"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Should Highly-Qualified Teachers Like Kids?

I've done a good deal of ranting over the past two years (scroll down after the click) about NCLB's "highly-qualified" teacher requirement, which like other semantic constructions from this decomposing policy carcass, is right out of the Orwellian dictionary. For the Bushies, "highly-qualified" means that teacher have a Bachelors degree in the subject areas they teach, and, bang, they're highly qualified. No teacher education required or desired, thank you. The Bush Gang don't need none of that stinking democracy talk by the likes of John Dewey, whose Democracy and Education ranks right up there with the Kinsey Report and Chairman Mao on the top 10 most harmful books of the 19th and 20th Century. For real--Dewey is #5.

What we know, in fact, is that large numbers of the most caring and creative teachers have left teaching rather than become guards on the testing chain gangs that have replaced learning centers in the schools of our nation. The teaching scripts that have replaced the plan books in urban schools make good teaching irrelevant and iron-fisted behavior control everything.

Now some real research examines whether or not the Bush-Spellings definition of "highly-qualified" has any value at all. A clip from Ed Week:

“The AIR-RAND report very clearly shows that the federal government has given very poor direction and a variety of mixed signals to states on a whole range of highly qualified teacher provisions,” said Barnett Berry, the president of the Center for Teaching Quality, a research and advocacy group based in Hillsborough, N.C. Rural schools, in particular, needed more resources to attract skilled teachers and boost the subject-matter expertise of existing teachers, he added.

Wrong Criteria?

But Robert C. Pianta, the dean of the education school at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, said the variation the researchers found might also suggest that federal policymakers are measuring teacher quality the wrong way.

“If almost everybody is already meeting those standards, and we’re still not seeing large achievement gains, then that should give us pause as to whether or not we’re using the right metrics,” Mr. Pianta said in an interview.

For a study published in March in the journal Science, Mr. Pianta and his research partners conducted detailed observations of 5th grade teachers in 20 states. They found that teachers who were labeled “highly qualified” were no more likely than colleagues without that designation to use effective teaching practices. ("Study Casts Doubt on Value of ‘Highly Qualified’ Status," April 4, 2007.)

Mr. Pianta favors rating teachers on the extent to which they use education practices proven to be scientifically sound as a measure of their highly qualified status.

In the CEP’s surveys of the administrators in charge of implementing NCLB’s teacher-quality provisions in 50 states and 349 districts, those officials called the highly-qualified-teacher definition’s focus on content knowledge “too narrow” for accurately identifying good teachers.

Some of them say whether teachers like kids and can improve the skills of diverse students also are important,” explained Jack Jennings, CEP’s president and chief executive officer. “But that’s hard to measure.”. . . .

Like kids? How novel! If we could only design a multiple-choice test to measure caring, perhaps humanitarian teaching would once more have a chance in American schools.

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