While reading the comments on this article about teacher pay I came across this:
"One of the dirty little secrets of education is that outside of athletic coaches and performing arts teachers, it is very hard to determine really effective (a more realistic standard than excellence) teaching."
I've restarted this blog entry six or seven times so far and I still can't figure out how to articulate the issues this presents.
Like how effectiveness is constantly measured by competition and therefore creates a hierarchy of people instead of allowing for the radical notion that multiple people may qualify as effective/excellent.
Or how competition such a big part of public schools, which perpetuates the idea that "winning" means besting other people rather than measuring your own growth and personal achievements against yourself.
I wonder what the author meant when he said my teaching effectiveness is not hard to determine because I teach performing arts. Do the public performances my students put on really fully demonstrate my performance as a teacher? Is he/she calling for similar public displays of mathematical, geographical, scientific, or historical learning? And what happens when the judges sitting in my audience watching their children speak Shakespeare and sing Schultz by and large have minimal to no knowledge or experience with theater prior to that performance?
It's why I hate Speech. I hate watching my students be judged and base their self-worth on the opinions of people who have absolutely no knowledge of what they're judging. It's a horribly flawed program and I hate that so much pressure is put on the students and on me to win when that "winning" comes through the opinions of biased, uninformed, complete and total lay people.
The parents who praise me and my teaching rarely do so because their child comes away with such great knowledge of theater. (Ironically, given the absence of their voices in this whole dialogue, it is the students who consistently praise me for how much they learn about whatever subject area I'm teaching them) The parents praise my teaching because of the growth in their child's self-worth, social awareness, leadership abilities, social aptitude, confidence in their ability to achieve and learn, and, quite simply, because sometimes my class is the reason that kid gets up in the morning.
None of which, by the way, is listed in the state or national curricula for my courses.
I agree that the salary-based-rewards given to teachers based on Master's degrees and years of experience (i.e. loyalty to a school district) do not equate to rewarding the more effective teachers. I agree that teachers should be compensated based on effectiveness if a fair measure of teacher effectiveness can be found. I really do appreciate that this author acknowledged the existence of teachers in subject areas outside of the core curricula. I just hope that a reform comes to teacher pay that allows for the fact that very few subjects covered in schools can accurately be measured by traditional tests.