Friday, January 21, 2011

Credit where credit is due

Seyward Darby has a thoughtful and balanced piece on education in today's New Republic. Here's the conclusion:
But, even when better evaluation methods exist, is it really a good idea to publish, en masse, the ratings of every public school teacher? I’m not convinced. Yes, the information should be available to those in the public who want it—namely parents. But schools or school districts, not newspapers, should share it with parents in a constructive manner, so that they are able to ask questions and understand fully what the information means. Teachers’ unions and districts should also use it to remove underperforming instructors from their jobs, and to ensure that no school has a high concentration of ineffective teachers, such that its student are getting the short end of the stick. And teachers should use it either to ask for additional training resources—or to gain recognition of the good, hard work that they’ve done.

I’m all for transparency. But a wide-open view of incomplete information isn’t what we need to improve education. What’s more, broadly publicizing even the most thorough of information isn’t always productive; complexities and nuances are often best conveyed in smaller settings, with the stakeholders who matter most.

The media shouldn’t focus on shaming individual teachers, because there are bigger fish to fry. Indeed, across the country, they should focus on shaming the entrenched bodies, structures, and policies that allow poor teaching to continue unchecked, fail to reward good teaching, and don’t provide enough support for teachers who want to improve their skills.
I don't agree with everything Darby says here and there are omissions that bother me (relying on . On the whole, though, this is an entirely reasonable piece of analysis. I complained earlier that there wasn't really an education debate in this country. Perhaps we're about to start one.

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