Monday, August 24, 2009

Math is Like Sports

As usual, we are making the mistake of supposing students are athletes, or raw materials in a factory, or adult workers in business. They're not. Analogies are useful tools but knowing when they no longer apply is one of the signs of intelligence.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said test scores alone should not decide a teacher's salary, "...but to somehow suggest we should not link student achievement to teacher effectiveness is like suggesting we judge sports teams without looking at the box score."
If I were to run a classroom in the same way you run a sports team,
  • I'd be allowed to run the team how I wanted,
  • I could recruit talented players from other schools,
  • I would not have to play everyone,
  • I could require them to practice,
  • and I can cut players who don't measure up.
Perhaps we should make the Education Secretary's salary dependent on the performance of the nation's school while he is in office. He could get a base salary of $10,000 per year. Every percentage point increase in the average SAT scores would give him a $50,000 raise. Every percentage drop would incur a $50,000 fine. Let him see how smart it is to base one's salary on the performance of other people.

And what about all those music and art and foreign language and history teachers whose material isn't directly measured by a test? Don't they deserve a change at these bonuses and incentives, too? Or are they all just dog meat here?

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