Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Accountability...for Daniels?

The State of the State is over.

In the 30-minute speech, he hit all the expected points. Daniels touted his trumped up job numbers. He talked about the budget, spending cuts, Indiana is better than blah blah...you've heard it before.

Daniels spent the most time on education. It's something near and dear to my heart. As many of you know, teaching is not only my job, but it's been a passion of mine since I was very little. I always wanted to be a teacher, and I've gotten the chance to do it since 1997.

Unfortunately, we have entered a period of time that is as hostile to public schools and to teachers as any that I can remember. Governor Daniels and State School Superintendent Tony Bennett have decided to sell out public education to business and move it away from our students, and they're doing it in the name of the students and education reform.

Of course, the Governor can't say that. He has to say the right things, and he talks a great game. Governor Daniels can sell ice to eskimos when it comes to education because we truly need reform. I don't deny that, and I don't think any teacher worth anything does. I just tend to think that some...not all of the reforms are misplaced.

I like some of the things that Governor Daniels and Superintendent Bennett are proposing. I think some of the changes in teacher licensing are right on target. No longer do teachers have to waste money on college classes just to renew a license. Rules implemented last year makes professional development count as a path to renew. Sure, you can do the traditional Master's Degree or CRU credits, but teachers can also now get points for going to conferences, attending seminars, and participating in in-house trainings.

I don't, however, like the idea of merit pay or vouchers.

Merit pay will not work because teachers will stop collaborating with each other. If my pay rises or my evaluation gets better based upon me being better than you, then why should I share anything with you. Why should I serve as a mentor to a teacher? Why should I take on a student teacher? This will destroy the spirit of collaboration among teachers.

I also have not heard a cogent plan about how merit pay will work with elective teachers. The last rumor I heard was that elective teachers would be aligned with English or math. 51 percent of your evaluation would then be determined by students you may or may not be teaching and certainly something that's not being taught in your classroom directly. If we're going to do merit pay, do we now have to develop End of Course Assessments for every class taught in an Indiana school? That seems to be the only way we can fairly pay teachers in a merit pay system.

As far as this idea of teaching to a test, it seems to be something totally antithetical to what schools should be about. Teaching to the test is not teaching students to think. We are further standardizing education when we should be activating creativity and individuality. That's the key to making education work, I think. Please click here to go back to my Monday blog post and watch an excellent video on educational reform in a way I believe would be a step in the right direction.

As far as vouchers go, I hope that they would come with a caveat that any school that takes in students that are paying tuition by voucher would be held to the same standards as public schools. Same thing for charters. If we need more of them, let's force the charters to have open enrollment in the same way public schools do. Let's compare apples to apples.

There are other ways to do education reform, but I truthfully don't think Mitch Daniels or Tony Bennett want to go that route. These are ways that would have possibly worked in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, or 2010. Instead, Mitch waits until he has a 40 mile per hour wind at his back here. He's going to get his reform, and he's likely going to get it in almost any way he wants it. Elections have consequences! I keep saying it.

Daniels should not be calling this agenda pro-student. It's not. It's not pro-teacher or pro-school. This is a business-created model, and schools are NOT businesses. Students are not products, and I hope that some members of the General Assembly agree.

If this doesn't work, can we reduce the Governor's pay?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Since schools perform a service in exchange for money they are by definition a business.

I agree that any private school accepting state vouchers should follow the same standards and admissions criteria as public schools... meaning, I think, that they need to be state accredited.

A good merit pay system would reward whatever objective it wants to achieve. If collaboration is desired then the merit system will be designed to reward that objective.

Measurable progress is not a foreign concept to the educational system. Couldn't it simply be a test given at beginning and end of each school year for each course taken? Who said only ECAs acceptable?