Monday, August 17, 2009

Today's Random Thoughts

-By now you've probably heard that Philadelphia is planning a reality show where Tony Danza is a high school teacher. If I thought for a second that it would show what life is really like inside our urban schools, I would be all for it. But Stephen Lentz captures the likely outcome -- handpicked students, special treatment, and an unrealistic view of what's actually happening -- nicely. Nancy Flanagan has a slightly different guess of what will be shown, pointing out that tv producers wanted to show drama, not great teaching, when they came to her school. That could happen as well, but I think the odds are in favor of them scripting a happy ending one way or another -- and that's often not a realistic view into the life of a first-year teacher in an urban school. Hopefully this show never happens, but if it does I hope we're all wrong about how it will play out.

-The NY Times has a set of opinions on the value of graduate degrees for teachers. It seems like everybody these days is willing to deride the value of ed schools or the utility of rewarding teachers for earning master's degrees from such worthless institutions (Martin Kozloff wins the award for the most derisive piece), but they did find a couple people to step up and defend the idea. As little as I gained from my experience in ed school, I'm still somewhat hesitant to decry all ed schools or the whole notion of rewarding teachers for furthering their education. Can't we find a way to reward teachers for attending programs that help them become better teachers?

-Speaking of rewarding teachers, I continue to be baffled by the fact that so many seem to think that merit pay is a simple undertaking. Even if we assume that standardized test scores are accurate, around 2/3 of teachers don't teach a tested subject. Test scores are going to play some sort of role (and probably a large one) in evaluation of teachers and schools for the foreseeable future, but I hope Sherman Dorn is right and that we're also developing evaluation models that take a myriad of factors into account.

1 comment:

Roger Sweeny said...

Can't we find a way to reward teachers for attending programs that help them become better teachers?

Not the way we're going now. We constantly tear down possible merit pay schemes by saying there's no fair way to determine who is a better teacher than another. If there's no way to determine who's better, there's no way to determine what makes someone better.

Instead, we have a very resilient system that says, "We will assume that the more ed courses you have taken, the better teacher you are. Thus, you will be paid more the more ed courses you have taken."

What a wonderful coincidence that in the ed schools, merit pay ideas are derided.