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Education

Grading the Teachers

From today's WSJ:

New York City on Friday released for the first time a database ranking nearly 18,000 public schoolteachers based on their students' test scores, a historic move that lifted the curtain on one measure of quality in the classroom.

How can it be that teachers are only now being evaluated on the basis of their work output? A teacher's job is to instill knowledge of a subject in their pupils. It seems only rational that their performance would be judged on the basis of how much knowledge they instill. By what standard have they been measured up to this point?

Of course, the answer is that they haven't been held to any standards whatsoever. That fact is reflected by the teachers' and union's zealous opposition to the evaluation database. The unions have a lucrative public monopoly over education and teachers are immune from discipline based on their performance - neither group have an interest in subjecting themselves to criticism, implementing objective standards of performance and upsetting the status quo.

I've written on American educational exceptionalism before and have been heavily critical of unions and public school unaccountability. The education bureaucracy surely sees any form of comparable evaluation criteria as one step in the direction of market competition in American education. Competition would certainly favor private, parochial schools - to the fiscal and political detriment of unions and to the utter dismay of liberal secularists. These cultural, political and economic factors are the true motivations behind America's public education policies and the opposition witnessed to teacher evaluation databases. 

Categories > Education

Discussions - 5 Comments

I'm no fan of America's educational establishment, how could any conservative be? But just how are the teachers supposed to overcome the rampant pathology of "keeping it real?"

Public education in this country is welfare for the people who are employed in public education.

We have thrown billions and billions of dollars at public education in this country for the past 40 years. All we have gotten is highly paid employees who produce nothing. It would better to have them all stay at home, watch TV and eat fattening food all day.

Of course, the answer is that they haven't been held to any standards whatsoever. That fact is reflected by the teachers' and union's zealous opposition to the evaluation database. The unions have a lucrative public monopoly over education and teachers are immune from discipline based on their performance - neither group have an interest in subjecting themselves to criticism, implementing objective standards of performance and upsetting the status quo.

You have a death grip on the obvious.

This is tricky. Certainly, there is no argument with evaluating teachers. The issue turns on the criteria. For more than 30 years I fought with an administration that judged teaching by how many "students" you attracted and held (and passed) rather than whether you taught the subject and knew what you were talking about. (I used scare quotes because most of them are not serious students.) Now this was at a community college, which has an open-admissions policy and therefore attracts many who would be better off being trained in a useful occupation. But they are also products of the public schools, which had limited success even before federal funding and "self esteem" movements. The testing results invariably show better results in the lower grades than in the higher grades. Does that mean that the public schools wear out the desire for learning out of kids? Or is it because not everyone benefits from higher levels of education? These are questions that deserve serious thoughts as we try, one again, to slay the educational dragon.

What happens in the school room is often a reflection of what is happening in the world.

Teachers today struggle with:

1) discipline, not getting it at home, 2) motivation, not getting it at home, 3) media, texting, cell phones, 4) chaotic or disruptive home lives, 5) poverty, hunger issues.

Teachers are expected to pick up everything that is not happening at home and in our society. Under the best of circumstances, by the time order is established in the classroom, trying to teach apathetic or hostile students whose lives outside of the classroom are 'hellish', is a much bigger job than any one person can be expected to do. Until our society gets its 'act together', expecting the classroom to function effectively is ridiculous.

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