Monday, September 24, 2012

President of Chicago Teachers Union Provides Their Key Tenets (via WSJ)

Key Tenets:
1. Use time wisely.  A proposal is on the table that lengthens the school day.  Longer work day does not translate into more educated students.
2. Get teacher evaluation right and don't fixate on testing.
3. Don't close struggling schools, make them not struggle anymore.
4. Don't blame the teachers, it makes for poor morale.

My responses.
1.  Agreed.  Increasing the work day is pointless if that extra time goes to pursuing failed teaching methods and educating students on things that do not increase their chance of getting a job.
2.  This is tough.  You have to measure performance.  There are very few occupations on this planet that do not have some sort of inbuilt metric by which one's productivity is measured.  The public's suspicion will be instantly aroused if the new agreement does not require some sort of evaluation of teacher efficacy.
3.  We've been told over and over that the largest contributing factors to student performance is their home environment and other factors outside of the classroom.  If this is true, then you will not fix struggling schools because their struggle isn't related to the school.  If socioeconomic indicators all of the sudden start improving, then I'm sure the school's performance will follow.  Note: giving everyone a gillion dollars is not a solution.
4.  Teachers are often the scapegoats for really stupid government policy that creates a hash of incentives and completely distorts the market for education.  We have an army of students graduating every year with no marketable skills (as a result of edu, maybe they got it elsewhere) that have only been taught what they need to know to get into college or take the ACT.  For those students that don't go to college, they just have to hope that someone needs a person with no skill to come work for them.  Does the fault lie with teachers?  I don't think so, they're just doing what they're told: teach English, Simple Math, Some Classic Novels, Music and Art History, and Football to kids.  Then watch them graduate and not know how to use a screwdriver (I'm speaking from my experience, I never took shop).

One thing I do hold against teachers is their almost rabid defense of a system that makes their skills and passion nearly pointless.  No amount of care, passion, and knowledge can fix a system of broken incentives.

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