Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rewarding Teachers

Day 82: Working with Another TeacherImage by Old Shoe Woman via Flickr

If you care to look you will find dozens of articles just like this one. Articles about states passing laws requiring teachers to show improvements in student test scores or lose their jobs.

First, I think it should be obvious, but it isn't, that one test per year is just bad science. We need a real way to measure teacher performance, preferably based on a combination of several metrics.

Second, if we pass a law like this how is that going to play out in the classroom?

  • Who is going to take the IEP students?

    • “Not I”, said the teacher with 10 years of seniority.

  • Who is going to take the disruptive students?

    • “Not I”, said the team leaders

    • “I'll send that disruptive child to the office everyday before 8:01 so I can teach the other 29 students in my classroom.” Said the teacher who got stuck with them.

  • Who is going to work in the worst schools?

    • “Not I”, said the teacher who wants to feed his children and pay the mortgage next year.

  • Who is going to fix the problems of poverty, gangs, poor parenting, and drugs that are out of the control of the teachers?

    • “Not I”, said the politician who really could care less.

In Time Magazine there was an article recently about motivating students. Many folks were in a big uproar because they felt this was paying for grades. Unfortunately that was about as far of the mark as you could get. In reality paying students to get A's or B's (though a time honored tradition among parents) had almost no effect at all. What did affect students grades was to pay (or reward) students for doing something they could control that we know will help improve their grades. Like reading books, or finishing homework, or showing up on time ready to go, or NOT disrupting class.


Let me repeat that, REWARDING STUDENTS FOR DOING SOMETHING THEY COULD CONTROL THAT WE KNOW WILL HELP IMPROVE THEIR GRADES.


Uh, duh. So how do we reward teachers for doing something that will improve their teaching and that they can control?


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