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

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Bloomberg Wants to Double Teacher Salaries--By Doubling Class Size


In the early 19th Century, an efficiency zealot before his time named Joseph Lancaster came up with a monitorial system for schooling the urban poor, wherein a single teacher served as overseer for classes as large as 500 students.  With what might be thought of as a kind early Gingrich-style system using student assistants, these monitors checked and graded student work before passing the grades to a teacher at the front of the converted warehouse.

Sounds like Prince Mike might be dusting off some long-discarded ideas in order to further slash public services for the benefit of the Billionaire Boys' Club.

Story from the NYTimes:
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg faced tough questions for a second day Friday on comments he made about two of the most sensitive issues in New York City education: teacher quality and class sizes.

Speaking on Tuesday to students at M.I.T., the mayor said that in his ideal world he would fire half the city’s teachers and pay those remaining twice as much to teach classes double the current size.

“If I had the ability, which nobody does really, to just design the system and say, ex cathedra, this is what we’re going to do, you would cut the number of teachers in half, but you would double the compensation of them, and you would weed out all the bad ones and just have good teachers. And double the class size with a better teacher is a good deal for the students,” he said.

Mr. Bloomberg has been battling the teachers’ union over the issue of teacher quality, pressing Albany this year for the power to promote or fire teachers based on performance reviews instead of longevity of service. But he has never gone as far as to associate half of teachers with bad performance — an assessment not supported by a recent test of a new teacher evaluation system. In that study, which used evaluations from 20 city schools, 18 percent of teachers were rated ineffective.

On Friday, when he was asked about his remarks, Mr. Bloomberg said: “If you were going to start from scratch, you want to go and get the best teachers and you have to pay them more to get them, which means you’re going to have fewer teachers. Nobody’s talking about laying off anybody.”

He said the city increased teacher salaries 105 percent over the last decade — a figure that apparently takes into account raises built into the existing contract, like one for teachers who earn an advanced degree, on top of the 43 percent in pay increases the union says it received. The mayor also said that while some studies had shown that class size affected performance, that had not been the case in his life.

“I went to school in a class, five rows of eight,” he said. “Everybody I know in my generation went to classes of 40 or more. And education by some people’s argument was as good then as it is today. Whether it’s better or worse, I don’t know. But I got through it.”

Michael Mulgrew, the president of the teachers union, called the mayor’s estimate of salary increases of 105 percent “the silliest comments I’ve ever heard.”

“But the disappointing fact here is a complete lack of any understanding of what’s required for education,” he said, pointing out that members of the United Federation of Teachers had seen four years of school budget cuts and get “no support” from the Education Department other than “more directives.”

“Now the mayor comes up and says — not, ‘Thank you for dealing with all this craziness.’ It’s — ‘I can make education better by getting rid of half of you,’ ” he said. “It’s pretty disgusting at this point.”

Two likely candidates for the 2013 mayoral race — the Manhattan borough president, Scott M. Stringer, and the public advocate, Bill de Blasio — also denounced Mr. Bloomberg’s remarks.

Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, an advocacy group, said the mayor once ran on a platform of reducing class size.

“He’s already eliminated thousands of teaching positions, we have the largest class sizes in 11 years, and he tried merit pay,” she said. “There’s been no positive results, so as far as I’m concerned. We’ve had the experiment, we’ve tried and it’s failed."

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