Nobler in the Mind

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

It’s an outrage, folks! I have it from an article on Brave New World that in an effort to improve test scores, certain school districts have resorted to—gasp—offering more money to teachers whose students perform well!

This, according to the article, is a audacious affront to teachers, who, after all, aren’t in it for the money. When they go on strike, you see, it’s because they would “appreciate” more money, not because it’s their primary motivation for entering the profession. Offering monetary compensation for a job well done, we are told, “reduce[s] employees to chickens pecking at lighted buttons for pellets,” and shifts focus “away from the task and onto the reward.”

Now, I do have a metal rod jammed through my brain, but I fail to see the conflict of interest here. Here’s an idea: Why don’t we let the soulless money-grubbing teachers indulge their avarice by receiving bonuses for their performance, while sanctimonious teachers who take umbrage at the thought of working for money continue to teach for the sake of teaching? And if the latter should happen, by some freak accident, to receive increased pay for their efforts, they can always donate the ill-gotten spoils to a just cause, like say, Socialists for the Indiscriminate Allocation of Public Resources. It’s win win.

The real problem, states the article, is that the distribution of bonuses is determined by students’ performance on standardized tests, which are “inane” and “politically motivated.” Far be it from me to apologize for every fault in the standardized testing system, but whether Brave New World likes it or not, any type of evaluation has to be based on somebody’s criteria. And frankly, I would prefer standardized tests to BNW’s solution: an eclectic panel composed of teachers, secretaries, aides, and yes, custodial workers employed by each individual school. BNW’s efforts would be better spent identifying specific problems with standardized tests in order to rectify them, rather than throwing the whole idea of a unified system of evaluation out the window. Unless, of course, they are willing to accept the possibility of a particular school deciding that two plus two equaling four is just one possible interpretation, and that any attempt to regulate to the contrary is “inane” and “politically motivated.”


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