Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I told myself I wouldn't do this

Gov. Rick Snyder came out with proposals for reforming Michigan's education system.  I'm not watching the press conference.

I'm not going to read the article or the accompanying PDF.  I'm certainly not reading the follow-up articles on

And whatever I do, I'm not going to blog about it.

I won't be happy with anything I hear.  I've got real work to do.  I don't have time.  I had four hours of sleep yesterday.  My clothes are slimy with the humidity.  I'm cranky.  No good can come of it.  It will only upset me.


(All of these references come from the Special Message on Education Reform PDF.)

Do schools really give pizza parties on count day?  I think that the attendance taking system actually sees through that ploy.  I have the exact same criticism for this funding model that I had for it when Bush proposed it under NCLB: He wants to give money to schools doing well. A "reward," he calls it, or an incentive, or something.  What about the schools that don't improve?  Well, less money for you.  I forget who said it, but it's still true: Money can't solve everything, but it can solve some things.  It's obvious that a businessman would want to put more money into what works, but it just leaves too many schools behind, and there's no way--NO way--the remaining "good" schools could pick up the slack.  In a competitive environment, the winners pull further ahead, the losers stay really lost.  His solution to this is to erase all school borders and increase on-line learning opportunities.

I disapprove of charter schools.  I don't think more of them will do anything to improve education.  Indeed, in an environment where the people furthest ahead are likely to continue to be so by dint of increased funding, the charter schools won't last long.  They'll be nothing more than an expensive distraction for the next 10 years.

Merit pay is a pipe dream.  It may or may not work for the next 5 years, while people still think it's a great idea.  Then, some funding emergency will come up.  The funding for merit pay will dry up.  Then, all the "incentive" teachers had to do a good job will be gone.  Here's hoping the good teachers stay.  This scenario is just as probable for schools and districts as it is for individual teachers.

I kind of like the idea presented in "Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace."  Anything that makes success in school less dependent on the game of school is a good thing.  The rest of that paragraph sounds like it was inspired by Waiting for Superman.

"Cost-efficient, competitive, innovative, and effective."  Hmm.  I'll ponder the grouping of these four adjectives later.  Particularly their order.

The symbolic gesture of creating "a P-20 state education system" by making the state school fund pay for the whole thing, while simultaneously not paying anything extra into the system, would be laughable, if there were anything at all funny about it.

Effective feedback for teachers is important. Fair, rigorous and meaningful evaluation systems are important.  Peer learning and shared practice are important.  Intelligent use of technology to enhance performance is important.  Recognition of high performance is important.  I don't know if reward for high performance is or not.  Research suggests not.  The point is, though, we don't have any of those other things.  We're not getting them any time soon.  It will be good to have them.  If nothing else, this speech should be able to push everyone in the direction of getting them.

I will be evaluated on the effectiveness of my teaching to the tune of 40% based on student achievement growth, when I've seen some evidence that the state's standardized tests are in any way a meaningful assessment of same.

I don't think most administrators are able to put in the time to do teacher evaluations properly.  On a similar note, who's evaluating the efficacy of administrators?  We're all about transparency and accountability, right?  And I don't mind about effectiveness in teaching being more important than seniority, although I think more experienced teachers often have a great deal to add.  We simply have no system for determining effectiveness of teachers.  I really need to find the link, but not so long ago, I remember reading that when Arizona got rid of its seniority priority laws, they fired all the experienced teachers.  This was not because they were ineffective, but because they're expensive.  Whether or not the law is intended this way, it will be used this way by increasingly cash-strapped school districts.

And the money phrase: "Michigan has to nurture great teachers, make sure they find satisfying career paths that reward them for teaching excellence, and keep them in the classroom[...]."  You're doing a heck of a job, Rickie.

PD.  I am going to write to my congressman and ask him to propose legislation to officially change the name of our state from Michigan to New Michigan.  This will allow us to break completely with the old way of educating our kids, and symbolize the new and shining future that we'll create for them.  I further propose that every 100 years we successfully manage not to be annexed by Indiana, we add another "New" to the name.  Not necessarily to the beginning.  "New Michigan New" has a nice symmetry to it.

Edited to add:  I just saw the Education Dashboard.  Under the category "Value for money," the only metric is the percentage of school districts running a deficit for 3 years or more.

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