Daily Archives: February 22, 2011

Laws the GOP should pass #14: What to do with the Department of Education?

So teachers have been in the news a lot this week. Primarily because union hacks in Wisconsin who like to call themselves teachers are bitching that their $100,000+ compensation just isn’t enough. Problem is that these union members aren’t teachers. They’d like to call themselves teachers but in reality they’re self-deluded hacks. How do I know they’re not teachers? One, teachers teach. It’s a calling for a real teacher—yeah, they’d love more money but what concerns them most is teaching—therefore no teacher would abandon their students to protest their salary being cut. The second reason I know they’re not teachers is because Wisconsin schools, especially those in Milwaukie are some of the worst performing schools in the nation. Teaching is what teachers do, and if they’re not teaching, I’m not sure what they are, but they’re not teachers.

A side effect of this has been a return to the oft repeated claim that teachers are not paid enough. This is a fine sentiment, if and only if teachers actually did their work…which most of them are not doing. I remember a Barry Goldwater quote: “We can all agree that good teachers are not paid enough and bad teachers are paid too much”… except that nowadays the unions and the far left do not want to distinguish between good and bad teachers and just wants to give everyone a massive taxpayer funded salary.

So what does this have to do with the Department of Education? Well, quite frankly while I might be tempted to say that everyone in the Department of Education should be given a pink slip, a bill for all the tax-payer money they’ve wasted since their creation, and a “don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out”. I will admit it could theoretically serve a valid federal function. (Yes I do believe that there are things the federal government should do).

Federal Law 1.
The first of these is to create a national teaching certificate. The amount of hoops a teacher has to jump through is currently insane and change from state to state. Here’s what you need to be a teacher:
1. A Bachelor’s Degree in your field of study.
2. Pass a subject knowledge test
3. Have a minor in Education (Child and developmental psychology, lesson planning, classroom management/discipline theory, history of education).
4. An FBI background check
5. A TB test (and maybe make sure the teachers are up on their vaccinations).
And if you want, make it a provisional certificate that must be signed off by a supervisor after five years of teaching for a life time certificate. Teaching is not something that needs constant classes—yes, teachers should keep up on educational research, and maybe if we didn’t have to go to constant and worthless “professional development” seminars on our own dime we could afford a subscription to professional magazines. Really teaching isn’t a profession that can be taught. You either are or are not a teacher. Even without training a good teacher can command a classroom and convey knowledge and wisdom. Even with years of training, a Ph.D. in Education and their subject matter, a bad teacher will still be unable to control a classroom or convey the slightest bit of factual information. Teaching is an art. And as with all arts, artists are born not made. (This is one of the easiest ways to spot a bad teacher; they first and foremost want to tell you what degrees they have…it’s because they have no skill at actually teaching to brag about).
Creating a basic federal teaching credential will remove much of the power the teachers’ unions have at driving away people who actually want to work.

Federal Law 2
Ban the teachers’ unions and replace it with merit based pay. If pay is merit based you don’t need unions to fight for your pay. (Also you can’t claim to be a professional and claim to need a union). If pay is merit based, as has previously been argued for and always shot down by—want to take a guess—the teachers’ union, then teachers could theoretically make upwards of $120,000 after you include benefits, which is really good pay. And hey, if crappy teachers are only making $10,000 a year (well quite frankly I’ve met teachers who that would be far too much for the joke that is their services).

Now you might be correct in saying the federal government can’t force a state or local district to move to merit based pay with a salary scheduled based purely and only on a 5 year average of your test scores. But what the federal government can do is make every single federal dime (for any and every federal program…if states want to bow down to the ultimate evil that is teachers’ unions and save the federal government a few dollars in spending, I can live with that too, and hey we’ll all know which states to avoid). Granted it sounds a little extreme, but this is something that needs to not just happen now, now, now, but actually sometime around a hundred years ago so I’m tired of waiting—the teachers’ unions need to be destroyed. Their destruction needs be put ahead of the destruction of Al-Qaida, they’re that destructive.

These salary schedules should be based on a five year average of test scores because we all have had that class that just won’t learn…although if all teachers are being held accountable this might happen less and less. For a pathetic 50% pass rate (or 0% growth from the previous year, because if you got losers you shouldn’t be completely blamed for having to do the previous year’s teacher) you should probably get about $25K a year (and a warning that if you don’t improve you’ll be tossed out to the street) and if you can get 100% pass rate (or 35% growth from the previous year) I think $120K is more than fair. You might complain that if every teacher could do that then we’ll be spending more than we do now, which might be true, but as everyone will now be competent and educated I think our economy will be in better shape and our welfare programs will be needed less. Now the exact salaries should be differentiated by individual states/districts because $30K in a city is certainly a lot less than $30K in the barbs, and even less than $30K in the country (so cost of living does need to be accounted for).

Also principal and superintendent salaries need to be capped. While they are a sadly needed portion of the infrastructure of a school, they are currently obscenely overpaid. Their salaries as well should be tied to test scores (and probably at best should never go about 150% of the highest paid teacher…of course the usually general incompetence I’ve seen in these areas probably should put that more in 110% range). And again I’ll grant this is states’ rights issues, but all 50 states need to be pushed to do this.

Granted good teachers aren’t in it for the money. But they might push themselves a little harder if they were rewarded for their good work. And they certainly would work even harder if the idiot with their meaningless Ph.D. and 20 years overpriced salary wasn’t paid more for doing inferior work.

Federal law 3 (This one is necessary because without it the 2nd part makes no sense).
Testing. You know how that joke of a law “No Child Left Behind” established testing, and it was a good thing because not everyone had to meet a minimum standard. (And trust me I have seen an actual effect where even the bad schools are now trying to meet some standard. The worst now would try at least raise standards enough to not be shut down. However, trying and succeeding are two different things). Well, the problem is each state was allowed to come up with its own tests. So we’re going to judge you on the test you make up for yourself. Anybody want to guess how many states watered down their tests? Hint: the number is between 49 and 51.

The federal government needs to come up with standards for every grade level that are to be administered in every state. (I have no idea of how we’re going to establish standards for the arts and PE, and yes there will have to be some wiggle room for special ed…but I’m a general idea person, not a detail person, I trust someone can come up with something if we actually moved forward in this direction). The tests need to be the same for every state, be difficult, and be set to a list of standards that make sense (ever read some states educational standards? Some of them read like stereo instructions or make no logical sense).

Now, some will claim that testing is ruining education. First keep in mind that education sucked long before “No Child” so I don’t think that’s it. It makes a nice talking point, but there is no proof for it yet. Now you may claim that testing hasn’t raised scores either. Which I have anecdotal evidence to disprove, but more importantly, until you put in real tests (which we don’t have yet) you can’t tell whether or not standards and testing are working.

Further, I might add, any decent teacher views standards as the low bar you have to meet. You then add on to that bare minimum standard. Any teacher that has trouble meeting any of the standards I’ve seen is quite frankly beyond inept. And this complaint about standards and testing hampering teachers is a talking point without substance. But please prove me wrong on that one, I’m willing to admit one or two states out there may have gone the other way of insanity and put standards that no human could reach (I’m willing to admit the possibility, just haven’t seen it)…and besides shouldn’t goals and standards be something to strive for , shouldn’t they be really high.

In the end these are about the only things I can think of that a relevant Department of Education could do. All of its other truly useless divisions need to be scrapped. Even though they’re a small portion of the budget, it’s a waste of money.


Filed under Education, Laws the GOP should pass, Teacher's Union, Teaching

Law of the week.

I know, I know the law of the week is supposed to be up on Monday. I’ll have it up tomorrow and it will be a rather long one. Sorry.

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