Thursday, February 10, 2011

Post-script on “soft indifference”

After a bit more reflection on the subject of yesterday’s post, we have further observations and a related policy to propose.

Side is flabbergasted, as you well know, by the way teachers are compensated, and in particular that the very worst makes the same as the very best, and has the same job security.  Any time you propose changing the system, the shopworn defenses pop up:

  • ‘It’s not “fair'” to judge teachers by how their students do.’
  • ‘It’s not “fair” to evaluate them on classroom observation.’
  • ‘There’s so much more to being a good teacher.’
  • ‘We need to make sure teachers are protected from the pettiness of the general public, and the internal politics of school administration.’
  • ‘All our teachers are superb, and we need to pay them all as much as we possibly can.’
  • ‘Teachers are underpaid, and do not get the respect they deserve.  The contracts we agree to fight that problem.’

You can refer to this post from last year as preamble and backup to these premises.  That post also contains this quote, which in our view, cannot be repeated too often:

“When school children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of school children.”   - Albert Shanker - President of the United Federation of Teachers [1964-1984] & the American Federation of Teachers [1974-1997]

Along these same lines of idealistic thought, we recall the drumbeat for “equity” as an over-arching justification for building the new school; the notion that all children should have the same experience in our school system, no matter where they live or what their family circumstances.

Hmmm; “equity” seems like the perfect word to describe how our teachers are dealt with.  They’re all treated the same, no matter how different their talents are, how effective they are, how hard they work, or what kind of results they get from their students.

If it’s good for the teachers, it surely must be good for the students, so we propose the following.  Each student in a class will receive the same grade for the class.  This is the only “fair and equitable” way to grade the kids for obvious reasons:

  • Some kids just aren’t good at taking tests.
  • Some kids are disadvantaged compared to others.
  • It’s impossible to judge a student’s progress with simplistic and mechanical tests and other assignments.
  • Allowing teachers to evaluate students beyond such basics calls into play the idiosyncrasies and biases of individual teachers, and is therefore unreliable.
  • Some students take the class in the morning, while others take it in the afternoon, and such differences can yield substantial differences in performance.
  • Classroom location in the building and other intangibles can unduly influence student performance.

Accordingly, i propose the following grading system for all high school students in our system, regardless of classroom performance:

  • All seniors will receive grades of B in all classes.
  • All juniors will receive grades of B- in all classes.
  • All sophomores will receive grades of C+ in all classes.
  • All freshmen will receive grades of C- in all classes.

You must agree, you simply could not achieve any higher level of equity than this policy yields, right?  And no more worries about grade inflation, or bitching and whining about a student’s grade.  The first day you show up at BHS, you know exactly what grades you’re going to receive for the next four years, just like the teachers know exactly how much they’re going to make in the coming years.  What could possibly be fairer, we ask?

We consider this a real breakthrough in education reform.  And any students, parents, or guardians who don’t like the approach must be elitists who can’t comprehend the social justice inherent in this equity based system.  The School Department will have to create a counseling track to help these mal-contents achieve harmony with the higher ideals implicit in the new grade structure.

As for college planning, just imagine the delight that schools like Bowdoin will feel when they realize that no-one from Brunswick High School will have to be denied access to the Ivory Tower because of grades!

Now that’s what we call justice, and what we call equity!  And what a glorious future lies just ahead!


  1. You know that this article in Brunswick, nay everywhere there is a "teacher's union" is akin to stepping on the so called "third rail".

  2. At this point in the history of the situation, there's more than enough extra rails for everyone to choose from.

    I'm willing to step on the 'third rail' in the odd chance that it might derail one of the cars somewhere along the line, or at least create a few sparks.

  3. This time Mr. Poppycock I have to diagree with you. The only equitable system would give the students no grade at all, have the town giver the school department what they think they can extract from the taxpayers and let the teachers decide how many of them there should be and how much of the pot they get to divide up. In order for this truly equitable system to work however, you can't make the kids to to the public school.