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The 5-10 Percent Solution


Why, Mr. Hanushek, do "able teachers" not wish to separate themselves from "truly ineffective teachers?" Because there, for the grace of God, go I. Many of the teachers who have thus far received that unfair label in Los Angeles were actually very good teachers who chose to work with the most challenging students. Teachers like Rigoberto Ruelas, who received this unfair label. We see through the smokescreen and know that the data is faulty and not a true measure of a teacher's worth. We reject the labels placed on teachers through this faulty measurement. And we will not be divided to facilitate the dismantling of our profession because someone has to stay behind to protect the students from the privatization forces that see both teachers and students as a dollar sign or data point, or in your case, a percentage. Martha Infante California Council for the Social Studies Teacher of the Year 2009

Great post, thanks for this. What I can't understand as a psychologist is that the economic models seem to ignore the psychological consequences. As you point out, firing, especially if it is perceived as arbitrary (leaving aside for a moment whether it actually is arbitrary), has an impact on everyone. It changes pedagogy, and narrows curriculum. If people know that the bottom 5-10% will be fired every few years, it will destroy any chemistry that a school needs to thrive. I also find it obfuscatory for Hanushek to claim this: <blockquote>What the article says is that the bottom teachers are harming kids and that we need to find a way to do something about that. The best would be to transform these teachers — through coaching, professional development, or what have you — into better teachers. Unfortunately, we have been unable to find a way to do that systematically and consistently.</blockquote> This takes a tenuous, uncertain relationship (that teachers are the most important in school factor for predicting growth in student test scores) and assumes that the best way would be somehow to "transform" the teachers themselves. As Dan Willingham <a href="" rel="nofollow">points out</a>, this is not an immutable truth of the world, but a fact of our system. If we had a standard curriculum, or more support, or smaller class sizes in general, this might not be the case. "Coaching, professional development, what have you" assumes that his model (of the relative importance of teaching) is set in stone. Further, as he has in other areas, puts forth the fiction that "resources don't matter." We've tried professional development, we've tried coaching, we've tried spending more per pupil, and nothing is working, we should scrap these approaches. Sure, you could point out that we spend more per pupil, but this requires that you ignore the details of how we have done this. DC for example, mismanaged how they administered the Special Ed programs, vastly inflating their per pupil costs. Does this mean that since costs per pupil went up, and test scores didn't, resources don't matter?

Just because we haven't figured out a way to do something systematically and consistently, may mean that a systematic solution doesn't exist. Rather than looking for another systematic solution, it might be better to leave some control to the schools to implement their own non-systematic, inconsistent solutions.

Great theoretical discussions but no one has mentioned the overriding factor in new teacher hires - money. You can fire as many as you want but the discussions in my school district is about going out to hire inexpensive/inexperienced teachers not the most experienced/expensive teachers with a proven track record. And really, with the number of teachers that leave the profession every year through retirement or just being fed up and the this decimation, is there any way to replace 500K to 700K new teachers a year to fill the gap?



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