Steve Jobs has guts — enough guts to speak his mind about what he thinks is wrong with public education even at the risk of harming his business interests.That takes guts. Betsy Newmark had this to say about Jobs and the issue of merit pay:
In a speech on Friday, the chief executive officer of Apple and Disney honcho declared: "I believe that what's wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way."
The problem with unionization, Mr. Jobs argued, is that it has constrained schools from attracting and retaining the best teachers and from dismissing the less effective ones. This, in turn, deters quality people from seeking to become principals and superintendents. "What kind of person could you get to run a small business if you told them that when they came in they couldn't get rid of people that they thought weren't any good? Not really great ones because if you're really smart you go, ‘I can't win,'" Mr. Jobs said. He concluded by saying, "This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy."
There is a price to be paid for this kind of frank analysis and Steve Jobs knows it. "Apple just lost some business in this state, I'm sure," Mr. Jobs said. Of course, Apple sells a large portion of its computers to public school systems. By taking a stance against school unionization, Mr. Jobs may lose some school sales for Apple.
Of course, the real problem with merit pay is how to determine which teachers are good and which ones aren't. I bet that at any school, you could survey teachers, students, parents, and administrators and come up with a decent consensus on which teachers were good and which ones weren't. But there would be some anomalies. Students might prefer the easy teacher rather than the one who challenged them. Some parents might have the same attitude. Administrators might prefer the teachers who volunteered to take on extra duties without complaint. But, in general I think that people know who is a quality teacher and who isn't. But that isn't quantifiable. How do you base a pay system on such gut feelings?that survey sounds an awful lot like a 360 Degree Review I talked about here.
2. The Coyote Blog asks an important question in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling on a Philip Morris punitive damage award. Is it possible or even judicially prudent to allow a company to face punitive damages for the same crime over and over again? In the Philip Morris case, the Court said, "to permit punishment for injuring a nonparty victim would add a near standardless dimension to the punitive damages equation." But that leaves open the question of punitive damages in successive, non-class action suits.
3. Hugh Hewitt has a great post on how old media can survive in a new media world. The answer--innovate and remember that branding matters.
4. Last week I noted that Sen. Obama has asked the FEC for "permission" to raise funds for the general election, deposit them in an escrow account and then decided, assuming he wins the nomination, whether to take public funding or not. It is a question really of definition, as comments to the AOR by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 point out. I agree that the issue is one of defining terms and it is important, but it seems to me that the complicating factor is the appeal of "free money" that is money that the public funding of presidential campaigns allow. If the public funding was not available, this would not be an issue. Hat Tip: Professor Hasen.
5. I genuinely like the Ed Wonks, one of my favorite education sites. But when they say things like this, I think they are way off base.
Why is it that so many would-be EduReformers (who are so quick to criticise our public schools) would never consider going into a classroom and actually work with children themselves?Here was my response:
We weren't the first one to notice....
Some of us who do serve children on a daily basis continue to be amazed at the horde large number of non-teaching teaching experts that are out there.
Maybe it would do many of 'em some good if these "armchair educators" went down to their local school district, filled-out an application, and, if nothing else, did a little substitute classroom teaching.
We think that this person might find such an experience to be particularly entertaining for us to watch enlightening.
I will tell you why.
I am a taxpayer, I have a constitutional right and a duty to petition the government (that includes school boards, administrator and teachers) for a redress of my greivances. If that makes me an "armchair" edu-reformer then so be it and I will wear the title with pride.
I also can read data pretty well. The data tells me that our schools have not improved in nearly 40 years, that test scores have remained flat and that there are better methods available to be tried. I see evidence of reluctance to try anything new.
As an attorney, if my clients don't like my services, they are free to find other representation. Public school kids don't have that choice and so it is up to us parents and "armchair edu-reformers" to take up the cause--ca ause too many politicians, teachers and certainly the teachers unions have proven unfit for the task.