published Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Barrett: Sorry kids, maybe you’ll get a qualified teacher next year


To borrow from John Kerry (something I wouldn’t ordinarily advise), how do you ask a child to be the last student to endure a bad teacher?

Somebody should pose that question to the head of one of the nation’s biggest teachers unions, who is mistaking a cynical exercise in foot-dragging for a bold proposal to get poor instructors out of the classroom.

Under the plan by Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers, tenured instructors who are deemed ineffective would get an academic year to improve. Absent improvement, the resolution of a case could take up to 100 days more.

So if a principal determines that Miss McGillicuddy ain’t cuttin’ it, she gets to keep damaging children potentially for an additional year or longer.

On its website, the union declares in peppy self-congratulation, “Some observers may be surprised by the AFT’s determination to lead the way to a more rigorous system of teacher development and evaluation ... .”

Oh, we would be if that were actually happening. But the only thing surprising to this observer is that anyone watching the current derailing of Big Labor’s public-sector gravy train would confuse a last-minute diversionary tactic with a legitimate effort to stop bad teachers from inflicting themselves on schools in perpetuity.

I wonder, private-sector readers, whether your bosses would huddle around the Parcheesi board for a year before expecting you either to do the job you were hired for — and do it more or less satisfactorily — or spread your leaden plumage and nosedive on somebody else’s dime.

Good teachers have immeasurable worth. But it doesn’t take anything close to a whole year for inept teachers to run a student’s desire to learn through the nearest paper shredder. Demonstrated incompetence that’s allowed to bumble ahead for months on end isn’t just irresponsible, it’s criminal.

Rape and environmentalism

The U.N. plans to limit the environmental impact of its “peacekeepers” in trouble spots around the world — spots that have a funny way of getting more troublesome once the U.N. arrives.

This prompts a commentator at National Review Online to suggest, “Before the UN worries about the carbon footprint of its peacekeepers, maybe they should first focus on stopping their ‘peacekeepers’ from raping the people they are supposedly protecting.”

You say you didn’t know that countless rapes and child molestations are believed to have been committed by U.N. workers against war refugees who turned to the U.N. for protection — and that many of the allegations have been substantiated?

Well, don’t you fret. I for one used to question the U.N.’s value, but the organization recently proved my skepticism unwarranted — nay, mean-spirited. The brain trust up at Turtle Bay really got tough this time: It temporarily suspended Libya from the U.N. Human Rights Council!

Membership has its privileges, but mass murderer Gadhafi has to take at least a 20-minute timeout before Libya can rejoin the club. If that doesn’t work, he’ll get a strongly worded letter of disappointment with his next birthday card, and a spot on the Security Council’s naughty list.

Reckon that’ll learn him.

Profits vs. overhead

A reader points out that strictly speaking, profits do not pay wages. Wages are part of an employer’s overhead; profits are what remain after overhead is paid.

So the reader is correct — and I was incorrect to suggest in last week’s column that an employee might perform acts of charity with wages paid from profits earned by his employer.

Still, even if wages don’t come directly from profits, unprofitable companies (besides those that get bailouts because Congress thinks it knows better than the American people what we need) are not apt to be paying wages for long. And if they don’t make payroll, their workers won’t have income to use charitably.

So directly or indirectly, profit does a lot of good for people in need. And today’s wholesale assault on profit hints at society’s spirited retreat from reality.

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Violet said...

For you to assume that a classroom teacher and the classroom itself can be evaluated in the same way as performance in a private-sector job is astonishingly short-sighted.

Every school year, teachers must manage a variety of variables that do not always reveal themselves in a neat, concise, predictable fashion. Nutritional and sleep issues, mis-use of digital gadgets, disciplinary problems, weapons - these and more are what many teachers must handle, day in and day out. Combine these factors with infantile parents who think that the school is solely responsible for their kids from 7 - 3, and teaching really doesn't seem that attractive. Finally, take the sneering and scorn heaped upon teachers as of late, and we all see why a full 50% leave the profession in five years or less.

Measuring competence requires far more than what currently is put into practice. Unfortunately, taxpayers like you are unwilling to foot the bill.

Really - you are your own worst enemy.

March 13, 2011 at 6:16 p.m.
charivara said...

Perhaps wages don’t directly come from profits but they are related. The less an employer pays in wages the higher his profits.The American capitalism that is extolled by conservatives considers capital to be more worthy of government protection than labor. In other words, money is more important than people. What conservatives do not seem to discern is the difference between profit and greed, unless, of course, they actually endorse greed.

Corporate profits since the beginning of the recession increased $388 billion while wages increased by only $68 billion and millions were thrown out of work. This is the reality that corporations and their conservative lapdogs want to distract Americans from. This is the reality that should be assaulted.

March 14, 2011 at 9:37 a.m.
lkeithlu said...

The process of training and evaluating teachers is complicated and requires guidance from people who are seasoned experts in the field. Until you have spent a few years in the classroom working with real students, you have no business passing judgement on the process. Period. No more than you should evaluate medical procedures without a degree and experience in the field. Having been a student does not make one an expert on teaching. Only teaching experience can.

March 14, 2011 at 11:08 a.m.
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