What Do Polynomials Have to Do With Helping Children?: The New York Times Confuses College Degree with Training
Ohanian note: The New York Times takes the Business Roundtable road here. For an examination of what teacher aides really do and a serious look at the absurdity and malevolence of requiring teacher aides making $8 or $9 an hour to get college degrees see:
Classroom aides have become a hot topic in New York City since the teachers' union sued Mayor Michael Bloomberg to halt his plan to lay off more than 800 of them for budgetary reasons. The union contended that the aides were crucial to the educational process. But an article this week by The Times's Abby Goodnough showed that the classroom aide initiative was often no more than a jobs program for untrained, often unmotivated workers who lack proper supervision and have few specific duties. While some aides have become beloved and valuable assistants to the teachers, others perform clerical work or actually sit idle.
National data shows that that only about 20 percent of classroom aides have college degrees — and that proportion drops to 10 percent in schools with the most poverty. This lack of training is all the more alarming given that the aides sometimes grade papers, tutor students or teach entire groups while the teachers are otherwise occupied.
The money to pay the aides comes, in part, from Title I, the federal law that provides educational support to schools with large numbers of poor students. It has sent tens of thousands of aides into the classrooms but has failed to ensure that they are properly prepared for the jobs.
President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act has raised the training bar somewhat, requiring that classroom aides have two years of college or be able to pass examinations. But attracting well-trained, well-motivated applicants for the jobs will be difficult. Pay is low, and aides are often denied medical benefits because they work part time. One solution is to spend the money more selectively by hiring fewer, better-educated people — and actually training them to do the job.
Training Teachers' Helpers
New York Times
May 27, 2003
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