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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More Fairies Dancing On The Head of a Pin

Everyone agrees U.S. schools are doing a lousy job. Everyone agrees that education is a top priority for the whole country since our future depends on a well educated work force.

Everyone agrees that the teacher is the single most important element in the education process.

So what is the problem? Simple, my dear Watson. We pay our teachers absolutely lousy wages! New teachers start at less than $40,000 and with lots of luck they get up to $60,000 in thirty years. Oh, then there is job security. Until they eventually get tenure, they can get laid off every year regardless of how well they do their job. In Hawaii, the most expensive to live in state, teachers start at $32,000. You can live on that if you are single and have a tent at the beach.

Here is the dirty little secret. Most of our teachers come from the bottom one-third of their graduating classes. I guess it beats being a waitress.

But the best performing countries do the job very differently. South Korea and Singapore, to name two, will only accept students from the top one-thirds of their class in the teacher training programs. In addition, students get tuition help and lots of things that make teaching a really attractive job and career.

Everybody knows the real problem. But what does the Administration do about it? They ignore it! No, I take that back. They cut Pell grant funding.

I don't mean to denigrate any teacher. I have had some outstanding teachers who lived on lousy wages.

My point is that once again, we have a very serious problem that we could do something about if we made the effort.

Every day, Washington seems to more resemble a fairy land than the real world where you and I live most of the time.

So what do we get instead of serious consideration? We get blah, blah, blah about testing teachers. I have nothing against testing. I am a firm believer that if you cannot manage it, you cannot manage it.

But all the testing in the world will not make great teachers out of people who should not have been teachers in the first place.

It seems to me that all we are trying to do is make silk purses, and do it on the cheap.

Anybody want to dance with a fairy? Then head for Washington.

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