We’ll Also Include This Set of 5 Steak Knives

How do we get better teachers to high-need schools? The LAT Editorial Board proposes differential pay (carrot) and district assignment (stick).

(D)istricts must be allowed to reassign good teachers to low-performing schools….Police departments do this all the time. Crime spikes up in one area, and officers are deployed to that location. The corporate world does it too, opening and closing offices and departments according to market needs — not the personal preferences of employees. It’s not always pleasant, but it allows organizations to respond to changing priorities and is essential to progress.

GGW sez: Agree that teacher assignment should maximize student success. Skeptical that reassigning good teachers accomplishes that goal. For every “successfully reassigned” teacher, another will leave for the suburbs, and another will be less effective.

Coax/incent good teachers to tough schools yes; require, no. Choice for kids, choice for teachers.

After all, God knows the LAT needs good metro reporters; should we forcibly reassign the super Alan Borsuk from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel? Borsuk, by the way, also wrote about “good teacher shortage” today. Here and elsewhere, there are fresh efforts to get top teachers to needy kids….(but) for MPS teachers who transfer during the summer and for most newly hired teachers, the traditional system, including assignment through the central office, remains the rule.

-Guestblogger GGW

2 Replies to “We’ll Also Include This Set of 5 Steak Knives”

  1. I am a former teacher (now attorney). In my first year teaching in a new district, I had the unpleasant experience of being transferred midyear due to a drop in student enrollment. The experience was very frustrating. I am not in favor of forced transfers of teachers to underperforming schools. If nothing else, from a practical standpoint it is very unnerving to buy a house or sign a lease in a location when you may be moved many miles away involuntarily at any time. Also, it is odd that the reward for excellent teacher performance would be an unwanted transfer to a high poverty school. I agree with the guestblogger that a much better way to handle this is to provide financial incentives for experienced teachers to work in underperforming schools.

  2. If a hospital needs more brain surgeons, it it can also force cancer specialists to transfer. When short of biochemists, we can force physicists to take over their jobs. When a college basketball team is challenged, then they can force its football linemen to change sports.

    Fundamentally, NCLB is crude form of social engineering and that is why it will join other utopian approaches on the ash heap of history. Its most naive supporters simply did not or do not realize that high poverty schools, like secondary schools, are different from lower poverty and magnet schools. They don’t understand that it takes a different approach for a 5th grader with 5th grade skills than for an 18 year old with 5th grade skills. I’ve known plenty of excellent teachers in lower poverty schools who could learn the very different profession of inner city teaching – if they chose to. But it took me years to learn my job. What makes an outsider think they can coerce a suburban or magnet school teacher into becoming an effective urban educator?

    They is why The Turnabout Challenge, funded by the Gates, is such an important reversal. Now, they argue that the highest poverty schools have a completely different “ecosystem.” They now correctly argue that we must recruit talent, using incentives, and retain talent in high poverty schools. The best way to do that is to restore our autonomy.

    And we might ask why our high poverty and low poverty neighborhoods are so different? Bridge the gap between the two Americas by provding better health insurance, nutrition, early ed, etc., and the two educational worlds wouldn’t be so completely different.

    John Thompson

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