February 23, 2009
His program is doomed. It's doomed because it's aimed at the wrong target, and it can't be fairly implemented. With test scores as the standard of excellence, very few teachers will be "incented" to apply themselves. We know that standardized tests measure students' backgrounds more than real learning. And we know that students with special needs require more time and attention than the achievers. We also know that, due to the fact that poor and affluent people tend to live in different neighborhoods, some schools serve more challenging populations than others. None of that is a matter of chance.
No amount of education will improve economic opportunities for people until they can look forward to good-paying jobs, health care, and decent places to live when they leave school. The cost of narrowly focusing on incentives for teacher quality without attending to other vital educational outcomes leads to what Richard Rothstein calls goal distortion, resulting in unintended consequences. His paper, Holding Accountability to Account details the perverse results that come from using performance incentives in the fields of health care, welfare administration, and other public and private policy domains.
Some highlights from a quick read of the paper:
Rothstein devotes a section of his paper to a discussion about intrinsic motivation, and cites the work of Edward Deci on self-determination theory. Management theorists have concluded that public employees tend to be more motivated by the goals of the organization than private sector employees, who are relatively more motivated by monetary rewards. This finding has powerful implications for any teacher incentive system.
Injecting business talk into the education public policy environment creates a toxic set of conditions. In Crazy Talk, Stupid Talk, Neil Postman describes how certain kinds of talk contaminate our semantic environment, distorting complex situations beyond recognition, and contribute to a form of "collectivized nonsense".
The language of the business CEO is not appropriate to the purposes of public education, and it maintains an invasive presence there. Julia Whitty's investigation into What Invasive Species Are Trying to Tell Us suggests that we, humans, may be the leading invasive species planet-wide. Global capital, and the propaganda it generates, is a primary transport mechanism.
Whitty opens with an anecdote:
Indeed. Why should the "leaders" and "experts" ask teachers anything? They know all they need to know to maintain the collectivized nonsense that supports the disintegrating status quo.
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