Saturday, January 19, 2008

Teacher’s Union Not Happy With Proficiency Testing

Never Have, Never Will

Can someone please show me an instance where the Pennsylvania State Education Association has ever gotten its knickers in a knot because enough of our kids are not learning enough? There MUST be such an occurrence, no matter how long ago it was, but I can’t find it.

All that comes to mind are strong-arm tactics, striking, wailing and moaning about increasing teacher salaries and decreasing teacher workload. High on their list of concerns as of late is making sure kids get ushered out of high school whether or not they’ve learned even the basics of reading and writing. And to make sure no one knows exactly how many of our kids graduate without the skills needed to operate a cash register at McDonalds. Hence, their latest fight: Pennsylvania is considering mandatory proficiency testing as a requirement for high school graduation and PSEA (surprise, surprise) is not in accord with this plan.

Yesterday the lament was a concern for how unfair such testing would be to those kids who have “test anxiety.” Is that a new, clinical disorder/syndrome that I somehow missed? I mean we all get nervous when taking any kind of test, even a driver’s exam. That’s kinda normal, isn’t it? Are these “opponents of the graduation requirement” talking about something much more debilitating than what everyone experiences intermittently throughout their entire lives? Is it worse than the pressure of getting the food order correct at a crowded late-night diner after you’ve been on your feet for 8 hours and a belligerent customer is yelling in your face? That’s the likely fate (or worse) that these sensitive kids will face if they’re rolled off the assembly line unprepared and unschooled for more “meaningful” jobs.

Today PSEA’s concern is all about costs: "PSEA believes it is irresponsible to proceed with this until the question of actual cost of the graduation exams -- how much and who will pay for it -- has been addressed," Wythe Keever, PSEA spokesman, said in an e-mail.

Who will pay for this???? The taxpayer of course. The same taxpayer who pays for Pennsylvania’s generous teacher salary and benefit packages. The same taxpayer who will now have to pay more to re-teach kids who have not learned enough from teachers with generous salary and benefit packages.

Here are some novel ideas for PSEA to consider:

o Proficiency test the kids at the end of EACH grade. If they pass, they move on. If they fail, they repeat the grade. If this causes teachers to “teach to the test”, then …. Hooray! At least the kids will have learned that which is on each year’s test. At least the kids will have learned to read in order to take each year’s test. That would be more than they appear to be learning right now.

o Give the teachers and schools more authority to deal with disruptive/unruly/violent students. Remove these kids from the classroom after the 2nd, 3rd or 4th offense. Do not let them stay forever and poison the learning environment for everyone. Send the persistently disruptive to “special schools” with drill-sergeant-like teachers. And yes, pay THOSE teachers handsomely.

o Require parent conferences each time a child has been removed from the classroom for disruptive behavior. The conference agenda should be to develop a JOINT PLAN to turn the kid around. Fine parents if they do not show for the conference. Multiple fines/no-shows and the kid goes directly to the “special school.”

o Tie teacher raises to their performance. i.e. The percent of their class who moves on to the next grade.

If our teachers and their union care so bloody much about the success and well-being of the kids in their charge, they will use their muscle, political clout and STRIKE abilities to change the school work/learning environment to that which is suggested above. Or something similar to that which is suggested above. So that ALL our kids have a chance for a decent education. Which means a chance for a decent life.

But they won’t. Their concern is not with the kids or getting to the root of the problem. Their concern is with their pocketbook. Which at last count was in the top five fattest in the nation.