Are we hiring the wrong teachers -or paying them too little?


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Sport climber
Vacaville, CA
May 16, 2018 - 12:00pm PT
Good post WBW, as my wife is a teacher in the same vein as you have discussed and has been singled out for "caring too much" and has actually had conflict with other teachers over this very topic as well.
However, the merit pay issue is one I don't agree with you on unless it can be implemented in a reasonable and realistic way.

Where a teacher teaches significantly impacts their test scores. IMO that is the biggest failing of the merit-based proponents who want to focus on test scores as the measure of merit. They do not recognize that teachers who teach at affluent white neighborhoods with helicopter parents who actually force their kids to focus on school have a much easier time and unsurprisingly higher test scores than teachers in title 1 / low socio-economic neighborhoods.

My wife teaches in a title one school where the vast majority of her students are ELA, most living well below the poverty line, 1st or 2nd generation immigrants with home lives that would make the saltiest of us tear up to hear their stories.

Test score "merit" programs would drive her away from the schools where people like her are needed the most.

Social climber
Southern Arizona
May 16, 2018 - 12:50pm PT
Win hearts first, then you can win minds.

Most teachers don't much like students. You got to love them.

I don't see that sentiment expressed here much.

May 16, 2018 - 12:55pm PT
Modern education is the slaughterhouse of the soul .......
Dingus Milktoast

Trad climber
Minister of Moderation, Fatcrackistan
May 16, 2018 - 02:02pm PT
Teachers who detest their students live in a hell of their own making. All those little mirrors reflecting....


Trad climber
'cross the great divide
May 16, 2018 - 02:22pm PT
Ah Werner, your typical opinion expressed from the viewpoint of a person that just hasn't gotten out of the Valley enough to know what you're talking about. What do you know about modern education? honestly . .

A "modern" education can be exactly what a person needs to express what their soul is made of.

Roughster, I absolutely agree with you about the difficulty of defining what constitutes "merit". I teach in an affluent high school where the kids have every advantage possible, and then some. I would never claim that what measures a teacher's competence at a school like mine should be the same as a school where kids arrive each day without having breakfast.

Social climber
Desolation Basin, Calif.
May 16, 2018 - 02:26pm PT
The worst form of ignorance is when people don't even know the basics of the opponents they attack. Someone needs a lesson in socialism that isn't taught by Fux and Fiends.

True. OK, let's get down to basics:
Socialism is worker control of the workplace. It's not people expecting free stuff, or some sort of mediocre equality. It's definitely not state ownership of production.
Bad Climber

Trad climber
The Lawless Border Regions
May 16, 2018 - 03:44pm PT
I feel/felt your pain, wbw. I, too, however, have a problem with merit pay because I have no control of my "inputs," i.e. the students themselves. It was not uncommon to have half or more of my classes virtually refuse to read a stinkin' one page editorial that would be the starting point for a class discussion and then a major essay. Seriously. Lazy, distracted lumps just sitting there thinking they're going to college. I'm doing all the hardcore cheer leading, offering, encouraging meeting with me, one-on-one help, urging them to tutorial centers, you effin' name it. A huge, huge percentage couldn't be bothered, and, because I had standards, the D's and F's flowed like wine at a Vulgarian Gala. So how is my performance to be measured? I worked my ass off, grinding through crappy essays like a galley slave when way too many of these pieces were composed the night before. And when these students fail to improve, I am the one who has failed? Seriously? How do we measure merit? Of course, one result of such policies is that you will get teachers cheating on the exams to make their performance look better. This has in fact happened. Then there's the colleague of mine--and I'm certain not unique in the world of grade inflation and diminishing expectations--who simply lowered her standards so much that--surprise!--she's having an 85% "success" rate--way higher than anyone else in the department. I guess she's just a super genius, a real go-getter, and the rest of us are just punters who need to worship at her feet. Merit pay in education is very difficult if not impossible to implement. Like all business style analogies, it sounds good but doesn't hold up in practice.

Now there ARE things we can do to improve education, but that's for another post. In short, however, it means recruiting good teachers and giving them autonomy and support--i.e. let 'em flunk the ones who earn it. Always champion good standards.

Rant off.


PS: One quick example of a real success story at my old college--the nursing department. They had a super high success rate for students passing the board exams, BUT, and this cannot be stressed enough, the students who got in had to fight for it and demonstrate their preparation by completing a bunch of lower division courses and maintaining a certain GPA. Alas, this could not last because the program wasn't being "inclusive" enough, so standards were lowered, and the success rate of students taking the boards went down. If I can select my own students, damn it, bro, I'll show you "success"!!

Grey Matter
May 16, 2018 - 05:59pm PT
The Charter-School Crusader
Bad Climber

Trad climber
The Lawless Border Regions
May 17, 2018 - 09:25am PT
Interesting stuff, Splater. I admire what these hard-charging charter schools are doing. Their success is hard to deny, but we have to acknowledge the selection process, something mentioned repeatedly in the article. Parents are fighting to get their kids into these schools, which is understandable. That means, of course, that these parents really care how their children are educated and so are most likely going to make sure that the kid sticks with it, gets her work done, etc. This is manifestly not the case for way too many public school children. Conventional schools have to deal with whatever walks in the door, and that is why I have huge respect for my k--12 colleagues. Good God! The horrors my 2nd grade teacher friend relates would give most of you PTSD, but she's back in the classroom everyday, doing the heavy lifting, trying her best. At the college level, I would see the mediocre, low-performing students, but I didn't have to deal with half the crap found at lower levels. My lame students usually dropped or I dropped them after they'd missed a couple of weeks of classes, which happened pretty frequently.


Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
May 17, 2018 - 09:51am PT
^^^^ Had that discussion with third and fourth grade teachers last week. The third grader has 30 kids and one ADHD outta control monster whose parents donít care and who consumes the majority of her time at the expense of all the others. Obviously her administration doesnít care either. What a sh!t show!

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
May 17, 2018 - 03:46pm PT
I donít think I have ADHD (woah look at that pretty flower, i should learn more about block chain and machine learning... did I move the clothes to the dryer? I should make some summer vacation plans... oh wait Iím posting letís finish that), but I was an annoying student at times. I used to bring a ziplock bag to algebra class to use as a pillow on my desk- just to be inflammatory and win some points with other delinquents in my class.

That teacher would sometimes kick me out before I even walked in the classroom if he didnít like the look on my face :)

I respect him now for it!

Trad climber
May 18, 2018 - 08:30am PT
Late to the discussion and husband of a former teacher, now nurse.

Teaching is the highest paying, no accountability job there is. That's exactly what the unions have bargained for over decades, so no real surprise here.

As a parent, I'd prefer the opposite, I'd rather pay teachers double with high accountability and turnover.


May 18, 2018 - 12:40pm PT
Something that's crazy in this education profession...

Many brand new teachers come into the field with 5 years of education, maybe six, and they have a bachelor's degree, a teaching credential, and a master's degree.

I think that's crazy. And with that Masters they get big bumps on the salary schedule.
looking sketchy there...

Social climber
Lassitude 33
May 18, 2018 - 01:34pm PT
My wife was a teacher (HS and Junior College) and BadClimber's observations are dead on point to her experiences.

A student's home life and degree of parental support are certainly the best predictors of educational success. Teachers have zero control over this.

That kids with good parental support and/or better home life from poorly performing schools do well in Charter Schools should shock no one. That teachers in Public Schools who are left with dealing with everyone else have a tough job should be equally obvious.

Trad climber
'cross the great divide
May 18, 2018 - 02:22pm PT
Teaching is the highest paying, no accountability job there is.

This is one of the more clueless comments I've read on this forum in a long time, and that's saying a lot!

Big Wall climber
May 18, 2018 - 02:57pm PT
Charter schools are effectively re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Unlike public schools, they can filter out the "undesirables" and thus easily show better average results.

Kids who have parents with means can be driven to those charter schools and avoid all those pesky kids with learning impediments and those darn ESL kids.

Private schools get to be even choosier, and their clients are almost always in the top 15-25% of income.

Once classes become too concentrated with the undesirable poor, slow, and behaviorally challenged kids it gets really easy to show how badly these public schools are "failing" (especially if hating on public institutions was part of your pre-planned agenda anyway). Failing schools don't deserve more good money thrown after bad after all, so justification for raising taxes goes out the window. Class size goes up while teacher quality goes down. The whole process can spiral down in a self reinforcing process.

But it must be the teacher's unions and Obama's fault, right?

May 18, 2018 - 08:05pm PT
Teaching is the highest paying, no accountability job there is.
This is one of the more clueless comments I've read on this forum in a long time, and that's saying a lot!

Yet, as long as you show up and do the minimum to keep your job, your pay raise is a guarantee...
Bad Climber

Trad climber
The Lawless Border Regions
May 19, 2018 - 11:18am PT
Well said, Moofie. It's a miserable nut to crack.


Social climber
Southern Arizona
May 19, 2018 - 09:31pm PT
ExfifteenExfifteen: Yet, as long as you show up and do the minimum to keep your job, your pay raise is a guarantee...

Correct. Sometimes (sometimes) it makes sense to do it that way. There are sometimes certain things that you donít want to attempt to measure (because itís hard or stupid to do it that way), and other times because one gets unintended consequences.

There was this company known for efficiency and productivity. There was never any waste. All profits went to the company and itís employees, who often made enough money running machines as to live next door to doctors and lawyers and accountants. Secretaries were found to be sitting at their typewriters pushing meaningless keys as fast as they could. (The company was Lincoln Electric.)

Sometimes the greatest reward is intrinsic, not extrinsic. It can be very difficult to find those people sometimes.

Social climber
May 20, 2018 - 05:58am PT
It won't matter as you will always be drawing from the same pool: Our society- you're going to get every type of person. We tend to mirror where we came from.
The same as any job. You can narrow the funnel by encouraging certain skills like they do for engineering- but that might not be wise as you will end up with a bunch of clones with similar vision.
Elementary teachers tend to be really hard workers. English teachers also put in the time if their good.
The teacher has no choice on the ability or the quality of the material they work with. You take the kids you get and do your best.
Same with the families- no choice in the matter.
Some people want to paint a broad brush statement that covers all situations- but like everyone being different -every kid needs many different things. Sometimes you get it in school. sometimes not.
You try to pay enough so you don't bankrupt your state and so you can give teachers a livable wage.
Almost everyone on this forum has had some education, so they feel they are entitled to an opinion based on their experience- not too much backing up most of the ideas IMO- just words flopping around.
I just retired after 32 years in the classroom. Taught somewhere around 5000 students. It was a great career and I was good at it.
The people I would listen to are the ones who have actually been in the classroom teaching.
The value of a union is that it protects your right to an opinion without being fired if you disagree with your administration- check out Wisconsin, they don't have unions anymore and so they can trim out any dissenting votes by dismissing the teachers. The pushy people in the communities are given more voice- but does it make for a better experience for the kids?
Regarding trimming out the fat- the kids do this for you. They know if a teacher is a dud and they sink that ship. In the first five years about half of teachers get out of the profession- the kids chase them out, by making them miserable.
Very few veteran teachers are incompetent- at least at the schools I worked in Minnesota. Not to say that they didn't get tired or unmotivated-but everyone has those problems.
You can cherry pick and find the stories you want to back up your opinion.
If you're a teacher you have a responsibility to put out the best lessons you can
Parents need to provide support as best they can for their kids and to communicate with their schools.
Some of you might have children of your own, so you know that raising a kid is a pretty messy job- you do what you can.
Some of you even had parents, so you know what a pain in the ass you were and how miserable you made everyone else.
I was thinking about what the most important skill I developed over my career- it was having the ability, after a good day or a bad day to be able to get up the next day and do it again and again and again. Ultimately what I decided was that I could be most influential if I had built relationships with my students and their families.
Sorry for the ramble.

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