My blog about knitting, teaching, and being a mother to two energetic young boys.

Monday, September 17, 2007

On My Soap Box

Ahhh - was just going to post quick pics of my wip (scroll down, if you're only interested in knitting), but after reading an article in our local paper, I just couldn't leave well enough alone.
Here in Alaska, our state legislature came up with a brilliant idea of providing monetary incentives to schools that raise test scores. All staff members (teachers, support staff, admin staff, etc) at an "outstanding" school stand to receive $5500 from the state of AK. Schools rated "strong" or "high" will get lesser amounts, but extra money none the less, from the state, in addition to their salary.
First off, the idea that a monetary incentive will make teachers work harder or more effectively is appalling. I don't know of a single teacher who withholds their very best from their students. Being recognized for good work is great, but why don't we just pay teachers adequately/fairly for the great work they do anyway.
So - today's article "Teachers give incentive program low marks" - addressed several concerns with this incentive program. For instance, a school here in AK with only 12 students received the "Outstanding" ranking. Good for them - yee haw. Here are a few quotes from the article:

What makes Port Protection successful, he (teacher at the small school) said, is involved parents. True True True!! Parents are the 1st and most important teachers children will have. They lay the foundation for learning. I chose an alternative program for my children to attend because I knew they would be immersed in an environment where education is a priority for all. The teachers get to teach - not focus a majority of their energy on classroom management. It's no wonder that my children's school also received an "Outstanding" ranking and will receive extra money next month.

Les Morse, director of Assessment, Accountability and Information Management, said he could see no common themes among the winners.

"The results this year demonstrate the effectiveness of our scoring method," he said. "Recipients include large and small schools, rural and urban schools, and elementary and secondary schools statewide," he said.

Actually, no regular high school or middle school in the state was an award winner. Yeah - let me add on to this:

  1. The high school where I teach improved in over 18 categories being scrutinized under NCLB. We barely missed making Adequately Yearly Progress (AYP) by one category. Yet - our school was not recognized for making any improvement under the nebulous improvement calculation.
  2. Another local middle school that has a reputation for low performing students made AYP for the first time. A significant improvement! Yet - that school failed to qualify for the incentives as well.
  3. The high school where my husband teaches also made AYP for the first time. Yup - you guessed it; no improvement bonuses for them.
  4. I'd like to point out that the student load for elementary teachers is vastly different from that of a middle or high school teacher. I'm not saying elementary teachers have to work less - in fact, just the opposite - I'm astounded at the amount of work elementary teachers have to do - planning for ALL subject areas, with actually less scheduled prep time during the week. Never mind the task of teaching children how to read - ahh - what a responsibility! They have my undying admiration and respect. What I'm saying is on average, an elementary classroom teacher meets with 25 - 30 students each day. Middle and High school teachers meet with an average of 120 - 150 students each day. The sheer numbers makes it very difficult to provide individualized, targeted instruction in the time allotted per week.
Morse acknowledged that none of those schools had won, but said they could have had they changed the way they taught. Hah! I highly doubt the teachers who will receive bonuses this year vastly changed their teaching methods over the last two years.

"If I was a school principal, I could chart out every one of my students. We could do targeted instruction -- this is achievable by all of our schools," he (Morse) said.

Whoo hoo - I hope my principal read that! So, am I to assume that my principal, let's call him Mr. X, will go and chart out all 2200 students in our school so we can provide targeted instruction to all? Hmm.. I wonder how long that will take. Never mind that our school provides countless of opportunities for all students to receive the help they need to succeed at school.

Bottom line - The incentive program is unfair. If we want to level the playing field, why not award bonuses to all schools that show improvement? Just an idea.

On to more fun things....

I've cast on & begun my minimalist cardigan. I'm participating in the KAL which is just the motivation I need to keep plugging away. I also have to eat my words - mind numbing stitchery, yes - able to do it while watching t.v.? - No. While watching The Muppet Movie (LOVE the muppets!) with the kiddos last night, - I screwed up & had to rip back ~an inch. If you look closely, you can see near the top where the moss stitch just doesn't quite line up like it should. Now the trick will be figuring out where should I begin. Suggestions?


Yarn: Cascasde 220 Superwash - Navy
Needles: Addi Turbo - 32" Size 7 US
Pattern: Minimalist Cardigan from the Fall 2007 issue of Interweave Knits

Here's where I am on my Monkey Socks for the MSS3. Part of the swap involves sending along little monkey gifts. It's been fun picking up little monkey items - these are banana flavored Monkey Mints. Don't know if they'll taste good, but the tin is cute.


Yarn: Sockotta Cotton/Wool/Nylon blend.
Needles: Addi Turbo Size 2; Magic Loop - 2 at a time.
Pattern: Cookie A's Monkey Socks

Off to do another pattern repeat before bedtime. For the record, the photo at the top of the blog was taken last spring. We don't have nearly that much snow on the mountains close to home - yet.

Ciao~ Promise happier, less soapy post next time.


Holly Jo said...

I know - how about no incentives and provide services that teachers and students need. Call me radical, but why can we manage to come up with money to give to teachers who will teach the way they do with or without the money, but we continually increase class sizes? Why don't we use the money to help make teachers' jobs easier. This whole incentive thing REALLY makes me made. It is insulting to say the least. My husband feels the same about incentive pay where he works as an engineer. People should be motivated by more than money.

Sorry. Do you like the Cascade 220 superwash?

tiennieknits said...

I agree with you about teachers and parents doing their best. I do have a small disagreement though. Since we are in HR, I do believe that people doing an outstanding job should get a "bonus" in recognition of their fantastic work. It is an incentive and everyone wants to feel appreciated. At the same time though, I don't believe that teachers make what they deserve and they deserve so much more so I try to do my part and help out my kids' teachers as much as I can.

Mags said...

I agree - but being a teacher I am totally biased. There isn't a school in our state that has committed, creative, wonderful teachers who give so much more than is recognized monetarily. And all of this is a bond that holds us all together; we all know what's it's like to do this work, we don't take each other for granted. One of the problems (in addition to the many you listed that I agree with) I see with this incentive program is that it is divisive. It's nice that the kids in those schools met AYP and did whatever else was needed to be deemed an excellent school. But there's no way in hell I'm buying that those teachers do anything more than my colleagues at my school, or at my nephews elementary school, or any other public school, or dare I say it even myself do. This incentive says that they are superior educators and that they did something new and fabulous when there is no way to actually prove that they did. It creates a rift among teachers and given the political climate we've been dealing with in our city (and really our state and nation) lately, we really don't need a rift.

Mags said...

Editing previous comment - there isn't a school in our state that DOESN'T have committed, creative, wonderful teachers who give so much more than is recognized monetarily. That was just a silly typing error on my part.

Lisa W. said...

the entire incentive program makes me sick and teachers' salaries here are appalling. the lack of support and the general apathy about our childrens' education endorsed by most citizens makes me so frustrated. state needs to ante up some adequate funding for salaries, more teachers, and teachers aides at all school levels. as the mom of a local highschooler who loooooves science class in her school..thank you. you all rock.

Lisa W. said...

oh, i like the way your're doing your monkeys. i think i might try the two at a time thing next time. i'm just finishing up the foot on #1 and really enjoying the pattern.