Better late than never. After Ed’s magnificent post today about education and the people he linked to, I had to add my voice to the choir.

I would like to share a few stories that have happened over the past week in education and education policy.

1. From Nevada (4/24): the push to switch to the performance pay model. A republican assemblyman states that Nevada ranks last in the nation where high school graduation is concerned (no statement was made as to how they rank on the all important standardized test) and so requires “radical surgery.” So the current emphasis on higher education in the teacher pay scales in Nevada would go away completely and performance pay would take its place. While many states do utilize student performance in determining teacher incentive pay or raises, adherence to a student performance only model (or 50%+) is the disturbing trend sweeping a nation in financial crisis. Now all teachers are employable because all teachers are paid the same base salary: that of a recent graduated undergraduate. Then it’s all up to you! Teaching pay based on commission.

2. From Wisconsin (4/23): is it a law? School districts are confused about what to do about teacher hiring/firing/pay while the courts decide if the law actually became a law or not. The chairman of the Senate Education Committee in Wisconsin has voiced a fear that if teachers don’t feel protected by unions, that they might just leave the field altogether. The state superintendent of public instruction stated in an interview with the Journal-Sentinel that the reforms would make it “harder for individual teachers to innovate and districts and teachers to feel safe.” It’s like a guy saying that he’s going to hit you in the face, but he fakes it a couple of times so you don’t know when it’s coming, but you’re pretty sure it’s coming.

3. From Kentucky (4/24): Bring me your poor… Chris Kenning with the Courier-Journal in Louisville is writing a series of stories examining the Jefferson County public schools. The editor states that the purpose of the series is to determine the problems they face, their chances for success, and whether the system judging them is fair. This installation discussed the struggles against the effects of poverty that the school engages in and how the students’ current condition would set the teachers up for failure before they even began. Observation occurred at Shawnee High School, where 86 percent of kids qualify for free or reduced lunch, about half of the students graduate, and the test scores are among the lowest in Kentucky. Generally solutions center around changing curriculum or firing/evaluating teachers instead of addressing the direct sociological issues, like kids who don’t receive adequate medical care outside of school, who don’t get enough to eat, or have behavioral or mental health issues. There are many studies which illustrate the relationship between poverty and low test scores, however blaming teachers for not being able to overcome that seems to be the most popular way to avoid the issue. Teachers are expected to make no excuses and make students perform at the same level as another school without the same demographics.

***

How much can you sell yourself short? How cheap are your skills? How affordable are you for school districts? You have $100,000 in student loans between bachelors and masters degrees. Will you work for $35,000 to get the job? How about $33,000? That person that just interviewed said we could ignore her doctorate and pay her $25,000 a year. What can you bid?

Want to try that new technique you learned at that seminar that didn’t get you any raise in pay but helped you learn a new technique to use to help you keep your pay through increased student performance? Better make sure the parents, school board, principal, other teachers, state representatives, the mayor, and the governor approve of your action. Otherwise you might get fired for using non-approved curricular material in your classroom. Oh, and Johnny says you touched his no-no area and, what’s that? You can’t afford an attorney? Where did that union go? Oh yeah, the students are always right and their performance is all that matters!

Can you keep the attention of 40 students? 10 of them didn’t have breakfast, 3 are depressed, 11 are beaten nightly by their parents, 1 deals drugs after school, 5 have learning disabilities, 2 need glasses but their families can’t afford them, 2 are homeless, and 6 are gifted but cannot afford to move and live within the range of a better school (side note: no, vouchers would not solve this problem. Vouchers pay for tuition, not increased cost of living, cost of relocation, and transportation).

All of this must be done with no right to bargain, with your performance pay in the hands of 5-18 year olds and their families, and your educational experience marginalized.

Teach public school. Federal and state governments double dog dare you.

Advertisements