|My guess is that she rated "highly effective."|
I write about education often because it’s incredibly important to me. Aside from the fact that I’m going to be working on getting my teaching license over the next couple of years, it’s important to me that American children not grow up to be complete dumbasses.
I read an article today about the negativity of the incentives that have shat themselves on to teachers in
. About a week ago or so, a couple hundred teachers were let go because they had “underperformed.” This underperformance was based largely on kids’ standardized test scores, and apparently many of the teachers that were let go had been deemed “effective,” or “highly effective,” by the standards of the IMPACT program. Washington D.C.
I thought about making a post about it when I read it, but I didn’t for whatever reason. Then I read an article today on the Washington Post about this very thing, and the author posits that such tactics, giving bonuses to “good” teachers and firing “underperforming” teachers is a stupid way to make schools better.
How many people want to teach? How many people want to spend all day with kids who generally don’t give a shit about anything, let alone their own education? Teaching is a difficult profession. You spend 8 hours a day teaching someone else’s kid to be a productive and useful citizen, only to come home to more work. You put in an ass ton of hours for little reward other than self-satisfaction. If you’re a 1st year teacher, your pecuniary reward is $35,000 a year at a good public school district.
Now we want to make teaching some sort of competitive bullshit in which we measure a teacher’s performance by how well his or her kids do on standardized testing. Are we seriously suggesting that we place their career in the hands of children?
It doesn’t matter how good of a teacher you are: if a student does not give a flying fuck about school then that student will not perform well. “Well, it’s the teachers job to make him give a fuck!” No it’s not. Education is not a one-way street where the teacher is some servant that is supposed to make you want to make love to your social studies text book. Yes, a teacher should make the lessons interesting and engaging, but a teacher cannot make a kid like it, or even give a shit enough to do well in it.
Knowing that teachers get shit on now as it is, why do we want to make the profession less appealing? It’s no wonder that a bunch of teachers in D.C. got shit-canned, because it’s a district that has been underperforming for years. Do we really think that it’s the teachers’ fault? It’s an urban district, and many of the students in it come from low-income families. No, poor people aren’t stupid because they’re poor, but poor kids have a lot more barriers to success.
The Washington Post author said that we should treat teachers more like professionals, and I agree with that completely. The whole incentive thing—do well and you’ll receive extra rewards, you’re fired if you do “poorly”—is a great mentality for people in sales, but not in a professional career.
Are doctors fired every time they lose a patient? Are lawyers disbarred every time they lose a case? The answer is no, because there are so many factors that are beyond their control. A patient can die despite top notch treatment, and a jury can convict or acquit a defendant no matter how convincing a case. Kids can suck giant asshole on their standardized testing no matter how good their teachers might be.
Yes, there are bad teachers. We’ve all had at least one, but we didn’t measure their badness on how well we understood the material. They can only do so much to help us get it, and at some point it’s on the kid to be able to understand.
This sort of reward/punishment mentality is going to have two negative effects: (1) It will make less people want to go into teaching, and (2) Teachers will be less willing to teach in urban districts where student performance is statistically lower. Does that sound like a good outcome?