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


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Grey Matter
May 16, 2018 - 10:40am PT
That is a good story; I actually did that once in a math class. The curve was based completely on the top person's total grade so 90% of that is an A, 80% is a B, etc. I purposely lost a lot of points on the last assignment
in order to lower the curve.

However I could make up an opposing "funny story" about a case where the "team leader" takes credit for everyone else's work in class,
spends all his time schmoozing the board,
and gets paid 300 times as much as anyone else, (all in subsidized stock options so his tax rate is less than everyone else's)
regardless of the long term success of the project.

No this story does not typically apply to a classroom, only to big companies. Take Jack Welsh or Carly Fiorina as examples.

Boulder climber
May 16, 2018 - 10:49am PT
I think we sometimes might hire really wrong persons.

Gym climber
May 16, 2018 - 11:05am 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.

Trad climber
'cross the great divide
May 16, 2018 - 11:45am PT
One of the big problems with working in the public school system as I see it (as 27 year high school teacher), is it is probably the closest thing to a socialist system we have in our culture.

Pay is based on education and years of service, without enough regard to results in the classroom. In the last several years, I have watched a number of colleagues get their online masters degrees in non-rigorous programs, sometimes completely unrelated to what they teach just to get the pay bump. One of the most popular online masters programs was recently de-certified because of its poor quality. Nonetheless, having that degree leads to more pay, even for second-rate teachers. If you stay in the profession long enough, that's the other way to make more money, even if you're an incompetent fool. Try discussing the issue of merit pay with a union teacher, and it's a non-starter.

This is the time of year when next year's teaching schedules are handed out. The assistant principal at my school who is in charge of scheduling likes to say this time of year that, "it's not a person, it's a job." Everyone is considered so f'ing equal, that the distinction between a skilled teacher that puts in countless unpaid hours to do their best teaching in the classroom, and the teacher that is just coasting along the path of least resistance is ignored.

This is one of the most de-motivating aspects of teaching. A person that actually has high personal/professional standards that exceed the expectations of the system isn't always valued. Sometimes they are actually resented and accused of "caring too much." I have faced some aspect of this every year that I have been a teacher. It's easier to survive in this system being mediocre and not caring too much than it is to actually believe your job is to challenge students to improve themselves.

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?
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