(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)
A few months ago I got an angry email from an Arizona teacher claiming that her school had been terribly underfunded, and that she had 32 students in her classroom. I wrote to her:
If you have 32 children in your classroom, my first question is what is your school district doing with all of that revenue?
The JLBC put the statewide spending per pupil inat $9,399. A classroom of 32 at the statewide average would mean $300,768 in revenue from the students in your class.
Shape up people!
The sad reality of American public education is that our schools have become revenue and employment maximizers that all too often are profoundly unfocused on the bottom line: student learning. Public schools ought not to be jobs programs, but focused on their mission of equipping students with the academic skills necessary for success in life.
So, if you’ve got $300,000 in revenue from a classroom (many states have more) call me crazy, but I think you’ve got $100,000 for what research shows to be going away the most important factor for student learning gains: a high quality teacher. When I say a high quality teacher, I mean a verified high quality teacher whose student learning gains are being tracked over time by both administrators and parents on a continuous basis.
The best platforms for ongoing value added assessment are web-based data products that allow teachers to develop common assessment items based on state standards. If there are state standards for a subject, you can do value added analysis on it. When schools really get going on this, they give monthly assessments. This gives ongoing assessment data that greatly drops the amount of error (using only state tests, some of the pioneering value added models require 3 years worth of data).
Overall, it isn’t very hard to imagine a system that would improve upon the status-quo in these practices. We can no longer in good conscience socially organize our efforts to teach children to read along the lines of: let’s hire an army of people who want job security and summers off , do absolutely nothing to reward merit, and hope for the best.