Monday, March 16, 2009

Also sprach Zarathustra

Or maybe it was just King Banaian broadcasting direct from the penthouse suite in the Ivory Tower:

Team production doesn't mean equal pay; take a look at team sports, where the highest level of competition is between teams with greatly unequal pay. Surgical teams have a great deal of cooperation towards the production of health and unequal pay. (As the consumer, I barely see the doctor; the nurse and therapist are necessary for the surgery to be effective.)

It is arguable that the production of student success is joint; I don't think you can argue that it is inseparable, that you cannot measure individual contributions to the team product. (Not arguing that it's easy, just that it's doable. See basketball for a case where it's hard but done.) [italics are Spot’s]

I'll assume you are not arguing that teachers respond to merit pay by worse performance due to poor morale. That doesn't speak well for teachers, and I don't think they deserve that reputation.

First of all, Professor, Spot will let you do the assuming; it’s something your discipline is especially good at.

For the uninitiated, the professor’s comment above was part of a conversation about the merits of, well, merit pay for teachers. Banaian started it, and Spot followed up. Fevered commentary exists at both sites, the most recent of which is reproduced above.

You will note, boys and girls, in the paragraph that Spot has italicized, that the Professor admits that it would be difficult to design a system to measure the contributions of a teacher to a team product, but that it could be done and cites professional basketball as our beacon through the fog. Spot invites you, boys and girls, to go over to the NYT article that Banaian links to and ask yourself what a story about an overpaid basketball player tells us about a merit pay system that is supposed to measure the performance of hundreds, perhaps thousands of teachers.

In fact, you might note the public relations efforts that the player’s team, the Houston Rockets, had to make to show what a phenom Shane Battier was:

Last season, in a bid to draw some attention to Battier's defense, the Rockets' public-relations department would send a staff member to the opponent's locker room to ask leading questions of whichever superstar Battier had just hamstrung: "Why did you have so much trouble tonight?" "Did he do something to disrupt your game?" According to Battier: "They usually say they had an off night. They think of me as some chump."

Sigh. Professor, most teachers don’t have a public relations department. And it sounds an awful lot like the one-upmanship that Spot talked about, why, it was just yesterday, in Competition brings out the best in people! Does this sound like a good way to get people working together for a common purpose, boys and girls?

Jeepers no, Spotty!

But we’re going to indulge the professor here. The professors says that a system for the measurement of a teacher’s contribution is “doable.” Don’t you just love that term, boys and girls? So sunny. So optimistic.

So, Professor, design one for us. One that just doesn’t put the creationists or the assorted bug-eyed control freak parents in charge, unless that’s your goal. In that case, perhaps you’ll have the honesty to say so.

And from Spot’s perspective, it should avoid turning students into drill-and-repeat automatons suited mainly for high stakes tests. Again, unless that what you think is educational success. If it is, Spot can only turn to your students, Professor, and wish them Godspeed.

Or maybe we can just leave it up the judgment of the principal. Fine, unless you’ve got Principal Bligh or a couple of students with behavioral “issues”; they outweigh you by 75 pounds, and principal is Tired of Dealing with Them in his office.

As you say, Professor, it must be “doable.” In fact, Governor Pepsodent and Spooky Old Alice Seagren must have gotten it all ironed out after the guv threw a tamtrum to get Q-Comp enacted.

They didn’t, Spotty.


Nope. In fact, Dave Mindeman — you know the guy will probably be the end of Captain Fishsticks — noted just recently that, in spite of Governor Pepsodent’s bragging, the Q-Comp is so ill-conceived that it’s virtually adrift, and nobody has any idea if it is doing any good:

"We don't know that it hasn't had an effect on student achievement, we just don't know either way," according to Judy Randall, a manager in the Legislative Auditor's office who helped write the report.

If the Deparment of Education in the Pepsodent administration has no goddam clue, how is a school district or the Minnesota Education Association supposed to know to make it work?

Do you think they should hire Profession Banaian to come in and tell them about basketball, Spotty?

Maybe, grasshopper. It appears to be the most promising idea afoot. Spot looks on in continued amazement at the confidence men, carnival barkers, and the other assorted looters, flim-flam men and character defectives who seem to think life will improve if we just set everyone up against everyone else.

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