Friday, August 15, 2008

Teachers and Biblical References

teh pay dispute that I dicussed a while back that is brewing in DChas created an interesting generational divide that carries some important implications for the future of education in the District and potentially America.

As a quick recap, DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee has dangled the possiblity of six figure salaries and substantial (approximately 20% of base pay) bonuses for teachers who are willing to trade tenure and seniority to have their salary, bonuses and continued employment tied to student achievement. No, adequate student achievement has not been fully defined, a weakness of the plan.

Not surprisingly, younger teachers are willing to take the risk while older teachers are not. This got one my attention:
Jerome Brocks, a special education teacher with 34 years of experience in D.C. schools, seethes when he talks about Rhee's salary proposal.

"It's degrading and insulting," said Brocks, to ask that teachers give up tenure and go on probation for a year if they choose the more lucrative of the two salary tiers under the plan, which is at the center of contract negotiations between the city and the Washington Teachers' Union.

He said that Rhee wants only to purge older teachers and that for instructors to sell out hard-won protections against arbitrary or unfair dismissal is unthinkable.

"For Michelle Rhee or anyone to ask that is like Judas and 30 pieces of silver," Brocks, 59, said.

Julia Rosen, putting her classroom in order this week for her third year as a second grade teacher at Key Elementary School, said she would have no problem with a system in which her pay, and maybe her job, was tied to her students' academic growth.

"At this school, I think any of us could excel in that kind of a scenario," Rosen, 25, said.
First of all, Mr. Brocks's analogy is suspect. Michelle Rhee is not Judas. At best Rhee would be like the Roman's who asked Judas to betray Christ and offered 30 peices of silver. Maybe Mr. Brocks' thinks that teachers who go with Rhee's plan are traitors, but that is not what he said.

That I didn't pick up on the potential generational divide in my last discussion on this seems to be a big oversight. But I am not surprised. Older teachers come from a world where tenure, security and safety were more important. Younger teachers don't see the world that way. They view with disdain the older ineffective teacher who doesn't care whether they are a good teacher for their students, when they as a younger teacher is more successful. Younger teachers understand the desire for proven results, the "show me don't tell me" mindset of modern American life.

Rosen's statement is perfect evidence of that. If the older teachers are so good, why not trade up for more pay? The only people not willing to do so would be those teachers who lack confidence in their ability or who are more interested in job security than job success.

Make no mistake, Rhee's plan will happen. If not this year, then soon. There are simply too many younger teachers coming into to the profession who are not wedded to the old system of doing things. With an entire baby boomer generation of teachers leaving in teh next few years, changes in compensation of teachers is is coming and teh changes will be big. Whether it is successful in raising student achievement will, of course, have to be seen. But Rhee is going to break the back of the Teachers' Union dominance and the old style politics of DC schools.

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