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Now it is the principals' fault that it is all the teachers' fault ...

The destruction of Delaware public education continues on many levels.

The latest round come from Rodel flack Secretary of Education Mark Murphy in his claim that the system is failing because more principals have to be tough enough to list more teachers as ineffective.

Turns out that the buy-in of principals to the new Component V evaluation system was only about ... 1%.  That's how many teachers they listed as being ineffective.

This bothers both Murphy and the other Rodel flacks the News Journal editorial board (not to mention the ever-ignorant Publius ed Decere) because, after all, the only thing necessary to improve the educational system is keep firing the teachers we have until better ones miraculously show up.

Perhaps, just perhaps, they don't actually understand how this works.

Every public school teaching opening generally results in dozens of applications, because there are far more people out there on the market who want to teach than there are teaching jobs.  Building administrators spend hours combing over the resumes sent in by the hopeful candidates.  Some have years of experience.  Some are nationally board certified.  Some are newly graduated hopefuls with wide eyes and big dreams.  They have all (not surprisingly) dressed up their resumes to show themselves off to the best possible extent.

Normally, from these haystacks, the administrators attempt to select the three best candidates for each position for personal interviews.  Sometimes these interviews are scheduled to include other teachers, or parents.  Sometimes they involve having the teacher show a portfolio or present a lesson.  Usually they take at least an hour apiece on top of the hours already spent going through the applications.

Then a choice is made.  About 30% of the time (far more if the administrators happen to work for a low-paying or high-poverty district) the first-choice candidate turns down the position because he or she has already received a better offer from a higher-paying or higher-performing school.  Then they go on to candidate two, or three, or even start all over.  [Thanks to Delaware's idiotic unit count mechanism, but the way, the administrators are often interviewing after the very best teachers have already taken jobs in NJ, PA, MD, or at local charters.]

The newly hired teachers go through district orientation and probably ends up in some sort of mentoring program.  Then they are dumped into a classroom, often days before the school year begins, and are told that the monster from Rodel will come eat them if they don't make their students all qualify to go to Stanford by the end of October.

About twenty years ago there was this amazing (amazingly stupid) idea that "assessment drives instruction."  It became the basis for the high-stakes testing regimes of New Directions, No Child Left Behind, Vision 2012 2015 2020, and Race to the Top that have done so well for American public education.  The theory is that if you let some faceless non-entities rather than teachers decide what it is important for their students to know, then make up a high-stakes test to assess that, everything will work out and they'll all go to Stanford ...

Fortunately or unfortunately, Stanford has not had to purchase Nevada to build extra dormitories.

Now we have a new mantra, which (if we are honest) works out like this:

Evaluation drives instruction which is driven by assessment that teachers have no control over.

Got it?  I knew you did.

See, the real question facing building administrators every year when they complete Jack Markell's idiotically mandated teacher evaluations is, "Am I seriously likely to find anybody better to go into this classroom next fall?"

And in most cases the answer is NO.  Why?  Because teachers don't make squat, and people who don't make squat are not likely to put up with such crap.  Two true cases (without names).

One of the best elementary teachers I have ever met decided that she should get out of the field because she could make far better money working full-time as a cashier at Delaware Park, and could satisfy her urge to teach by taking a private tutoring job for disadvantaged kids that pays $30/hour.

One of the most promising young high-school science teachers I have ever known is not in any Delaware classroom, but is sitting behind the Genius Bar at an Apple Computer Store, where he makes $10K/year more than he would have made as a starting teacher, and doesn't have to take schoolwork home with him every night.

So whose fault is that?  Jack Markell, Rodel, Arne Duncan, the News Journal Editorial Board, and Mark Murphy will be glad to tell you:  it's the fault of the damned principals who won't fire enough teachers.


Anonymous said…
Damn Steve, great article.
delacrat said…
Underlying the myriad educational controversies is the unspoken premise that education is the path out of the current economic malaise; and by extension at the root of it. It's not job-off shoring, it's "ourfailingschools" we need to fix. We don't need to hold financial racketeers accountable, that's for little people like teachers. Ruinous "free trade" agreements... OK! It's your schools curriculum that needs reform.

Be it home schooling, RTTT, NCLB, CORE, Charters vs. pubic vs. private ..... The ways to bark up the wrong tree are endless.
kavips said…
The problem with having a quota as does Murphy in regard to firing, say for example, we fire the bottom 13% no matter what, is that when those 13% are actually good workers and everyone know it, the focus from top to bottom shifts from trying to do the best job possible, to trying to make sure the person caught is not you...

Standards fall, cheating rises, and children suffer.

Appropriately one should support the principal's decision, and later, if their rating skills were in error, hold them accountable...

Undermining the principals to make oneself look better is pompous and everyone knows it.
NCSDad said…
Well, the principal s SHOULD be free to fire anyone not working up to some prety high standards, right? How does tenure impact firing ability in Delaware?

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