Tuesday, February 15, 2011

PSPS on “soft-indifference”

A senior Navy Officer once remarked during a world class Power Point Presentation of ours that ‘there’s no such thing as a horse that’s too dead to beat,’ and he even held up a drawing of an upside down horse to amplify the point.  We considered it a badge of honor, and it helped inspire our continued efforts in this blog, numerous submissions to the op-ed pages of local media, and beaucoup appearances before the Brunswick Town Council. 

The successes achieved thereby are a matter of public record.  You could look it up.

In that spirit, we have another take on the earlier post on low expectations, particularly as it relates to the concept of equity mentioned here.

In round numbers, the Brunswick School Department enrolls between 150-200 students in each of the elementary grades.  And best we can determine from web surfing, each grade is taught by 8-10 teachers.

Without looking them up by name, we assert the following, based on common sense, the realities of human nature, and substantial background in looking at teachers’ contracts.

  1. Each of the teachers for a given grade, say second grade, teaches children who belong in that grade, and teaches to a uniform curriculum provided by the Department.
  2. Their salaries range from roughly $31,000 for beginning teachers to upwards of $64,000 for those who have been in the system for 22 years or more, a ratio of more than 2 to 1.
  3. The individual teachers vary in skills, talents, experience, devotion, and how hard they work, as any collection of individuals would in such circumstances.
  4. Cognizant supervision, parents, and the teachers’ peers would surely be able to identify those teachers in each grade who are the best in their grade, the worst in their grade, and somewhere in between.
  5. Consistent with how students are evaluated, we suspect that some teachers in each grade would be seen as partially meeting standards, some would be seen as meeting standards, and some would be seen as exceeding standards.  Hopefully, any who were seen as failing to meet standards would have been terminated, as that is an unacceptable rating, at least in the non-unionized world.

Given the above, we now confront again the notion of ‘equity’ as it applies to the Brunswick student body, especially as it relates to the varied economic and social advantages and/or disadvantages of their individual circumstances. 

Don’t blame us for bringing this up; it was a regular drumbeat of those on the school board, and their enablers, who professed that if we didn’t build the new school, we would summarily consign certain segments of our overall student body to failure based on their neighborhood and other perceived social status indicators.

So we are compelled to ask, if equity is our focus here in Brunswick Schools, shouldn’t we ensure that each student in a given grade has the benefit of our best teacher for that grade?  How could we in good conscience assign any student to anything less?  How would we decide which students get the worst teacher for that grade, instead of the best?

How could that possibly embrace equity?

Perhaps you’re saying that ALL our teachers are wonderful and equally capable.  Which, then, of course, leads to wondering why their compensation varies by a factor of 2 to 1 or more?  How can that offer equity to our professional teaching corps?  If a teacher with two years experience is better at his or her job than a teacher with 20 years earning twice as much, where is the justice?  Where is the fairness?  Where is the modeling of appropriate reward?

So we have a conundrum.  From where we sit, out here in reality land, it would seem the School Department is faced with two alternatives.

The first would acknowledge the variation in teacher capability,and devise a plan to ensure that the entire student contingent in any one grade received the maximum advantage available within the system.  Or at least equal treatment with all the other students in the grade.  Here are some possible options:

  1. The teaching staff for any grade is evaluated, and the top ranked teacher becomes the teacher for the entire grade contingent.  All classes are held in an auditorium accommodating up to 200, to ensure that each student has the same experience.
  2. If this is deemed unworkable, the student body remains in small classes, but teachers are rotated among the various classrooms to equalize experiences over the school year.  if there are 10 teachers for second grade for example, and 180 school days, each class would have 18 days with each of the 10 teachers.

Alternatively, the teacher corps could be equalized to eliminate any impression that some are better than others, or that some are worse than others.  All second grade teachers, for example, could be paid exactly the same, in recognition of the fact that they teach the same level of student with the same curriculum.  This would eliminate the impression that compensation is unrelated to ability and contribution to the learning experience.

We’ll leave the interested student to puzzle over the options and come up with a viable  and equitable solution.

As for us, we conclude that like most things in schoolie land, the cries for equity, and especially “it’s for the children,” are a proven distraction used to pursue the desires of the adults, and have no bearing on improving the education of our children.

Which leaves us wondering where the justice is in providing an equally mediocre government school experience, even if equity prevails.

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1 comment:

  1. Trying to persuade the biased with logic is a losing proposition. Trying to get someone to give up what they haven't earned and keep only because of the way they vote is equally futile. There are some of us whose ears stick flat against our heads only from beating them on the wall.