Wrong Question, Right Answer

P&R says that the wrong question to ask about the current South Dakota education bill is what it would take for the teachers to approve of it. He’s right. After looking at some of the numbers for teachers and salaries, he makes this observation:

Every teacher I’ve ever heard about is described as dedicated by friends and family.  Maybe the teacher even is dedicated.  That doesn’t mean he’s any good at it.  I’ve come across more than one very dedicated, very nice, very lousy teacher in the course of overseeing the education of my children.  Somehow my child’s future is to be sacrificed on the altar of this teacher’s self esteem, because he or she is so dedicated?

This is a parallel argument to the one which I find myself using regularly. Just because someone is sincere does not make them right, nor does it make what they are doing/attempting to do honorable.

Truth is unaffected by dedication, sincerity–or any other words that say “Hey, I’m doing stuff.”

Perhaps a better question would be “Who is ultimately responsible for a child’s education, anyway?”

2 thoughts on “Wrong Question, Right Answer

  1. Talk about a baseless dismissal of the vast, overwhelming, dare I say almost universal disapproval of HB 1234? Show me the evidence that Merit pay works. Show me the evidence that anything in HB 1234 will improve education. Show me the evidence that our schools are suffering a plague of bad teachers. As a conservative, you should demand evidence like that before supporting a change to the status quo. Instead, in the absence of evidence, you cast vague aspersions on an entire profession in hopes of avoiding having to talk about the valid policy points they might make.

    1. CAH,

      I would hardly call my post an affirmation of HB 1234. Rather, I agreed with P&R’s point: dedication to teaching does not mean that one is a competent teacher. Further, I stated that we should be asking about who is responsible for a child’s education.

      However, since you’ve brought up merit pay, let’s talk about it a bit. Merit pay (aka pay for performance) works well in the greater workforce. Unsurprisingly, people work harder/smarter when they are rewarded for that work. Ask any salesperson who works on commission.

      Setting up the merit pay program to reward teachers for that which is within their control (and then ensuring that they have the necessary authority) is key to success. Merit pay by itself is insufficient to ensure increased student achievement.

      On the flip side, why ought teachers to be given automatic pay raises (and tenure) for simply doing their jobs? Why should most of the rest of the marketplace use some type of merit pay, but teachers get a pass?

      By all means, let’s talk about valid policy points. But please, don’t assume things which I’ve not said.

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