Thursday, October 16, 2008

Moronic Statement of the Week Award

We had a story in the paper the other day about the issue of merit pay for teachers. The concept sounds great: Reward the best teachers for the work they do while motivating the lesser lights in the faculty lounge to improve. The problem is that what sounds great in theory is hard as hell to put into practice. Who decides which teacher is doing a good job and which one is not? Of course, the teachers unions are against it. They would rather just get automatic raises, per their set-in-stone contracts and salary steps, without an in-depth review of their performance. As long as you don't get yourself fired, you're getting your raise. But, on the other hand, a merit-based pay system is very subjective. Base it on test scores, you say? Fort Cherry business manager Paul Sroka noted - correctly, in my opinion - that a class could do well on standardized tests because they're a smart bunch of kids, not because the teacher was great. The most ridiculous comment in the debate came from merit pay proponent Denise Kuhn, president of Ringgold School Board. She said, "You can ask a student, 'Who, in your opinion, goes over and above the call of duty?' They could tell you." Great plan. We'll allow a bunch of 13-year-olds to determine which teachers deserve raises. Could it be the one who lets students do what they want in the classroom? Maybe the one who shows movies all the time? The one who's pretty or handsome? The one who grades really easy? The one who doesn't give a lot of homework? Congratulations, Ms. Kuhn. You have won the "Moronic Statement of the Week Award." I believe that the majority of teachers do a good job, and I would never want to trade positions with them. However, there is always room for improvement. Maybe the real answer to getting better teachers is doing a better job of hiring them in the first place. Improve the process for screening the applicants. Conduct a better review of their educational background and how well they did in college and as a student teacher. Do a better job of interviewing the would-be educators. And, for heaven's sake, quit hiring people just because they're alumni of your school district or, even worse, because they're somebody's relative.



Blogger Ellipses said...

Denise Kuhn... at first I thought you were talking about Mrs. Kuhn from Trinity (she would then be "formerly" of Trinity in that case)... but I think that is Janice Kuhn... I was going to say that Mrs. Kuhn was the gifted support teacher at Trinity and that her interactions with that group of students may have colored her judgment on the abilities of students to evaluate their instructors... but since this is not the case, it's kind of a moot point.


October 16, 2008 at 12:45 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

I don't know what would be a good solution for determining appropriate raises for teachers. We all know that there are some teachers who genuinely love what they do and others who are skating through their careers with appealing work hours, plenty of vacation and not much demand on them.

Having done some substitute teaching, and having attended college later in my life, I can tell you that there are some people who can teach and others who just cannot. Rating them based on that wouldn't be fair. I like what Brant suggested...start before they're even hired.

My children were somewhat of a handful for several of their teachers throughout elementary and middle school. Many evenings, I was presented with a note from this teacher or that detailing that day's offense. I'd estimate that probably 60% of the letters had some sort of error, be it spelling or grammatical. After appropriately lecturing my kid, I took the note and corrected the errors with a red pen, signed it, and had my child return it to the teacher. If they can't write a simple sentence correctly, how can they teach my child to?

October 16, 2008 at 1:35 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

Brant, what would you think of making "The Moronic Statement of the Week Award" a regular feature on the blog? Perhaps some of the posters might want to offer suggestions through the course of the week, and we can vote on it on Fridays.

October 16, 2008 at 1:42 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

I second that... There isn't a cohesive feature on Brant's blog (but there is a great deal more content) like there is on Park's... Maybe you can twist the title around to create a fun acronym...


October 16, 2008 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

I'll work on that. Maybe we could make it "Idiot of the Week," because sometimes actions speak louder than words.

October 16, 2008 at 1:55 PM  

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