Wednesday, February 08, 2006

CA State Superintendent Wants To Boost Teacher Quality

According to the major Sacramento newspaper:

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, giving his third annual
state of education speech Tuesday, called for a massive investment in boosting
teacher quality as one of several efforts to maintain the state's position as an
international powerhouse of technology and entrepreneurial innovation.

That sounds nice, but I have to ask: What are you going to do, Jack, to help make me a better teacher?

I mean, I know what might help make me a better teacher. And it's probably not the same thing as the two teachers on either side of me need to help make them better teachers. So how are you going to make this happen, Jack?

Now don't go thinking that I'm only going off on Jack because he's a Democrat. Far from it--he supports the High School Exit Exam, for example, and is working with Governor Schwarzenegger to bring California's standards and accountability program more in line with the federal No Child Left Behind Act. These are good, and I'm glad he has the personal fortitude and integrity to hold these beliefs when it would be so easy, especially for a Democrat here in California, to buckle.

No, I'm only addressing the comments about improving teacher quality. How are you going to make me a better teacher, Jack?

I'm sure that any such proposal will be designed either to help the rookies, which won't help me, or will be some one-over-the-world requirement (like CLAD) that probably won't impact my teaching in the least. Take some free advice, Jack, and listen to Darren:

1. Find ways to influence the home as well as the school
2. Sell accountability (tests aren't there to improve education, they evaluate education). Sell it to the public and the unions will have to go along with it.
3. When you hear about stupid things, try to stop them
4. Require the standards
5. Enforce the standards
6. Value the standards
7. Sound like a Republican here; most parents are traditionalists when it comes to their kids' education

Few of those will affect me directly, but you'd go a good way towards moving the juggernaut in the right direction.

See? Not so hard. Keep up the good work.


David said...

I guessing that you are *already* a darned good teacher.

Best return on investment will come from getting rid of those who are not effective, making it easier for those with teaching potential to get jobs, and supporting teachers in throwing troublemakers out of the classroom.

People are not infinitely malleable.

Anonymous said...

Those are some good ideas. If only he looked at them...

By the way, I like your blog name.

Darren said...

I'm at least competent. I know that I could do better, but I'm not sure yet how to get there. It's not like someone can shadow me for a few days and offer suggestions....

Old Math said...

"It's not like someone can shadow me for a few days and offer suggestions...."

Why not? Why not have a system where teachers can spend time in other classrooms and observe, possibly learn something, possibly offer suggestions.

Teachers seem to suffer feedback deprivation. They spend most of their time with, well, children. Feedback from administrators seems to be thin and bitter gruel in many cases. Some coverage to allow a teacher to visit another classroom seems like an inexpensive experiment.

Polski3 said...

Good post Darren! If I may add my .02 centavos....

8. Pay teachers more

9. Create a better learning environment in which to teach.

10. (For middle/high schools)Require all school administrators to teach one class of real students each year.

11. Fund teacher professional development that is selected by the teachers.

12. Fund paid sabbaticals for public school teachers to be able to relax, continue their education or have the opportunity to see what is happening in other classrooms around the state.

elementaryhistoryteacher said...

I agree with what you have to say as well as the other comments. However, if I was making a list it would say
1. find ways to improve what is going on at home
2. refer to number 1

Darren said...

Elementaryhistoryteacher: your post makes it look like there's nothing we at the school and classroom level can do to improve student performance, that it's *all* at the home.

I'm not sure I'd want to pitch that philosophy to the Great American Public, which pays my salary.

Anonymous said...

The only way to ensure teacher quality is to pay for it. Currently , most teachers come from the bottom third of their college graduating class. That doesn't mean they're bad, but it does suggest that those in the top two thirds are being lured away by better offers. As important as teaching is, why not elevate the salary and have the best and the brightest competing for jobs?

I teach because I value the learning environment and get substantial non tangible rewards from the experience. Imagine how many more (particularly math and science oriented ) folk would enter the profession if salaries were competitive.