Wednesday, March 6, 2013

My State's Educational Plan

Someone help me out with this. I am a teacher in the state of Iowa, a state that has traditionally been one of the highest ranking states in the nation in education. Lately we have been falling behind on national assessments that apparently indicate that Iowa's schools are failing our kids. Our state governor has decided that an intervention is needed. Not just a shift in educational policy, but an overhaul of how our schools are structured and teachers are paid. I am a pretty open minded guy when it comes to change, but what they are proposing makes me wonder what direction we are on.

Here is the basis of the program as I understand it. If I am wrong on any part of this, please help me as I want to understand this. There would be Tiers of teachers: Novices, Standard Teachers, and Master Teachers. The Novices would be the newbies, who are in desperate need of mentoring and guidance by the older more experienced teachers. This may be 10% of the staff. They would be hired at a pretty high incoming salary ($35,000 starting if you can believe that), so as to attract the best and the brightest. The majority of the staff (~85%) would be your run of the mill teacher. These would all be paid the same, regardless of years of experience or education. Then you have the top 5%, the glorified Master Teacher who is taken out of the classroom for half of their day for mentoring duties and other administrative goal setting sessions and such. These select few would make more money than the peons below them and be involved with evaluation and other administrative duties.

Explain this to me, please. How does taking the best teachers out of the classroom help our kids? If you take these teachers out of the classroom, districts will have to hire more staff to cover their sections, right? You would think so. When I asked this question, the response was that class size would go up instead of hiring new teachers. My admin quoted some study that said that class size numbers had little to no effect on student achievement. Really? I don't think they have ever been in an Intro to Biology class with 27 kids, most of them with IEP's. I can tell you that my district spent less total dollars on teacher's salaries than they did the year before, and hired more administrators. Our science numbers for next year show that we can not cover the number of sections that students have signed up for. Our choices are to tell kids they can't take science, fill our classes to 30 kids, or hire new staff. Guess which one is off the table.

How do we decide who is a Master Teacher? My state is overhauling its teacher evaluation system as well. I am not sure on the details, but I can tell you that if history is any indicator, it is very difficult to assess a teacher's effectiveness. I am praying that they go by test scores. If that's the case, I have that master teacher status locked! My kids do great on tests, I teach AP Physics!

Someone please help explain this to me. I am still in the dark and may be completely off base on many of my opinions. I am a reasonable guy and would love to discuss this.