Saturday, August 21, 2010

Who Will Cast the First Stone?

by Norm Scott
Posted Aug. 20, 2010, last revised, Aug. 21, 9am.

Arne Duncan today announced a one billion dollar supplementary Race To The Top competition. 

The winner will be the first state to have a teacher with extremely low test scores stoned to death. "This technique has been highly successful when used by the Taliban," said Duncan. "While we don't have data – for obvious reasons  – we are guessing that test scores have improved in the areas of Afghanistan where this has been tried."

"Brilliant," proclaimed The Wall Street Journal.

Brent Staples of the NY Times was more reserved. "While this is not a proven tactic to close the achievement gap, we feel the plan holds a lot of promise."

Duncan explained the details. "The money will come from private funding so it will not cost the government a cent – other than the cost of the stones, which we will provide. We will have an auction and the winner will get to cast the first stone."

Hedge fund millionaires and charter school operators, whose teachers are exempt, were already lining up for the bidding war. Bill Gates and Eli Broad are expected to have the advantage.

"We will insist that the people most hurt by the teacher chosen to participate will play a major role in the stoning. Children and their parents MUST be included as part of the process," said Duncan.

"Children First," proclaimed Joel Klein in dissent. Klein later rescinded when Duncan said New York City would be one of the cities allowed to compete. Klein said he would go along with the plan to allow the highest bidder to be the first to toss a stone but clung to a Children Second program. Mayor Bloomberg offered to pick up the cost of the stones to give New York an edge.

AFT president Randi Weingarten was critical. "We don't feel this is productive. Teachers need a seat at the table and should be part of the process in choosing the teacher to be stoned."

Weingarten made the  point that the union had managed to convince the Obama administration to put a limit of one stoning a year.

"Outrageous," said UFT high school VP Leo Casey. "Incredibly, they wanted to stone 10 teachers. TEN!" he screeched. "But we stopped them in their tracks."

After burn
For a critical look at the LA Times article revealing teacher names:

For support see John Merrow, PBS correspondent- a sign of where Gates funding controls the debate on public TV and radio

The LA Times article linking teachers by name with student scores has caused a firestorm among educators and reporters, but I maintain that every savvy person has known for years--long before bubble tests and so-called 'value added' measures, which teachers were cutting it, and which weren't. Think how hard parents fight, and always have, to get certain teachers for their kids. I think administrators are getting off lightly here--they've known who their bad teachers were but haven't done enough to retrain them or move them out of the profession. It's not 'the big bad unions' that deserve all the blame, much as some would like that to be the story. Here are my thoughts, and some strong disagreements from readers too:  Please respond on the blog itself.
Thanks, and best wishes,

John Merrow
Education Correspondent,
PBS NewsHour, and President,
Learning Matters, Inc

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh my! Don't give them any ideas! I can just see Eva Moskowitz and Joel Klein slithering their way to the front of the line with boulders!!! lol

I do like the idea of all teachers wearing a big red "T" around their necks though. Maybe the spouses and children of teachers should wear them as well. We should plan a day or week where teachers nationwide wear their T's. I think it would be good for all the people in neighborhoods, including small business owners, to see how many of their customers are teachers or depend on teachers' salaries. Laying off more teachers will not only hurt the students in schools we teach but will hurt our already shaky local economies.