Monday, July 02, 2012

What Will a Teacher's "Bar Exam" Do?

AFT President Randi Weingarten is proposing a "bar exam" for teachers. Weingarten thinks this will counter some of the stereotypical perceptions of teacher unions. You know--the stuff you see in the news, the comments you sometimes see on this blog, and the nonsense that emanates from the mouths of demagogues like Mayor4Life Michael Bloomberg.

"They only care about themselves." "We put Children First." "Let's worry about the children in the system, and not the adults." "The bad ones spoil it for the good ones."

Actually I have no problem with higher standards for teachers, be they national or local. UFT has been calling for them for years, so that's nothing new. There are few things more infuriating than idiotic calls to lower standards from the likes of Nicholas Kristof, bolstered by absurd claims that current certification rules preclude Meryl Streep and Colin Powell from becoming teachers. Of course, neither has expressed the desire to become a teacher anyway.

The problem is twofold--one, those who design tests nowadays have shown themselves to be hugely incompetent and self-serving, and are unlikely to do any better for teachers than they do for students. More importantly, prejudice is fueled by ignorance, not reality, and is unlikely to be countered by any such thing as a new teacher test, whatever it may be called. There are already tests to qualify teachers, and that hasn't stopped union and teacher-haters from vilifying and stereotyping us. Attempts to appease our enemies, like the 2005 Contract, or unions across the nation adopting junk-science VAM measures have not swayed those against us.

In fact, nothing will stop those determined to hate us. There is no point whatsoever in trying to satisfy them, because whatever we give them, they will not be satisfied.

Some say that higher pay may be the result of higher standards. However, I've seen no evidence to support this. Here in NYC, we've been without a raise for four years and counting. There is, in fact, currently a national certification process, but, at least here, there is no monetary reward for attaining it.  Personally, I would not object to see union leaders going the more traditional route, and trying to get us the raise that's eluded us for four years. In fact, I'd like to see more talk about more money and less about how much we're cozying up to lunatics who know nothing whatsoever about education.

Meanwhile, we just won one battle, but we are still at war in New York City. Higher standards are a good idea. However, since they won't help us in our PR battle, they need to serve some purpose, the only one of which makes any sense is a genuine improvement of education. To accomplish that, they'll need to be accompanied by a true empowerment of teachers, allowing them to set curriculum and design tests to suit their students, rather than accepting the top-down nonsense endorsed by Bill Gates.  The notion of judging teachers by VAM must be dismissed entirely. And it wouldn't be half-bad if we weren't regularly vilified by the government and press, most of which endorse untested nonsense rather than proven methods like those in Finland.

Unfortunately, as we've learned over and over again, you don't attain real reform simply by imposing yet another test.
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