Wednesday, May 02, 2007

No Gold Stars for You Kristof! ... Well Maybe One

For inspiration, presidential candidates might look at this bold three-part plan for improving American schools:

  • End requirements for teacher certification.
  • Make tenure more difficult to get so weak teachers can be weeded out after two or three years on the job.
  • Award $15,000 annual bonuses to good teachers for as long as they teach at schools in low-income areas.

Comprehensive education reform package. Straight from AEI? Or Heritage? Nope. Try the Hamilton Project with Robert Gordon of the Center for American Progress, Thomas Kane of Harvard and Douglas Staiger of Dartmouth. Nicholas D. Kristof writes in his education column, and teachers react with the usual banal and childish argument that you can’t have an opinion about education without having taught.

Would I be as good or bad a teacher without certification? It’s tough to say, but four years out from my teacher education experience I can’t say I remember a whole lot of it. Admittedly I have a penchant for rose color reminiscences.

Would I be excited about entering a profession where tenure is hard to acquire? It depends how hard. If I had to publish or perish as I would if I were pursing a PhD to be a professor, then no. If I had to meet reasonable benchmarks that didn’t solely rely on my students’ performances on one high stakes test, then yes that is fine with me.

Would I work in a high needs district for an extra 15 large a year so long as the benchmarks I was to meet were reasonable? Sign me up!

There’s one significant problem to Kristof's thinking and a lot of little problems that I won't mention here tonight. There are too many teaching jobs that must be filled to teach the nation’s 60 million plus students. Efficient hiring of that many professionals ("efficient" because we never want to pony up for education the way we probably should) requires some kind of standardization. Ending requirements for teacher certification altogether would require a lot more resources re: hiring and firing. And at the end of the day what will we be left with left with? Think burnout, content geeks who don’t know what they've signed up for (after all if you made it through college and were successful enough to achieve highly, as I am assuming you would need to have done to be recruited to join the ranks of a non-certified teaching field, you probably have a somewhat slanted view of what education is like for most people) oh, and don't forget a bunch of tough-nosed, go-getter, type A elementary school teachers. I know sarcasm, impatience, and no nonsense are the dream team personality of every child’s favorite elementary school teacher.

Before you quip, I already know I'm not cut out for the challenges of primary school. Hats off to them though. Hats off.

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