Classroom realities must be addressed
Re “Supply and demand,” editorial, Dec. 2
Although The Times rightly calls for stronger teachers at lower-performing schools, it misunderstands the workings of supply and demand in the teaching profession. Strong teachers will gladly work at lower-performing schools -- provided there is an acceptable environment. That does not necessarily mean higher pay or a high-achieving student population. It does mean having a set of conditions necessary for success in the teaching profession -- safe campuses, decent student attendance and behavior and reasonable class sizes. The Los Angeles Unified School District has done a poor job of focusing on these issues.
Following the law of supply and demand, strong teachers will continue to seek (and find) positions in schools that offer acceptable conditions, thus perpetuating the endless cycle of lower-performing schools. Until L.A. Unified gets serious about safety, attendance, discipline and class size, we can expect more of the same.
I agree with the thrust of the editorial. Teachers need to realize that their bosses -- the principals and superintendents -- have overall responsibility for student achievement. Once teachers collectively take responsibility for all students in the district (not just in their own classroom), then the mind-sets will begin to open up to partner with peers, share methods and find ways to address problems. As long as they can keep their attention confined to their own school or own classroom, the required organizational improvement won’t happen.
As a project manager, I understand that I work at the pleasure of my senior management, and that I may be applied to an unexpected area as needs arise. I think some of this psychology would be good for teachers.
The Times writes, “Teachers must accept that some version of merit pay is essential” and advocates its use in local schools. As a management scholar at Cal State Northridge, I am familiar with research on pay for performance. For more than 100 years, researchers have studied the effectiveness of merit pay for teachers; a review of that research that appeared in the Harvard Educational Review points out that merit pay programs for teachers almost never last beyond five years and that they do not improve student learning.
I challenge The Times’ editorial board to base its recommendations for educational policy on evidence and retract its advocacy of merit pay.
The Times’ editorial staff has trotted out its be-all, end-all solution to the ills of public education: merit pay for teachers, and giving the district the ability to put teachers where it feels they should be. So once again I am asking: Please produce the data that clearly show that merit pay and a school district’s ability to move teachers affects student outcomes in a positive way.
It must be so satisfying to sit in your office and dictate what is needed to improve our schools. Like the numerous politicians, The Times makes recommendations and ignores the facts of what is happening daily in our classrooms. Unions are necessary. In the teaching profession, the unions protect us from incompetent administrators, hostile school boards and parents and the uninformed media.
Why not come out of your ivory tower and visit our classrooms? You may be surprised at what we can do with what we have.