Monday Moanin Thoughts #152 Will There Be Anyone Left To Teach Students

Welcome to the first  Monday Moanin in April 2015. Recently I read an impactful blog from Dr. Steve Matthews, Superintendent of Novi Community Schools in suburban Detroit. If you need to understand why education is Michigan is in a crisis, Dr Matthews helps clarify some of the factors leading to this major issue in Michigan.  Let me know your thoughts after you read his post:

So you want to kill a profession.

It’s easy.
First you demonize the profession. To do this you will need a well-organized, broad-based public relations campaign that casts everyone associated with the profession as incompetent and doing harm.  As an example, a well-orchestrated public relations campaign could get the front cover of a historically influential magazine to invoke an image that those associated with the profession are “rotten apples.”

Then you remove revenue control from the budget responsibilities of those at the local level. Then you tell the organization to run like a business which they clearly cannot do because they no longer have control of the revenue. As an example, you could create a system that places the control for revenue in the hands of the state legislature instead of with the local school board or local community.

Then you provide revenue that gives a local agency two choices: Give raises and go into deficit or don’t give raises so that you can maintain a fund balance but in the process demoralize employees. As an example, in Michigan there are school districts that have little to no fund balance who have continued to give raises to employees and you have school districts that have relatively healthy fund balances that have not given employees raises for several years.
Then have the state tell the local agency that it must tighten its belt to balance revenue and expenses. The underlying, unspoken assumption being that the employees will take up the slack and pay for needed supplies out of their own pockets. 
Additionally , introduce “independent” charters so that “competition” and “market-forces” will “drive” the industry. However, many of these charters, when examined, give the illusion of a better environment but when examined show no improvement in service. The charters also offer no comprehensive benefits or significantly fewer benefits for employees. So the charters offer no better quality for “customers” and no security for employees but they ravage the local environment.
Then create a state-mandated evaluation system in an effort to improve quality. Require the system to use a value-added measure (or VAM) that may or may not be equipped to do what its advocates say it can do. The American Statistical Association states:

Under some conditions, VAM scores and rankings can change substantially when a different model or test is used, and a thorough analysis should be undertaken to evaluate the sensitivity of estimates to different models.

Then make high stakes employment decisions based on the VAM.

Then you create an accountability system that purports to evaluate the quality of organizations. Then, using this system, rate over 80% of organizations as average or below average, furthering diminishing the respect of the profession.

It’s easy to kill a profession.

All of these things have happened to public schools in Michigan. While I don’t want to believe it, the argument could be made that some people are trying to kill the profession of public school educator in Michigan.

Some might argue that what I should focus on is the students. Student needs are the most important.

I agree.

But unless you create a meaningful, respected profession – who will teach the students?

I think it is time that we all find our voice about what is needed to improve public education in Michigan. Thanks to Dr. Steve Matthews for his opinions and views. Have a great week and keep finding the good stuff

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