Monday, March 14, 2005

Still Runnin Against the Wind

Blowing up Boxes at Starbucks has generated a spirited collection of comments. Good friend PJ (peggyday2 on Zone bridge) approves of my proposals to institute merit pay and to abolish 30% of the administrative jobs, and she would also blow up the federal Education Dept! I agree wholeheartedly. PJ notes that "far too much money has been spent on a system that breeds mediocrity."

Starbucks buddy Melanie suggests that "perhaps merit should begin at the student level." Exactly what I had in mind when I blew up "student tenure."

New friend Marianne (_marianne on Zone) is a truly special teacher of special education students. What a tough job that must be. It is especially tough when kids arrive at 7AM, hungry, tired, sometimes abused. Sadly, that is a problem that can only be fixed by fixing the parents. Bill Cosby has been talking to the black parents. Someone needs to speak to the whites and hispanics.

Special Forces Dave worries about holding teachers accountable when parents are non-existent or worse. I can't fix the parent problem but I do know what to do about the accountability. Throughout private industry, managerial structures have known how to deal with accountability. I managed a department of more than 100 people at Xerox and always know who were the best performers and the worst. I did not have to give them a test. The bottom 10% were clearly identified at all times and ready for layoff whenever it became necessary. I can guarantee you that the teachers at any grammar or high school know who are the poor teachers and the principal spends an inordinate amount of time dealing with that group. So the solution is simple: the principals fire the poor teachers and the school boards support the principals. If the principals themselves are inferior, then the boards need to fire them.

But Dr. Dave wonders what to do about the unions and the "labor law and contracts that protect the weakest teachers." Again the answer is stunningly simple. Contracts expire and labor laws can be changed. It only requires the will of the people. Eventually the people will decide that they care more about their children than about their politics.

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