Students First, an advocacy group that believes passionately in the power of educational advocacy to make some people more wealthy, recently released a video aimed at Pennsylvania and entitled "Protect Excellent Teachers in Pennsylvania." Clocking in at just under two minutes, it's a gripping and compelling tale. Seriously. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll kiss common sense goodbye. Let's enjoy each moving chapter together, shall we?
What Is the Value of an Excellent Teacher?
Ohhh! It's a cartoon, with an animated chart!! I love cartoons.
Oh, but this is a sad story. If a child has an ineffective first grade teacher, she will learn less. She will be behind for the rest of her life! "Probably." Oh, but if she has an effective teacher, she will learn more! Oh, no, sorry. She "can" learn more. She will be ahead!! Forever!! All the way through college!
There's some math in this part. Students of Slowpants McBadteacher will probably learn half as much, and the student of Mr. Hilee F. Ective can be "moved through" twice as much . Therefor, we know that an effective teacher can "produce" three times as much learning. And it is possible that I don't understand that math only because I have not received CCSS math training.
But I don't care about the mathy part because I am excited about this quantifying of learning. Yes, we can talk about how much learning, just like how much bread did you get at the store or how much money did Students First spend to produce this. Unfortunately, the video does not reveal what the Unit O' Learning might be, so I'm going to go ahead and name it Smarty. Apparently an ineffective teacher gives students too few smarties while highly effective teachers have smarties flying around the room like those little twitchy fairy things in Harry Potter.
This is exciting, because here I was thinking that trying to compare, say, learning in math class to learning in band to learning in science to learning in wood shop might be hard, seeing as how those kind of look like completely different things. But no-- we can measure "learning" by weight.
This could have real implications for, say, colleges. Do English majors acquire the same load of smarties as Business majors? And can a college start charging by the Smarty weight instead of credits? Will students start saying things like, "You should sign up for that twenty-smarty course"? This is interesting stuff. But on with our story.
Are You Aware That Pennsylvania Does Not Protect Excellent Teachers?!
It's true. In the "unfortunate case of layoffs," the excellent teachers might be out of a job! Despite the fact that they would have made these little cartoon children have happiness and success later in life!?
There's a thing called "First In, Last Out" and it is bad. Declining enrollment or a budget deficit (both of which are causes of layoffs that have nothing to do with actions of the state or federal government) might force layoffs, and that means schools will be forced to let some of their best teachers go. Because the young inexpensive teachers are awesome and the old costly ones suck.
Seniority based layoffs don't make sense, and they are bad for our students. (And at this point our narratress's voice takes on a kind of snarky tone that makes me expect her at any moment to excleim, "Omigod! like, that is totes gnarly!")
And you know, when I was struggling to get and hold a job, FILO annoyed me a bit, too, except for the part about knowing that when I finally landed a job, I would have job security and not have to worry about sneezing wrong or voting wrong or having to choice between getting a raise or keeping my job or any other things that might otherwise have led me to lose that job, so I guess maybe that's why FILO didn't bother me all that much. But you know that brings up the curtain on our next act--
In Pennsylvania, Teachers Get Tenure After Three Years in the Classroom
Which is a little confusing to me, because if the young teachers are mostly awesome and effective, shouldn't we simplify the tenure process to the following:
Superintendent: Are you under 27?
Superintendent: Congratulations. You have tenure!
But no, our heroes want to extend the process so that more data can be collected over time to know their true excellence. I can think of two reasons this might make sense:
1) People who need three-to-twelve hours to tell whether or not an eight-year-old can read probably do need five-to-ten years to tell whether a teacher can teach.
2) Any year more than three is a year closer to "never" for granting tenure, so it's a win.
Get ahold of your policymakers. Tell them that tenure should only be awarded for a proven record of student test scores, because the only excellent teacher is one who can get students to bubble in the right letters on standardized tests. Now that's excellence, baby. In fact, I would not be surprised if, once teachers are tagged for their standardized test prepping capabilities, private schools started snapping them up. Yessirreebob-- I hear Philips Exeter is absolutely looking for teachers who are tops in standardized test prep. And they will probably recruit them by saying, "Come work for us! We will provide no job security and fire you if you ever become expensive," because that's the best recruiting pitch ever!!
Also, we must protect excellent teachers from seniority based layoffs. You can learn more by visiting studentsfirst.org/pennsylvania.
I would encourage you to go watch this video (I include a link only so doubters can check my work) and tell them how much you appreciate all their hard work, but tragically, the comments are turned off for this particular clip. Go figure.