Don't miss Katie Couric's 60 Minutes report this Sunday on a New York City charter school that pays teachers lots of money but gives them no tenure. ?What we're trying to do is build a school where every teacher is a great teacher,??The Equity Project?founding principal Keith Vanderhoek tells Couric. ?
It promises to be a good story. But I like the part where Couric says, with almost breathless bewilderment,?that $125,000 ?is a lot of money for a teacher in this country.??? Hah.? In New York City, as Katie should know,?that's practically homeless!
But stay tuned; rather, tune in, but don't drop out.
--Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow
The New York Times is on a roll with its education coverage, today reporting on everything from Obama in Boston to Rick Scott in Florida and rich schools in Bronxville.? And though I got slapped on the wrist yesterday by John Thompson for tweaking the purveyor of ?the best journalism in the world,? it is precisely because they are the best (according to Thompson, of course) that we watch them ? and, occasionally, critique them.
Florida Moves Teacher Bill Forward. It looks like new Sunshine state governor Rick Scott will right the wrong of his predecessor Charlie Crist, who vetoed a pioneering teacher evaluation reform bill last year ? what Andy Smarick called ?the most disappointing education policy decision by a major Republican officeholder in recent memory.?? The revived and revised bill, introduced by Florida legislator Erik Fresen, would link teacher evaluations to student performance, put new teachers on one-year contracts, and institute an evaluation system that would determine raises and firings. ??We are under siege,? the head of one teacher union told the Times. Yup. And it may be time for besieged teacher unions to start thinking of the besieged students who can't read or write.
A Merger in Memphis.? Voters in Memphis decided by a large margin on Tuesday to hand over the reins of their ?103,000-student public school system to their smaller -- ?47,000 students ? suburban neighbor in Shelby County, ?effectively,? as the
It is encouraging to see the New York Times continue its blanket coverage of education issues and events, even if the nation's putative paper of record sometimes misses the mark (see my Inside the Bubble) and even though it insists on giving reform nemesis Michael Winerip full rein. The last couple of days are a Times education shout-out, mostly about what is now the hottest topic in education: teachers.
Class Size.? Sam Dillon, the current education heavyweight at the Gray Lady, takes on one of the big topics du jour: how many teachers is too many teachers (aka class size). It is perhaps an inevitable issue, given the budget cuts, but Dillon at least puts the subject in a cost-effectiveness context where it has always belonged.? Despite a paucity of evidence of the true value of class size reduction ? a Tennessee study from the 1980s remains one of the few solid research supports for class-size reduction proponents ?? and lots of evidence that?the impacts of our teacher-hiring frenzy have been?small and costly, class size ?will most likely wither as a hot-button?issue in the face of economic realities.?
Grading Teachers. The headline over Michael Winerip's story is intriguing: ?Evaluating New York Teachers, Perhaps the Numbers Do Lie.?? Winerip makes a convincing case for what Mike has dubbed ?Kafkaesque evaluation protocols. Writes Winerip, ?Those 32 variables are plugged into a statistical model that looks like one of those equations
?Teachers wonder, why the heapings of scorn?? is the front page headline over a Trip Gabriel story in today's New York Times. (The web version headline was shorter, better: ?Teachers wonder, Why the scorn??)? And, indeed, teachers have been taking it on the chin of late.? But as Checker notes, later in the story,
They are reaping a bitter harvest that they didn't individually plant but their profession has planted over 50 years, going from a respected profession to a mass work force in which everyone is treated as if they are interchangeable, as in the steel mills of yesteryear.
There is a lot to the bitter harvest.? The interchangeability problem is a deep and profound one --?it flies in the face of the autonomy that many teachers claim they deserve in their classrooms.? It undermines the argument ? rather, calls attention to the contradiction ? that making more teachers better or making better teachers will improve the system since the assembly line can operate no better or faster than its slowest worker.
In my district, it is painful to watch: hardworking, dedicated teachers paying dues to union reps to defend the rights of undedicated and ineffective teachers who defeat the value of their hard work and dedication. It is painful to read the comments to the NYT story.? Teachers feel demonized and victimized, without appreciating the fact that it is their unions which have done them ill ? and it
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About the Editor
Peter Meyer is an adjunct fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Since 1991, Meyer has focused his attentions on education reform in the United States, an interest joined while writing a profile of education reformer E.D. Hirsch for Life. Meyer subsequently helped found a charter school, served on his local Board of Education (twice) and, for the last eight years, has been an editor at Education Next.
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