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Saturday, January 09, 2010

The two headed dragon of bad education

The "Race to the top" concept is interesting in that it could take a slice out of the two headed dragon of bad education. Teacher tenure and compensation.

As we march off to protect the villagers and do battle with the dragon not all of the swings we are hearing about are going very deep, but there are some good scratches.

If the hype holds true and up to 50% of teacher pay is based on real result then that would be a huge hack at the first head of the dragon.

If a strong pay compensation change passes it could become death blow to bad education results. Mediocre teachers would get dramatically less pay and either try their hand at helping an under performing school, improve their skills or quit. The one headed dragon could bleed out on its own.

All these years I have been hearing teachers unions say "Just give more money and the results will come". Now they have a chance to get more money but will have to show results and suddenly people are hearing the cry "Its not our fault if the kids do bad. It is all the family breakdown." The dragon puffs smoke.

Is it the money or the family?

If the child is the problem then I am sure they would agree that more money to schools would have a minimal positive impact on the students. Possibly they think the state should put the money into family counseling and things like that for better results with the children.


Here is another idea. How about at least releasing the average score of the students being taught to the parents. Currently this is kept a secret. If parents know or can find out what teacher is doing a good job in a school and what teacher isn't then good parents will move their children as is best for them. It is good to know what parts of the dragon work and what parts don't.

We have an opportunity to get both heads of the dragon this special session. The other rumor of change is shifting when teachers get tenure from possibly year 3 to year 4. Not much of a swing in that move. That head could be possibly getting a scratch. Getting rid of teacher tenure altogether and replacing it with civil service protection is hoped for by many conservatives and would be a good chop at the neck.

Name another group of regular employees who get similar lifetime protections as teachers do? Good luck. Holding principals accountable is only effective when they can hold teachers accountable. After tenure that becomes quite difficult. It is like giving a dragon armor.

The sword is in the stone. The legislature has its hands on the handle. Will we be able to pull it out and fight? Or will we get scorched?

Stay tuned.


  1. I agree with your points, though I think you would have to weigh student/teacher performance to account for the school system. A teacher who produces C- level students at a school in inner city Memphis or Nashville might actually be doing a better job than one who produces A-level students at Brentwood or Oak Ridge. Maybe consider improvement in scores from year to year? A teacher who takes failing students and gets them to C-level is probably doing a much better job than one who gets B-level students and keeps them at B-level.

    Also, any teacher will tell you that most classes consist of a handful of outstanding students and a handful of troublemakers, with the majority falling somewhere in between. They can become good students or troublemakers, but they would be far more likely to be good if the troublemakers could be kicked out (after some warnings, of course). One troublemaker in a class can make it difficult for every other student to learn. So how about giving teachers and principals the ability to remove troublemakers from classrooms?

  2. I like the idea of removing the top and bottom performers and taking an average of the others. Bonus pay would be based on marked increase in performance after a set level.

    Of course that is just me.


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