Friday, February 10, 2006

Good Teachers

The most essential element of a good school, if you ask me, is good teachers. Where on earth do you find them?

Well, it isn't that hard. My daughter's school, for example, is full of them. She's gotten good teachers one after another, and if she hadn't, her school would be hearing about it from me on an inconveniently regular basis. They know that, particularly since my vocal nature is typical of my community.

What do we do differently from NYC? For one, we pay teachers well. My district, actually, is among the lower paying in Nassau County. Nonetheless, we get hundreds of applicants for each position. As you can imagine, that allows our district to pick and choose. Also, there is no need to discuss merit pay, or extra pay for math or science teachers.

When teachers don't work out in my district, they are not granted tenure and quickly find jobs in NYC. Few are denied tenure in the city, and while it's popular to vilify the UFT for that, we have no say in who is and is not granted tenure.

NYC, in another inspired money-saving scheme, pays the very lowest salaries in the area, and has the lowest standards in the area. Again, while the overwhelming majority are miraculously OK, many who slip through the cracks would fail the more rigorous interview requirements at Burger King (Click here for examples).

The "teaching shortage" has officially ended. Why? Because generally, NYC now has at least one applicant for each position. Does anyone besides me see how that is less than satisfactory for NYC's children?

If NYC were in a position to pick and choose, as it was before the 70s, it could certainly find better teachers. When NYC had the highest salaries in the area, it had the best teachers, and the best school system. The decline in salaries directly parallels the decline in quality. Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein, I suppose, attribute that to coincidence. In any case, even if NYC were to pay more for math teachers, the overall quality of the staff would remain much as it is now, and having enough math teachers is not necessarily tantamount to having good math teachers..

Raise salaries and raise standards.

Otherwise, be prepared for another 30 years of excuses.
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