Hot Button

June 5, 2006

The GetSchooled blog brings up tying teacher pay to student performance and gets quite a few angry comments in response (link via AFT NCLBlog).

The main theme I gather from the comments: teachers can’t be held responsible for bad student performance… sometimes the kids are just too dumb or unruly to be taught. Of course, many other professions require people to work with the situation as it is, not as they would like it to be. Doctors who allow all their patients to die would not stay employed for long and police officers charged with reducing crime in a certain area don’t get to complain that it’s a bad neighborhood. They are judged on the results they achieve given the challenges that they face, and I see no reason why teachers should not do the same. In fact, a better system of teacher pay would probably richly reward those teachers who could address "problem" children better than others. They would certainly be in high demand, along with math and science teachers.

One commenter to the GetSchooled post says "I’ll support this idea when parents and students are held JUST AS accountable as teachers, and ONLY THEN." It seems to me that parents and students are already held accountable for a student’s performance through several mechanisms, including college acceptance, scholarships, job prospects, earning potential, and – in some states – exit exams for high school. Teachers, on the other hand, are often protected from any accountability for their work, e.g. when their pay is tied only to years on the job and courses taken rather than measuring any sort of output.

Another commenter, referring to parents who request specific teachers for their children, says "If parents want to start picking their kids’ teachers, then let them
enroll their little darlings in private school. Will these parents also
try to pick their kids’ professors in college?" Well…no, I guess the parents won’t have much say. Instead, at most colleges, the "kids" will choose which classes and professors to take, and there are websites created by students at some institutions dedicated to picking out the good and bad. That’s much more choice than most kids get in public schools. As a side note, why would a teacher (if the commenter is one) be so derisive in talking about parents who care enough about their "little darlings" to try to get them in a class with a good teacher instead of one who doesn’t care and can’t teach? I’d say that sounds like something any good parent would do.

Here endeth the mini-rant. Thanks for reading and please go on about your business.

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One Response to “Hot Button”

  1. Mrs. Oak Says:

    On the other hand, I also have a number of teacher friends (and one parent) who have been increasingly frustrated with the lack of accountability on the part of the students in that the teachers are required to give passing (and sometimes excellent) grades to students who have performed no work throughout the entirety of the course due to parents who make a fuss about the self esteem and future prospects of their “little darlings” and the cruelty of the teacher who might actually want to give them the failing grade that they earned. Not that all parent advocacy is bad–I graduated from high school a year early (having earned excellent grades in many of the highest level classes offered at the high school) on the strength of my parents’ arguments with the school district. However, maybe if the teacher gives passing grades to the poor students in order to please the parents, administrators and certainly any future teachers who will have to deal with students who willfully learned nothing in the previous years to say nothing of future employers, they will be marked as “good teachers” based on their pass/fail rate and get a raise! I’m still sceptical about the ability of other measures to catch and retain students like this until it is too late. Remedial reading anyone?

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