Friday, March 02, 2007

The war on Education

You gotta love it when someone tries to make an argument and they don't think it through all the way. Check out this quote from the Livingston Daily in their article about making all teachers state employees:

Every three years or so, you'd have one big set of contract negotiations between the various unions representing school employees and state education authorities.

One result might be a statewide pay scale that directly links teacher pay to educational outcomes.

If things were settled with one big negotiation, you could bake merit pay for top performers into the system

Moving past the idea of making all teachers directly state employees (they really already are) let's look at the sentence in bold. Making the pay scale directly linked to student grades; ever heard of cooking the books? What is to stop a bad teacher from just giving the bulk of his students good grades regardless of whether or not they earned it? There are some bad teachers out there and there are some immoral teachers out there.

Of course the proponents of this idea would say, that's why we have standardized tests. But anybody that actually thinks about this, can easily find holes in tests being the savior of this idea. First, standardized tests are only given every few years. What is to stop a bad teacher from saying, “It's not my fault they did bad on the test, they got good grades in my class.” Or a bad teacher could say “In order to do well on this test you not only have to be good at the subject I teach, but also other subjects that I don't teach.” So to try an fix these holes we would have to test every year, taking more away more time teachers have to actually teach, and wasting that time on trying to keep teachers “accountable.” The tests would have to be rewritten to be more specific in order to test on only the subjects as they are taught rather than testing how students integrate the knowledge they have (which is a much better measurement of a student than testing on facts). And then comes another problem, Michigan is switching from the MEAP test you take as a junior to the ACT, are you going to ask the ACT people to to bend over backwards to redesign all of their tests to fit this new testing scheme that would have to be implemented? When you jump through all these hoops to make the testing better reflect an individual teacher's performance, then are you really still testing the student?

The article also mentions that by consolidating schools to be state ran it would eliminate the need for each district to have a lawyer. But if they are going to base pay on “teacher performance” you can bet there would be a lot more lawsuits. Even if testing measures were redesigned to better test on only one teacher's effectiveness, there would still be an insane amount of loopholes. Every teacher that thought they weren't getting paid enough would sue the state for unfair wages.

Then there is still a problem of what to do about the classes where they don't give standardized tests. How are they going to judge how a teacher is doing there? Are they going to create a standardized test for band? If they do what are they going to test? Can you write out all of your scales, or how musical each student is? What about an art class, or gym, or shop, or CAD, or any number of other classes offered by different schools?

If you are going to make an argument on how to better schools, make it a valid one. Think things through, don't just come up with a bunch of ideas that aren't possible to implement, or would cost millions to implement. (I though we were trying to save money, and if you don't think this idea would cost millions, then how are you going create all the new tests that would be needed. On top of that, how would you pay to have those tests updated every year, because you can't just create them one year and use them for the rest of time.) I guess my point is stop coming up with these hair brained ideas to “fix” schools that would actually do just the opposite. Spend a little more than two seconds thinking over an idea and what it would actually mean and cost rather than just babbling on about how you think teachers make to much and aren't actually teaching students anything (or as some people think schools are teaching liberal propaganda).