Look at the top, not at the bottom

[Opening salvo in what will likely be an op-ed for the local paper.]

A lot of roaring and bleating locally — across the state, perhaps across the nation — about teacher evaluation. Should it be done, how, by whom, using what standards, etc. The (ostensible) goal in all this is to guarantee children are getting a good education, which means as good as circumstances allow.

Generally misunderstood in all the arguing is that, in these capitalism-centered times, good education requires community and government support, meaning money and attention and skill. The tenor of current public school discussions suggests that less rather than more money is an answer, that attention has been replaced by political posturing, and that skill is somehow a simple item to be measured in the short term.

Sound familiar so far? See, we just test the kids and that tells us how good the teachers are. Low test scores, fire the teacher. High test scores, keep her/him another year. Sort of the way a large corporation works, isn’t it. Workers produce, they stay on; workers don’t produce, they’re let go.

But wait a minute. That isn’t really the way successful companies operate. If a single worker slacks off, dump him, right. But if production altogether is off, it’s middle management that gets pruned. Things get worse, and the board of directors has a serious sit-down with the CEO.

Now look at the schools again, those which don’t seem to produce good scores. It’s teachers who are blamed: it never seems to reach the point of evaluating management — principals and superintendents and — gasp — boards of education.

Odd, how the evaluation up-flow always stops at teachers.


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