Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ponderings On Reform

A two day conference of regional National Education Association affiliates was held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania this week to discuss alternative compensation and Race To The Top. The information gathered at this event will be very useful as debate around these issues moves forward.

In this post, I'll share just a few of the interesting comments from the conference:

Alternative compensation proposals that tie teacher pay directly to student performance go against models of compensation for other professionals. For example, a doctor's performance is not judged by outcomes because those outcomes have too many variables. The competency of a doctor is judged by his/her education and training, as well as his/her ability to follow established protocol and process.

The academic performance of students is being totally accredited to teachers while ignoring socio-economic realities. With only a little consideration we can see how this plays out. Children come to school without adequate health care, including dental care. There are some estimates that as many as one in five children are going to school with dental pain. Nutritional health is dubious for poor youth. In poor families, parental involvement with the academic life of the child may be minimal, not because of apathy but because of working multiple jobs to provide sustenance. Frequent moving is often a by-product of poverty, as are unsafe homes and neighborhoods. Whereas middle class families often engage in enriching hobbies or vacations with their children, this is not available for the poor. Our educators who have students with challenging backgrounds could probably greatly expand this list.

The use of alternative compensation and charter schools are dominant themes in the latest education reform push, but neither have supporting data that shows improved student academic performance.

In spite of acknowledgment by education experts that achievement tests are inadequate measures of learning, the tests continue to be the measure of our students, schools, and educators.

These are just a few of the ideas that surfaced at this conference. Much more will follow in future posts.

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