Thursday, September 1, 2011

Diane Ravitch: Does experience matter?

From the Diane Ravitch blog,

One of the axioms of corporate reform in education is that experience doesn’t matter. Also, they say, degrees don’t matter. Certification doesn’t matter. Nothing matters except “performance” or “results,” and these are defined as the “measurables,” the test scores. If a teacher can get students to produce higher test scores, he or she is a good teacher. If they can do it year after year, they are “great” teachers.

Reformers say that you can’t know in advance who the great teachers are. You have to collect the test scores for three or four years, and then you know who they are, and you give them a bonus. You also know who the “bad” teachers are, and you fire them.

But is it true that experience doesn’t matter? The reformers’ claim that teachers reach their peak performance by their third or fourth year, and they never get any better.

This could be taken in different ways. It might mean that teachers hit their stride in the third or fourth year, and districts should hold on to those who have reached that level. It also might mean that districts should avoid TFA, because most of them will leave after two years, and never hit their stride.

But reformers think it means experience doesn’t count, because teachers don’t continue to improve after that magical third or fourth year.

Of course, this is based on economists’ analysis of test scores, not interaction with teachers or deep study and observation of teacher performance.

This teacher disagrees:

After 26 years, I am still tryng to perfect my craft and get better every day. Building my own classroom library of close to 1,700 YAL books takes years. Reading most of them, or at least the first in a series, and keeping up with the interests of 12 and 13 year olds is constant, time-consuming and ever changing. There is so much that can’t be measured by a Gates selected “researcher” who has no clue how to relate to, motivate and respect children.