Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Quality Teacher Scam

Earlier this week, the Courant [see title link] reported that, "Federal officials have ordered Connecticut to bolster efforts to assure that schools in the state's poorest cities get the same kind of high quality teachers that schools in wealthier towns have."

This is the perpetual case of the blind and incompetent bureaucrats mandating yet more ridiculous remedies on public schools. Every educated person knows that the quality teacher badges handed out in suburban schools are largely feel-good consolation prizes that go to school teachers in communities where perfect children get excellent scores on the oh-so-important state and federal tests that in turn make suburban parents feel oh-so-good about how much smarter their children are than adjoining towns whose real estate values are a tad - harrump! - low-ah.

And so we add yet another tempest in a school teapot to the mix of existing educational obfuscation known as school accountability. There is no doubt in my mind that before too long state officials will be recognizing quality teachers in urban schools with a stampede of awards, salutes, certificates of appreciation, and so on. and I say this not because these teachers don't already deserve that respect but because there isn't a snowball's chance in hell the the feds or the state can force anyone in any profession into indentured labor somewhere else.

As readers of this blog know, the quality of teachers is not THE PROBLEM. No, it isn't. An editorial in the New York Times also recognises some of the pandering and half-hearted initiative, "Congress needs to grasp the obvious, which is that the quality of the teacher corps is more crucial to school reform than anything else. The original law required states to provide highly qualified teachers in core subject areas by this year. But the Education Department simply failed to enforce the rule, partly because of back-channel interference by lawmakers who talked like ardent reformers while covering up for state officials clinging to the bad old status quo.

Four years later, the national teacher corps is still in a shambles. Until Congress changes that, everything else will amount to little more than tinkering at the margins.

The trouble is that this shocking admission too is an inadequate indictment of the system.

The federal government has legislated an addiction to high-stakes testing that amounts to a systematic and corrosive corruption of the very tenets of good teaching. And all of the current metrics applied to "quality teaching" in fact have nothing to do with quality and everything to do with conformity and compliance to teaching to tests. In conversations I've had with out-of-district, wealthy community teachers I've been told precisely what those administrations require of teachers.

When a wealthy town receives test scores from a previous year the score is expected to be bested the next year. A wealthy community may have their students testing at a very, very high level and yet during the summer teachers in these schools may receive teaching materials that address finer and finer granularites of the test's nuances. in far too much of Connecticut every higher test scores have become a myopic and obsessive objective of educational content and delivery. The community is not rewarded with smarter or intellectually healthier kids but these results justify real estate values to the satisfaction of a status symbol conscious community.

Advocates of NCLB reform are wrong. A moratorium on NCLB legislation must be advocated immediately and NCLB needs to eventually be repealed. The belief that high-stakes testing is educational research is just as silly as believing charter schools employing low-wage teachers will somehow out-perform public schools defies all logic. The American public has got to stop the brain-rot that NCLB represents.

NCLB is creating a market for "teachers" who are little more that memorization and test-taking coaches. Teachers whose ability to stimulate imagination, play, and student-centric learning are rapidly being driven out of the system. America's great educational strength has never been in producing automatons but in producing non-conformists, rebels, risk-takers, and underdogs. sanitizing the quality of our teachers and students will not help us compete globally, it will ensure our demise.

The best thing citizens can do for our kids is to issue this Congress a pink slip.

From the Courant, Feds Demand Teacher Equity by ROBERT A. FRAHM, Courant Staff Writer:;
Teacher quality is a key element of the No Child Left Behind Act, the 4-year-old school reform law that is the centerpiece of President Bush's educational agenda. The law, which calls for a broad expansion of school testing and a shake-up of schools that fail to make adequate progress, requires states to ensure that all teachers are "highly qualified."

That means that all teachers - aside from having at least a bachelor's degree and state certification - must demonstrate competence in the academic subjects they teach as measured by passing a test, holding an appropriate college major or undergoing a school district review, for instance.

In documents supplied to the federal government, Connecticut reported that all but 3 percent of the state's public school teachers meet the "highly qualified" standard. However, the figures also show that nearly 7 percent of teachers in the state's poorest cities fail to meet the standard, compared with slightly less than 2 percent in wealthier towns.

From the New York Times editorial, Exploding the Charter School Myth;
A federal study showing that fourth graders in charter schools score worse in reading and math than their public school counterparts should cause some soul-searching in Congress. Too many lawmakers seem to believe that the only thing wrong with American education is the public school system, and that converting lagging schools to charter schools would cause them to magically improve.

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