Monday, September 14, 2009

Everything is a nail.

Earlier I wrote about how we as educator's have a hard time with perspective. We tend to see all instructional opportunities from the perspective we are most comfortable or most capable with. I mentioned my tendency toward PowerPoint. I don't think in terms of "What tool should I use for this" I think "How can I do this in PowerPoint"

To a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Even our standards and testing are based around this same problem of everything looking like a nail. Contents and Standards are driven by the "how do we measure it" model. We have to prove we taught. We have to prove it mathematically and preferably with a norm-referenced or criterion referenced test.

What about the stuff that can't be measured. My students are kinder because I slowed down and taught etiquette, empathy and politeness in my class. My students regularly read articles and the newspaper to keep up on current events because they reported on them weekly in class. My students took an art class because I mentioned I was reading "Drawing on the Right side of the brain" How do we measure this. How do we give teachers merit pay for being the one person a student remembers 12 years later as believing in them and deciding not to rob that store? How do you measure incremental impacts of dozens and dozens of teachers on a student. Their influence isn't like a seed that will one day bear fruit. It is the fertilizer that kept the soil good so the seed of goodness in that student could sprout and grow. How do you measure that? How do you provide merit pay for that?

Well, one suggestion is offering merit pay for more than the results that students had on a test. (Which by the way caused a decrease in test scores in Portugal) I have mentioned this before, but I believe it bears repeating. Let teachers demonstrate the value added. We ask students to demonstrate multiple modes of competency why not teachers? If a teacher is blogging and getting hits showing that parents are visiting her site? Why not pay her for the value added to the school. If a teacher creates a web site and tracks the hits. Why not pay him for the value added to the school? If a teacher is willing to run a before or after school program. Value Added! Part of this could be test scores, but if instead of paying teacher more to try to get them to do a better job of a bad business why don't we pay them more for doing better business?

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