Listening to Donald Trump, Jr.’s speech makes my blood boil.
There are a few points that need our attention.
1.Competition makes education better.
Browse Diane Ravitch’s blog post about the competition that has run rampant in Detroit Public Schools. She references Donald Cohen’s post, where he debunks the myth about competition increasing student achievement. Cohen concludes the following: “If charter schools were systematically outperforming DPS schools, these lessons would be easier to stomach in Detroit. But the city’s charter schools are rife with wasteful spending, double dipping, and insider dealing, and many have been allowed to operate for years despite terrible academic records.”
And let us not forget the Detroit Free Press’ exposé on charter schools. Many do not disclose how they spend public dollars, and the majority underperformed when compared to traditional public schools. Quoting the Free Press, public dollars were misused in ways such as:
- A Bedford Township charter school spent more than $1 million on swampland.
- Two board members who challenged their Romulus school’s management company over finances and transparency were ousted when the length of their terms was summarily reduced by Grand Valley State University.
- National Heritage Academies, the state’s largest for-profit school management company, charges 14 of its Michigan schools $1 million or more in rent — which many real estate experts say is excessive.
- A charter school in Pittsfield Township gave jobs and millions of dollars in business to multiple members of the founder’s family.
2.Teachers are more interested in tenure than serving students.
I know The Hill School, which Trump, Jr. attended, is nothing like traditional public schools where I work and serve on a board of education, but his statements are misguided in purporting the myth of the self-serving teacher.
As my colleague on the board of education, Martha Toth wrote about teacher motivation, noting that most teachers go into the profession for altruistic reasons. She references the most recent study about teacher performance and motivation:
The National Center for Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University (funded by a $10M grant from the U.S. Dept. of Education) employs “specialists in social and behavioral science, statistical analysis, economic theory, and policy analysis” to conduct “randomized field trials and evaluations of existing pay-for-performance programs” in public education. The report on one such study, the Project on Incentives in Teaching, or POINT, was released last week. This five-year study and analysis of a three-year randomized trial examined the effects on student outcomes of paying eligible Nashville teachers bonuses of up to $15,000 per year for increasing their students’ scores on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests.
The bottom line? “We sought a clean test of the basic proposition: If teachers know they will be rewarded for an increase in their students’ test scores, will test scores go up? We found that the answer to that question is no.”
I don’t fear teacher tenure or my teacher’s union. Both were designed to protect teachers from political whims, to ensure equal and adequate professional compensation, and to allow academic freedom.
The public only needs to look at the advocacy work that’s taking part by teachers around the country—and especially locally, like the sick-outs in Detroit to protest the terrible conditions of many public school buildings—to see that the needs and demands of teachers are often with the best interest of students in mind.