Stupid Stuff from Skoolboy

March 13, 2009 | Blog

Kudos to Dr. Aaron Pallas (AKA skoolboy) for his terrific post (“It’s The Stupid System”) today on the Gotham Schools blog.

He takes New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein and the Reverend Al Sharpton to task for their Huffinington Post piece which implies that there is an easy achievement-gap fix — namely value-added assessment and merit pay alone.

As usual, skoolboy’s main concern is that Klein and Sharpton are talking about effective teachers without ever once discussing what it is that they do. Reward the good ones, get rid of the bad ones, it’s all about sorting teachers–and never about actually improving instruction. Let’s suppose that Klein, Sharpton and others are right–that it is difficult to tell which teachers are going to be highly successful when they start teaching, because the instruction teachers receive prior to taking over a classroom can’t fully prepare them for the challenges of an urban classroom. Why not focus on professional development, and assisting novice teachers in learning effective practices on the job? How does giving effective teachers merit pay and dismissing poor performers actually improve anyone’s practice?

I wholeheartedly agree with Pallas’s take on this. I said as much in my post on Monday (“Measurement Is Not Destiny”). The human capital challenge can’t just be about rewarding the best and dismissing the worst. It must also be about a focused effort to make the vast majority of educators more effective. That will require a comprehensive effort, including high-quality, job-embedded, sustained professional development and robust induction support.

UPDATE: Corey Bunje Bower at Ed Policy Thoughts has some thoughts on the Klein/Sharpton piece as well.

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