Realize When You Are Part of the Problem

Realize When You Are Part of the Problem

Matt HealeyTuesday,24 March 2015

In the U.S., we have a problem with our education system. This is a mystery to no one. All you have to do is look at our rankings compared to other countries. We ranked 14th in cognitive skills according to Pearson. We consistently rank outside of the top 20 in math and science. The question is what is wrong and why don’t we fix it?

The problem is likely to be a combination of lots of factors. One of these is clearly the quality of U.S. teachers. Now I understand that criticizing the effectiveness of teachers usually results in a quick response from the teachers union. After all, if you listen to the teachers and the teachers union, then you will quickly realize that the worst teacher is a better person than anyone else on the planet. The problem is that the statistics show that something is wrong.

I was reminded of this in Monday’s New York Times article about Andrew Cuomo’s attempts to change teacher evaluations. Cuomo is trying to change a system in which 96% of teachers were in the top half of the ratings scale – either “Effective” or “Highly Effective.” So 96% of teachers were in the top half. That only works in a country that ranks outside the top 20 in math, but I digress. In one district, Southold, Long Island, all 82 were rated either “Effective” or “Highly Effective.” Given that, you would have expected that the students did awesome on the tests, right? But they didn’t. 35% passed the reading test and 39% passed the math test. So the teachers are awesome, but the students suck. This makes no sense to me.

Now, I am not sure that evaluating teachers based on the results of the testing is the correct approach. The problem is that the teachers union is so resistant to changing anything expect increasing teacher pay, that nothing can be done. Until the teachers union begins to understand that they are part of the problem, there are bad teachers who need to be terminated, and that the system they have built is contributing to the problem, the focus on testing will continue.

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