Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Today's Random Thoughts

-When looking at the browser requirements for filling out the FAFSA, I noticed that anybody who regularly updates their computer is unable to fill one out online.  The FAFSA website can only handle up to Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2.0 -- they're up to versions 8 and 3.5 now, respectively.  This is something the Department of Education should've fixed months ago.  While I'm on the subject of the federal govt. updating their websites, why can't they combine the login systems for e-filing tax returns and applying for financial aid?  Why must one type in all their same tax info all over again?

-I continue to see little discussion of the fact that about 2/3 of teachers don't teach tested subjects when discussing merit pay.  Indeed, NYC recently passed out 12,000 teacher evaluations based on state test scores . . . there are 87,000 teachers in NYC.  Assuming these evaluations were accurate, how would we evaluate the other 75,000 teachers? 

-Speaking of merit pay and evaluating teachers using standardized test scores . . . many object to the latter on the grounds that we might fire a good teacher based on faulty measures.  What if, instead, we reward mediocre teachers for high performance based on test scores -- breaking the bank and not helping our schools at the same time?  And, it's clear that faulty measures are being used (check out the last graph in this piece if you believe at all that NYC's school grading system is statistically valid), leading to 97% of NYC schools receiving a grade of A or B.  New York's faulty tests also resulted in a doubling of the budget for teacher bonuses this year.  Merit pay is supposed to be a fiscally efficient reform, but it's not under these types of conditions.

-The AP has a story on private investment in charter schools.  I wonder how this will play out if charter schools continue to expand.  If private monies dry up, we might not hear much more about it.  But if private monies start going disproportionately to charter schools, it might be hard for public schools to compete.  On the other hand, it might make charter schools even better, which would probably be a good thing for those attending charters.

-I wrote before that we seem to be seeing a charterization of urban public districts.  Not only are charter schools spreading, but charter-like public schools (read: small, specialized schools often not for just one neighborhood) are as well.  The NY Post has a little blurb on the vast array of specialties that this year's crop of new schools offer.  If this continues I wonder what the ramifications of having community schools in the suburbs and beyond and specialty schools in the inner-city will be.


Eve Proper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eve Proper said...

Evaluate them? Why would we do that? If those subjects were important, we'd test for 'em! Just fire the art and PE and computer science and Spanish teachers and spend that money on math and language arts.