Sunday, January 11, 2009

Long time, no see--Sorry. I was just in the back of the class.

Nothing like a new year to, albeit belatedly, get back into the swing of things.

I was alerted to an interesting posting in the Superintendent's Bulletin that suggested the impact of "good teachers" on student achievement. It
implied that a teacher "at the 85%" was the key to student learning. Class
size was deemed unimportant.

Some concerns were emailed to me regarding the idea that everyone in one career must be performing at the same level at all times. While I take exception to that, too (and I'm pretty sure it was the storyline of an old Twilight Zone that even included matching jumpsuits and hairstyles! I was a big fan of the brunette flip. Big surprise, I know.) I'm more disconcerted by these folks who are obsessed with proving that wall to wall students are NOT the problem. Ever.

I have seen various studies claiming that class size has no impact on student achievement and so then I'm compelled to ask, "What impact does it have on the profession?" Just because supposedly a teacher is good whether there are 16, 24, or 46 Second graders in a class, do we want that good teacher to teach for 5 years or to make a career out of it?

Invariably the answer seems to be, "So what if we chew them up and spit them out? At least we got 5 good years out of them. Now they can go and begin their REAL careers anyway."

These are the same education reformers who dream up 'career ladders' for teachers so we can climb out of our lowly classroom positions and we don't make the mistake of accidentally spending our whole careers in a classroom.

Good teachers can wade through damn near anything to have an impact, absolutely. But we need have a comprehensive discussion about our profession so we keep them around working their magic and support them for as long as possible. This is still a career to be proud of, not some starter profession to kill time until you get to make your impact on the world by researching the futility of smaller class sizes.