Justin Parmenter teaches 7th grade language arts in Charlotte, NC. He has taught for more than two decades. His experience with North Carolina’s flirtations to run schools like businesses leads him to question this approach.
He recently explained his reasoning in an article which was picked up by my friend Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post. You can see it all here.
(But before we go to them, this “run ’em like a business” baloney is part and parcel of the mind-set of the Business Education Alliance, which is part of the Business Council of Alabama attempt intercede in how our Alabama public schools run. Here is what BEA has posted on their website:
“Just as competitors force businesses to improve quality, service and products for their customers in order to maintain a share of the market, school choice does the same for education. Failing schools are provided the incentive they need in order to improve or risk losing students to better performing facilities.”
Justin Parmenter totally disagrees with this view. Here are some of this thoughts:
“It was 2009, and the world was reeling in the wake of a global financial meltdown caused by failed business practices that preyed on working class people. Against that backdrop I was called to the principal’s office one afternoon. The principal, Ynez Olshausen, explained to me that an analytics software company called SAS had developed a proprietary model which they claimed could precisely measure what value an individual teacher was adding to each student’s achievement.
It was part of the broader push I had been hearing about applying a business model in education to improve results. It struck me as an odd time to be holding up the business world as the gold standard for achieving desired outcomes, but I was intrigued by the possibility of learning more about my impact as an educator.
In the years that followed, EVAAS was rolled out on a larger scale across the district and state, and similar data measuring teacher effectiveness was made available to more teachers. I was dismayed to see that, while some years I apparently had made a difference, there were other years when I did not make much of a difference at all. Some years I even made a negative difference.
The results for many other colleagues, when compared with anecdotal information and school-level data which we knew to be accurate, were equally confusing, and sometimes downright demoralizing. Measures billed by the SAS corporation as enabling teachers to “make more informed, data-driven decisions that will positively influence student outcomes” instead left them with no idea how to do so.
I began to realize that the notion that anyone could accurately measure exactly what value I was adding to each of my students’ learning was false, as was the idea that I could use this EVAAS data for much more than a ticket to an emotional roller coaster ride.
In 2016, state lawmakers set aside funds to reward third-grade teachers whose students showed significant growth on standardized tests and high school teachers whose students passed Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams. Under this system of merit pay, which will continue through 2018, third grade teachers compete against each other to get into the top 25 percent for reading test growth. But if the General Assembly’s goal was to increase teachers’ effectiveness by motivating them to dig deep for the ideas they’d been holding back, the plan seems to have backfired.
I spoke with teachers from across the state and found there was zero impact from the bonus scheme in some schools and negative impacts in others.
It takes a village to educate a child, and the General Assembly’s plan ignored key players who contribute to student growth — everyone from school counselors to EC teachers to literacy specialists.
All of this talk of the pitfalls of merit pay is not to say that money should be left out of the equation, but as career analyst Daniel Pink notes, how that money is used is the key. Paying a decent base salary and avoiding bonus schemes that demotivate teachers would help foster the kind of school culture that enables us to effectively work together toward a common goal.
The vast majority of the teachers I know are not motivated by money, they are driven by a desire to change people’s lives. They are in it for the outcomes, not the income. We can encourage the reflection that helps them hone their craft without using misleading data that fails to capture the complexity of learning. We can make desired outcomes more likely by nurturing collaboration among educators whose impact is multiplied when they work together. As our leaders chart the course forward, they need to look to those educators — not the business world — to help inform the process.”
I have much more faith in what Justin says on this topic than I do the Business Education Alliance.