scores don't fit, they game the system to make it fit. Would you like your job performance evaluated this way?

As Michael Winerip has reported in the NY Times, teachers in Tennessee who teach subjects where students don't take standardized tests now have to play a game where they pick and choose the test results in other subjects that become a mandatory part of their evaluation; in other words, the art teacher has to decide whether she wants her evaluation to include the school's results in reading, writing, or math as part of her rating. No, I'm not kidding.

So, what do the overlords of Tennessee's business community think about this massive exercise in stupidity?
The business community strongly supports these education reform initiatives. The reason is simple. When we look for new employees, we want to find them in Tennessee. Too often, Tennessee students have lacked the basic knowledge and skill sets employers needed, forcing businesses to look outside Tennessee to find qualified employees. The reforms enacted in Tennessee make it far more likely that Tennessee businesses can find the right employees here at home.
Tennessee is off to the right start, and it would be a mistake to roll back any of these reforms. That is why business leaders are concerned when we hear calls to change course, particularly calls to abandon the teacher evaluations that are vital to ensure that our students are prepared for the work force.
In other words: the owners of Tennessee want workers who are good at filling in bubbles on a sheet, and who passively accept arbitrary and idiotic evaluation schemes. So taking emphasis off of subjects that develop critical thinking - civics, the arts, physical education, the sciences, practical arts - is a GOOD thing, because it makes people just smart enough to run the machines and just dumb enough not to question the royal screwing workers have been getting from their owners over the last 30 years.

Of course, Tennessee's rulers have been trying to shove the schools there into a corporate reform model for years. Bruce Baker bemoaned that the state won the first round of Race To The Top seemingly on the basis of its stunning mediocrity:

But the educational genius who wrote this pablum, Gregg Morton, crows about winning RTTT, as if it were proof of the state's successes. And I'm not surprised Morton is for faulty reporting systems; he's the president of AT&T-Tennessee, a company that allegedly plays fast and loose with the rules:
The nation’s largest phone company is facing allegations that it has shortchanged 911 districts across Tennessee.
For more than $1 million, AT&T has settled with the Emergency Communications District of Davidson County, which alleged in a federal lawsuit that AT&T was not charging enough of the fees that are used to support Nashville’s 911 system in an effort to bundle services to businesses at competitive prices.
Only two weeks after that case was closed, the Hamilton County (Chattanooga) Emergency Communications District filed its own federal lawsuit alleging similar activity. Officials with the Shelby County (Memphis) Emergency Communications District confirmed they also are talking with AT&T about the issue.
Nice. Obviously the kind of ethical role model we want for both our kids and our teachers.

I've said it before: these corporate types need to get their own houses in order before they go sticking their fingers into educational pies. It's not like Tennessee's business leaders have done much for the people of their state:

When Tennessee's esteemed business leaders figure out how to get people back to work, they can start criticizing teacher evaluation systems. Until then, they ought to show a little humility and clean up their own mess.


Unknown said...

Hi Jazzman,
Great catch- I hadn't known about AT&T TN's connection to RttT but am not surprised. When your only metric of morality is profit who knows where the corporate tools reside and where the truth may lie.

One thing is certain, the 1%ers in TN have a PR machine to publicly peddle their deep devotion to TN kids by poopooing the few whiners about the fraudulent TEAM/TAP evaluation/merit pay system:


Keel Hunt, a public relations executive on the steering committee of Nashville’s Agenda, said education reform has emerged time and again as a focus for the group and Nashville. He is one of 29 people who put their names to the letter
“It’s very important to stay the course. ... This is very important work, and there is broader interest in school success that goes beyond what one or two people feel.”

Duke said...

As always, thanks for giving us the scoop down in TN, jcg. Keep fighting that good fight.