Governor Sam Brownback wants to pay teachers strictly based on merit, and some legislators think that's a darn fine idea.
For instance, here's a member of the special committee to find a new finance formula for schools
“I say the highest paid individual in your school should be your best
teacher, period, and I believe that,” said Rep. Ron Highland, a
Republican from Wamego
Of course, lots of folks find that idea appealing, but the problem remains-- how exactly does one determine who that best teacher is? What are the qualities that are most valued in a teacher, and how does one measure those qualities or outcomes or what-have-you? Well, Rep. Highland has that puzzle solved as well.
“I can walk into any school and talk to the janitor and I can tell you
who the best teacher is in every school. They all know, so telling me
you can’t figure that out, I don’t buy that argument,” said Highland.
So there you have it. Just ask the janitor.
Highland may have a point. I'll bet if I ask a janitor in a school building who the best teacher is, he can give me an answer.
In fact, if I ask two janitors-- or two janitors, a cafeteria lady, the floating specialist, the principal, a couple of parents, and the guy who lives next door to the school, they can all tell me who the best teacher is, they can all tell me.
They just won't tell me the same thing.
Identifying excellent teachers is not a problem. It has never been a problem. The problem has been, and remains, that every person has a different idea about what "excellent teacher" means. Despite repeated insistence by public ed critics and the secretary of education that schools are packed with terrible, awful, no good teachers, I'm betting that it's very hard to find a classroom teacher that doesn't have at least one fan.
You know the old saying-- a person with one watch always knows what time it is, but a person with two watches is never sure.
I'll give Highland this much-- his Ask a Janitor evaluation method couldn't work any worse than the various VAM models in use around the country (assuming the school still has a janitor).