Monday, October 18, 2021

Let Me Propose A New Teacher Pay System

One feature of modern ed reform over the last couple of decades has been the attempt to "disrupt" teacher pay. I have an idea, or at least a thought experiment.

Many education disruptors have noted that it seems unfair to pay "good" teachers and "bad" teachers the same amount. To be honest, that thought has occurred to one or two teachers as well. Meanwhile, not a day goes by that some civilian doesn't argue that teachers only work nine months out of the year, so they should get lousy pay.

A variety of alternatives have been proposed and tried. Attempts to link pay to quality flounder because there is no reliable objective way to measure teacher quality so we end up with systems that link teacher pay to test score, resulting in an unfair, complicated, demoralizing mess. Merit pay bonuses are great except that 1) they're invariably tied to a really low base pay and 2) they never work. Also, see above problems with measuring merit. And the problem behind all of these stabs at teacher pay systems is that the goal is to reduce total personnel costs for a school. 

That personnel cost level drives some people from the business world crazy. My district had a board member years ago who ran a concrete business, and the high percentage of district expense that went to personnel drove him crazy, because in private industry, that's just not how it works. 

But if our goal was to come up with a better way to pay teachers, and not just cut costs, I think I've got one. And I stole it from the legal profession.

Billable hours.

Teaching in a classroom? Billable time. Grading papers at home? Billable time. Research and development of lesson plans? Billable time.

Teachers would have to get over the loss of being salaried employees, but school districts would have to start thinking about what they're actually paying for instead of operating on the assumption that if teachers aren't in front of students, they aren't Doing Any Work. 

It would require administrators to be more thoughtful about how they waste teacher time. Want to have forty-seven after school meetings, or drag teachers into pointless PD sessions? Fine--but you have to pay for it. Need teachers to show up before actual report time in order take care of morning clerical stuff? Pay for it. Want a teacher to watch a study hall or patrol the parking lot? Sure--but you'll pay for it. Maybe you'd rather hire some lower-cost personnel to cover non-teaching duties.

Paying a higher hourly rate for experienced teachers makes sense, because experience leads to greater efficiency-- an experienced teacher gets more done in an hour than they did when starting out.

For teachers, this would give some control over their own personal and professional lives, because they get to decide about the trade-off. Now we have a system where teachers are told to feel an obligation to give their infinite all in exchange for a flat rate. Under a billable hours system, you can still decide to give up your weekend to read about the influence of Poe on modern gothic literature, but you make the choice knowing you will get paid for it instead of simply doing it to try to fight off a heavy blanket of guilt. 

Could a system like this be gamed? Sure--but from a district point of view, this is a plus. To game the current system, a teacher just does less (like my not-very-respected previous colleague who never, ever took a piece of paper home). To game a billable hours system, a teacher would have to do more work--a win for the district.

Would districts be incentivized to screw over older, more expensive teachers? Probably--but we're living in that world already. Would some teachers hate the idea of having to punch a clock? Probably. Personally, I'd still have liked knowing that I wasn't donating hour after hour for free.

There would be critical nuts and bolts to work out, like a reasonable hourly rate--that part would be huge, because this system must not end up requiring teachers to bill 100 hours a week just to make a living wage. How to pay coaches and extracurricular advisors, who currently make anywhere from $100 to $0.02 an hour. Monitoring the hours in a way that provides accountability without treating teachers like children (always a challenge for the education system). And maybe a way to index the hours to other factors, like, say, number of students in a class. Teacher contracts would have to be changed to a model that contracts for a certain base number of hours.

The big drawback for districts would be giving up what they quietly love about traditional teacher pay grids-- being able to know fairly precisely what next year's personnel costs will be. Billable hours would make that figure a little harder to predict. And, if cutting personnel costs is your goal, well, it would not reduce personnel costs at all.

But for teachers? More control of your life. Bosses forced to respect your time (if not you). 

I'm not expecting anyone to try this any time soon, and it's in no way a perfect set up, but it's fun to think about. If someone in your neighborhood has done more than think about it, please let me know.


Sunday, October 17, 2021

ICYMI: Days Of Rage Edition (10/17)

The anti-crt movement is rapidly changing form into the anti-public education movement. Well, maybe not so much changing as revealing. Things are heating up across the country, and this week was a big week for reads in the Big People Media. 

Enrollment jumps in charter schools--with biggest gains in the worst sector

Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post hosts Carol Burris. Charter schools were earlier this year boasting about their huge pandemic gains. Turns out that those gains were overwhelmingly in the cyber-school sector, the well-documented mostly-failing part of the charter world.

This virtual classroom company made millions during the pandemic while students languished

Buzzfeed, of all places, has a blunt takedown of Edgenuity, the 800 pound gorilla of online education, and how badly they fail to provide what they promise.

Moms for Liberty and "parents rights"

A Washington Post piece about one of the momming groups that really captures how critical race theory is now in the rear-view mirror as they start agitating for conservative control of public education.

When parents scream at school board meetings, how can I teach their children?

NY teacher of the year Jennifer Wolfe looks at the fallout from raging parents

With equity resolution, Birmingham schools push back against state critical race theory ban.

A few districts are displaying some spine and resolution. It remains to be seen how this plays out, but it looks as if Birmingham schools have elected to be on the front lines. From AL.com

The Great Resignation Is Accelerating

Derek Thompson for the Atlantic, looking at how millions in the country are just dropping out and walking away. 

The 'Great Resignation' is finally getting companies to take burnout seriously. Is it enough?

Jamie Ducharme at Time magazine takes a look at how business is adjusting (or not) to the great walkaway.

Williamston parents upset about plan to give kids library cards

Well, there's a headline that doesn't bode well. This particular story is from Michigan. Keep them books away from them kids!

The early history of edtech

If you still haven't gotten a copy of Audrey Watters's Teaching Machines, you need to get that done. But in the meantime, here's an excerpt from the book at Edutopia.

Texas school district reinstates book by Black author amid critical race theory claims

More Texas mess. On the one hand, the story has a happy-ish ending. On the other hand, why was this ever even a thing in the first place?

Ohio state education board repeals anti-racism resolution

Jan Resseger has some bad news from Ohio, where the state board has decided not to be against racism after all.

"The Truth About Reading" is missing truths and backstory

Nancy Bailey takes a look at an upcoming documentary about reading--and what it doesn't include.

The Book We Need Now

Nancy Flanagan has read Clint Smith's book, and she's here to explain why you should, too







Saturday, October 16, 2021

NC: Further Suppressing Education

North Carolina has not been a great state for education for many years, and as the fight over all the things lumped under the banner of "critical race theory" has heated up, they've been doing their part to fan the flames.

Lt. Governor Mark Robinson set up a website to collect reports of naughty indoctrinatin' going on, then issued a report that seemed more interested in buttressing a pre-selected agenda than taking a look at what they had actually collected. Bad stuff, the task force alleged, was rampant out there.

So the Johnston County Board of Commissioners decided to take action. That matters because in North Carolina, thanks to a Depression-era law, the state pays for operating the schools, and the county pays for the buildings and other facilities. School districts cannot levy taxes or raise their own money. Which means that state and county government have considerable say in how schools are run.

In June, Johnston County's Board of Commissioners decided they had thoughts about the teaching of indoctrinaty stuff in the county schools. The board decided they would withhold $7.9 million in funding until the school district banned critical race theory. 

They tried. In July the revised the code of ethics to say “instructional staff and other school system employees will not utilize methods or materials that would create division or promote animosity amongst students, staff and the community." Johnston County school board meetings were hit with protests, including a "visit" from Rep. Madison Cawthorne urging them "to stand up to [Governor] Roy Cooper" and reverse their mask mandate. Cooper has been blocking legislative attempts at gag laws for schools.

So they tried again. And came up with one of the more repressive, China-re-education-camp-style policies in the country. Here's how it comes across in the News Observer

The new Johnston policy tells teachers not to undermine foundational documents, which include the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. 

“All people deserve full credit and recognition for their struggles and accomplishments throughout United States history,” the policy says. “The United States foundational documents shall not be undermined. 

“No employee of Johnston County Schools will make any attempt to discredit the efforts made by all people using foundational documents for reform.”

There's more.

The policy also tackles the sensitive topic about how to teach about historical figures. “All people who contributed to American Society will be recognized and presented as reformists, innovators and heroes to our culture,” according to the policy.

Every historical figure is a hero??!! Andrew Jackson? Great guy. Aaron Burr? Heck of a fella. Presumably all of the founders were very heroic in how they held slaves. What possible educational benefit can there be to requiring schools to teach two-dimensional versions of our very human forebears? 

Also

The policy says “teachers will instruct and educate students about legal policies and avenues of actions.” The policy also says its goal “is to foster positive relationships between our students and the local government entities who provide services to their community.”

“Any group who encourages students to act outside of the law, places this relationship in peril, and is not productive to the goal of Social Responsibility,” the policy says.

Two thoughts. First, I am repeatedly amazed at the magical powers that some folks believe teachers have. Second, what requirements will be placed on local government entities to help foster these relationships.

It's worth noting that not all of the commissioners were on board with this extortion-based curriculum development plan. Said Commissioner Tony Braswell, "We were outside what I think our lane is." Yes, that's correct. And it's worth noting that this sort of propaganda, this Only Good Stuff version of history that the commissioners dragged out of the district in the name of promoting patriotism, and which Commissioner Ted Godwin called "as basic as Mom, the flag, and apple pie," is the kind of thing we would expect from China or North Korea. It's bad education, bad history and bad patriotism. It's terrible policy, and a terrible way to get policy implemented. Here's hoping that teachers in the district ignore it.





Friday, October 15, 2021

Bad Laws in Texas: The Opposite Side of the Holocaust

Look, this is what you get when you hastily pass a sloppy law. Particularly if it has to do with schools.

I feel sorry for Gina Peddy, the Carroll Independent executive director who was caught on a recording telling teachers that, if they have a book about the Holocaust, they should make sure to have one "that has an opposing, that has other perspectives."

Speaking of both sides

Carroll Independent School District, located in a "mostly white suburb 30 northwest of Dallas," has a reputation for being a great school district. But this is not the first time they've been in the news. Back in 2018, partying students from the district posted a video of white high schoolers shouting the N word, and one Black parent decided she had had enough. Families stepped forward to share the many tales of racist insults against Black students. It took them two years to address their racism issues (and in the meantime more offenses occurred), and that involved a plan to require diversity and inclusion training as part of the curriculum. It took aggrieved white parents a couple of days to put together a political action group and to start packing board meetings to shout the now-familiar claims of Marxism and leftist indoctrination. 

Carroll's official motto? "Protect the tradition."

And it has only been a week since CISD was in the news for reprimanding a teacher for having a copy of This Book Is Anti-Racist in her class library (a mom said the book violated her family's "morals and faith." Teachers in the district were supposedly told to sort through their classroom libraries and root out anything that some parent might find offensive. District leaders were trying to avoid any possible trouble; instead, they found themselves in NBC News coverage.

So Gina Peddy is not exactly the first person in the district to step in it. 

This is what you get when you add a vague and ill-considered bill to a community that already has racism problems. Texas jumped on the teacher gag law bandwagon back in June with a bill that lists a bunch of specific does and don'ts for teachers, with some attempts to balance the slate as they dictate curriculum from the state house, including items like a requirement to teach "the history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong." 

But the law also includes the usual litany of anti-crt items-- no teaching that meritocracy is racist, no suggestion that slavery was integral to America's founding, and certainly no use of the 1619 project.  But you can't have a school policy of forbidding students to bring these things up. But a teacher may not be "compelled" to discuss "a particular current event or widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs." And that leads to this part:

A teacher who "chooses to discuss" any of the verbotten topics, events, or issues shall, "to the best of the teacher's ability, strive to explore the topic from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective."

That's the part of the law you can drive a truck through. Other states that have copy-and-pasted their way to similar laws have included disclaimers, a list of some topics that don't have to be "balanced" that could include the Holocaust, but Texas hasn't done that. If it's controversial in any way, teachers are required to provide all sides and forbidden to favor any side.

If you've worked in schools, you know that a certain not-uncommon breed of administrator is driven by a prime directive--don't get in trouble. Don't get dragged into court. Don't get a bunch of phone calls. 

I've said this all along-- what these bills will do is drive some administrators to tell staff, "Look, just don't do anything at all ever that could possibly get parents stirred up. Just stop doing all of it." You can stiffen their spines a bit if they can be certain that the law is on their side, but this law is an open invitation to rain grief down on the district. 

So CISD has a "rubric" for deciding if a book should be anywhere near a school. It sucks. Nothing inappropriate (ie explicit, because we don't want people complaining about sexy seahorses here). The author should not have a visible bias (aka point of view or voice)--this rule guarantees really boring texts. And multiple points of view must be represented and not "a single dominant narrative" which is really nuts, because every well written work of fiction does just that. This rule alone rules out a book from "Green Eggs and Ham" (the anti-eggs side is presented, but ultimately the do-eat point of view dominates the narrative) to "Hamlet" (the murdery side of the narrative dominates). The rubric also contains the guiding question "How would the use of this book be perceived by all stakeholders." meaning that if even one person is upset, then that book needs to go.

NBC News quotes the GOP senator who wrote the bill objecting to this mess:

State Sen. Bryan Hughes, an East Texas Republican who wrote Senate Bill 3, denied that the law requires teachers to provide opposing views on what he called matters of “good and evil” or to get rid of books that offer only one perspective on the Holocaust.

“That’s not what the bill says,” Hughes said in an interview Wednesday when asked about the Carroll book guidelines. “I’m glad we can have this discussion to help elucidate what the bill says, because that’s not what the bill says.”

Except it kind of is. And waving the vagueness away with a reference to matters of "good and evil," as if that's a clear distinction that we can all agree on is lazy, and sloppy, much like the law itself. 

When you draw a line that is vague and broad and hard to see, some district leaders are going to just try to stay as far away from it as possible so nobody gets In Trouble. If you listen to the recording, Peddy doesn't sound like some sort of calculating evil book-burning Nazi; she sounds like a floundering bureaucrat, whose superiors have tasked her with passing down the rules that are unclear and contradictory. I can just imagine the leaders of the district sputtering "Oh my God--we're in NBC News! Somebody fix this damned mess!"

It doesn't matter whether Texas legislators thought they were drawing a clear line in a defense against Badness (because everyone surely agrees on that) or whether they were deliberately trying to create a vague law that would better intimidate teachers; the result is the same. Bad legislation plus bad district leadership results in really, really bad directives for teachers. And, yes, this is all on top of all the problems we already have with racist and inaccurate textbooks, many aimed at the Texas market. But that's for another day. Today, let's just grow enough of a spine to teach just one side of the Holocaust--the truthful one.

Update: And the superintendent of CISD has issued a statement saying, in part, "We recognize that there are not two sides of the Holocaust," a sentence I would not have imagined any school superintendent would ever have to issue. But here we are. If you think we've seen the last of this type of fiasco, I have a bridge to sell you.

US News, Please Knock It Off

 US News was once a magazine, but these days it's arguably most famous as a Ranker of Things, especially schools. They rank colleges and high schools annually, and despite the fact that these rankings are hugely questionable (see here, here and here), they are uncritically reprinted, quoted, and used by the fortunate top tier as a marketing tool. 

So I'm sure from their perspective it makes sense to extend the brand by ranking elementary and middle schools. This is just as bad an idea as you think it is, and raises some big questions.

How do they do it?

I first guessed a system that used darts, a blindfold, and the broad side of a barn. But no--it's worse than that.

Scoring was almost entirely rooted in students’ performance on mathematics and reading/language arts state assessments.

So, standardized test scores from 2018-2019. But also demographics worked in by soaking the test results in a sophisticated stew of argle-bargle fertilizer, because US News employs data strategists instead of journalists:

As a note, we hope readers benefit from the sophistication of our analysis. The U.S. News rankings team produced multivariate regressions that assessed student performance in the context of demographics and their states. We believe that is more useful than simply looking at test results to evaluate schools, because this process resembles to a certain extent how education administrators and researchers consider school performance. But our rankings do provide considerable weights for scores themselves, too, because we believe parents value environments where most children arrive prepared to learn and teachers can provide a culture of enrichment.

So, we try to take into account where test scores are affected by the fact that non-wealthy, non-white students tend to do more poorly on these tests, but at the same time, we know that lots of parents value environments that are wealthy and white. 

What next?

Parents should use these results to get "insights into a key element of school quality." Parents can use "rankings, our data and word-of-mouth research" to shop for schools, and it's a close-to-honest statement that ranks US News ranking as tied for first place with "Talk to the ladies at the hair salon." 

As many Wags on Twitter (a fine band name) observed, we can look for US News to continue to expand its brand. First obvious choice is rankings for pre-schools, but why stop there? America needs to know--where are the top-ranked playgrounds in the country? Whose mini-van back seat is producing the leaders of tomorrow? Which were the top-ranked fetuses of the year, and which uteruses are the best? Top-ranked sperm? 

My dream is that the world greets this latest rank adventure with a massive yawn, but they won't. People love rankings, love them so much that too many don't even pause to ask, "Rank based on what, exactly?" Nobody anywhere is going to benefit from the sophistication of their analysis; the best we can hope for is that schools do not follow the lead of colleges and some high schools and start trying to game the system ("Sorry, Mrs. Potts, but your child is going to bring down our ranking with their test scores, so we're booting little Pat out of kindergarten.")

Just stop, US News. Just stop.


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

What Is The Christian Educators Association?

2021 is the year of many things, including open season on public education. One group is continuing its work of trying to chip away at the teachers unions. 

The Christian Educators Association is not a new player (you may have heard the name before--we'll get to that shortly). They were founded as the National Educators Fellowship in 1953 by Dr. Clyde Narramore, an author of over 100 books, most focusing on psychology. He even had a syndicated radio show with his wife Ruth. His shtick was psychology steeped in Christian belief, and he eventually launched and led the Rosemead School of Psychology which has since been folded into Biola University, a private evangelical Christian university in La Mirada, California (we'll meet them again). Biola was founded as the Bible Institute of Los Angeles by the president of the Union Oil Company of California, based on the model of the Moody Bible Institute, later broadening their programs (including an education department).

For most of their early existence, they were responding to the idea that school children in the US "have no moral and spiritual training" other than bits they got as a side effect of public education. CEA wanted to encourage educators to meet that need (with Jesus). The organization provided fellowship and encouragement and mutual support for a few hundred Christian educators across the country, but mostly in California.

In 1984 they changed the name to Christian Educators Association International, and in 1991, then-leader Forrest Turpen continued restructuring the group to be "an alternative to teachers' unions, at a time when unions were embracing values more and more hostile to the Biblical worldview." I was teaching then; I'm not sure what exactly they were upset about (Outcome based education?) Turpen led the group from 1983 till 2003, expanded membership, and went after the secular unions. As always, the mission was unequivocally evangelical; when he died, friends noted his "dogged determination to see the gospel proclaimed to the children of this nation." After his death, CEAI set up the Forrest Turpen Legacy Grant, asking teachers "Do you dream of impacting your school for Christ?" Grants were awarded for Bibles, tracts, t-shirts, and transportation costs to visit the Ark Encounter, all for various school clubs.

CEAI became increasingly aggressive. Under new leader (and former Ohio public school teacher) Finn Laursen, CEAI launched the Daniel Project to provide schools with modern day Daniels:

Christ-centered teachers are nominated, selected and funded to participate in Daniel Weekends to help them rekindle their passion, calling and courage to transform their schools with God’s love and truth.

Totally cool because, as Laursen explains here, the founders totally wanted religion in schools. He also makes the claim that in the past, the US schools were first in math and literacy and "the envy of the world," by then in the sixties the Supreme Court took prayer out of school. And as another CEAI writer puts it, "By not honoring God in our schools, We have allowed unbelief to be sown into the lives of our children. And when a nation sows unbelief it reaps a harvest Of brokenness, division and moral decay."

Laursen took one other step to make CEAI a more aggressive advocate, and this step may be why you recognize the name. 

In 2013, CEAI joined in a lawsuit being brought by a photogenic California teacher to challenge California's fair share rule that says non-members must still pay the union a share of dues to cover some costs of the union activities from which they benefit. The teacher was Rebecca Friedrichs, who was a CEAI member, and the case was rightly seen as an attack on unionism, especially because Friedrichs was willing to get in front of any camera to talk about how bad the union was. The case was bumped all the way to the Supreme Court, where Friedrichs and the CEAI were about to win when Justice Antonin Scalia died, leaving the court tied at 4-4, which left the union-favoring ruling of a lower court in place. Well, until the Janus decision won the point that Friedrichs and the CEAI had tried to score, giving teachers and others across the country the opportunity to become freeloaders benefiting from union work that they refused to support.

Rebecca Friedrichs made a new career out of her legal adventure, and has built a brand around anti-union activism. CEAI got a new chief in 2017--David Schmus, who has a BA in Political Science from Pepperdine and a MA in Biblical Studies and Theology, as well as a CTEL/CLAD Cross-Cultural Language teaching certificate, from Biola University. Schmus was in charge when the Janus verdict came down to cheer that "Our teachers...are now free."

Like many groups, CEAI has been using the pandemic to chip away at teachers unions. Here's a video of Schmus speaking about the pandemic last year while the Tinkly Piano of Sincere Concern plays; he comes across as a decent guy, and he allows that maybe going back to school is not the best choice in your community right now, but still, good Christians aren't ruled by fear and if the way your union is responding to all this doesn't suit you, maybe come to CEAI. 

The group touts two "wings." There's the protection wing, which offers liability insurance and a Job Protection Benefit, in case you're persecuted for your faith. They promise "whatever situation you face, we will walk through it with you, praying with you, and counseling you, all from a Biblical worldview." The there's the ministry wing, where "we equip Christian educators to transform their schools." The site offers resources on how to transform their classrooms without getting in legal trouble; some of them are pretty bold; he believes, for instance, that the establishment clause of the First Amendment just means the feds can't pick a religion but states ought to be able to have at it. I am curious how they would stand up against the current slate of "no controversies and teach all sides" laws.

CEAI also has some groups that it teams up with, like Teach 4 The Heart, a Christian teacher group run by a woman who graduated from a private Christian school, attended a private Christian college, taught for four years at another private Christian school, and then set up this group.

My attention was drawn to this group because they are apparently busy recruiting these days. My old local union has lost some members to them. From the grapevine, I've heard stories like a pretend parents group giving teachers gifts of chocolates wrapped in CEAI sales pitches. They are, of course, a regularly bemoaned depository of freeloaders--folks who are adamant about not paying union dues, but want to get the benefit of the protections that unions are legally required to provide. One also wonders how such a relatively small mostly-Californian group is able to stay on top of pertinent laws in all fifty states.

It's not clear how big they actually are. In 2018, they reported 8,000 members which is not exactly a national tidal wave. I have no doubt that during the pandemic various anti-masking anti-vax folks have moved to CAEI, though I am also told that CEAI only accepts those who are willing to certify their love of Jesus. But that tiny 8,000 number does raise a question-- given the relatively inexpensive membership dues, how is this outfit funded?

The dues are $239/per year, or $20/month (there is a free "join the movement" option). If we assume even 10,000 members at the yearly rate, that's $2.3 million, which is not a lot of money to operate a national union that promises legal protection for every member. But their 2020 report at the ECFA (a sort of BBB for ministries) shows a total revenue of $1,202,480, with $179, 612 in donations, and expenses of a mere $1,176,026. That appears to be only a small bump over previous years. I'm not sure how much service you can provide your members with that kind of money-- thoughts and actual prayers?

I will say this for CEAI-- this is no dog-whistling sneak-religion-in-the-back-door kind of group. Their message is up front and clear. Quit that secular union. Spread Jesus in your classroom. Given their numbers, they may not pop up in your neighborhood, but then again, we live in interesting times, and there are plenty of other groups around much like them. Keep an eye peeled.

Is Teaching An Art Or A Science? Well...

This debate surfaces from time to time, and often the debatiness of it stems from particular interpretations of what "art" and "science" are. Or rather, what they are not, as people often bring these terms up in order to dismiss them.

"Science" is subject to a great deal of misinterpretation, with folks tending toward the notion that science is a matter of cold, hard settled facts. Science, this theory goes, tells us exactly how things always work. We see this conception of science every time someone talks about the science of reading as if SOR tells us that if we do exactly X with every student, every student will learn to read, every time. 

The appeal of this view is understandable. It's human to desperately want a set of instructions that tells us exactly how the world works, that shows us that if we put in X, we always get Y. Some people turn to religion for this kind of certain set of rules, and some people turn to science.

But this mechanistic view of the universe was pushed out a hundred years ago, replaced by chaos theories and quantum physics and relativity. And science itself is better understood as a way to look for answers, to test and revise and work slowly toward the Truth without necessarily the expectation that you're ever going to get there. The universe is shifting and moving and fuzzy.

And so is a classroom. You can't put in X and always get Y, because the ground shifts every day. Not just different students in the room, but students who change from day to day, as does the teacher. If teaching can be reduced to an equation, it's an equation in which most of the variables change every single day. 

Yet teachers do work scientifically. Every lesson involves hypothesizing (this should help the concept make sense), testing (let's see how they react), and revising (bloody hell--I need to take those sentences off the worksheet). Teaching is methodical, and teachers strive to reduce the number of variables in play (I'm going to teach this lesson as if my girlfriend didn't dump me last night, as if that kid in the third row doesn't annoy me, as if last period wasn't a disaster). 

So if by "science" you mean that teaching is a set of settled, lab-proven inputs that always get you the desired outputs (so simple that it can be reduced to, say, a bunch of computer algorithms), the no, teaching is not a science. But if you mean that teaching is a process that involves an unbiased development, testing, and revision of various techniques and tactics to achieve a desired measurable outcome, then sure, teaching is a science (with a huge caveat around that "measurable outcome part), albeit a science occurring within a chaotic system that is so complex that currently only a human brain can navigate it.

When people bring up the idea of teaching as art, they may be signaling the idea that teaching is just about getting all touchy feely and following your muse, that a great teacher must follow their gut.

But the thing about art is that there is no art without skill. You can't paint a great painting if you don't know how to manipulate paint. You can't play a jazz solo if you don't know your way around your instrument. Skills do not guarantee great achievement--you can be flawless and dull. But you can't make art without some sort of skill set. In fact, the kind of art that you are able to envision is usually limited by your actual skill set. 

Good teachers do not wander into their classroom every day and just wing it. They have to know the material. They have to know the skills of presenting the material, of gauging reaction, of spotting results. At the same time, they need to be flexible, adaptable, expressive, human. For me, teaching was always very much like performance--engaging, working with, responding to an audience. But even in the world of jazz, you don't just grab an instrument and do whatever. You have to be able to make notes, and while there is room to be creative and artful, there are also structures to follow. Excuse the language, but I always think of this story (relayed by Winton Marsalis, among others)- excuse the language:

Saxophonist Frank Foster called for a blues in B-flat during a street concert with other musicians when a young tenor player began to play "sounds that had no relationship to the harmonic progression or rhythmic setting," causing Foster to stop him:

"What are you doing?"
"Just playing what I feel."
"Well, feel something in B-flat, motherfucker."

So, for me, teaching is science and art and craft and keeping one foot in the moment and one foot on the larger picture of the past. It's assessing, exploring and adjusting with a clear head and also following inspiration and creation with a full heart. You can't reduce it to a repeatable formula, and you can't just pull it out of your butt. Like learning, teaching is one of the most fully human activities that we can participate in, and bigger than any box we try to cram it into.