It is very easy to focus entirely on education as it impacts us most directly -- what is going on in the Amherst and Regional Public Schools. But many of the discussions that we are having at a local level are also occurring on a national level. Here are a two pieces that I think really speak to the challenges public education now faces.
This first piece is from the New York Times, and examines Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's push to recruit new teaching talent (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/opinion/21friedman.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss). Here's my favorite line: "Duncan’s view is that challenging teachers to rise to new levels — by using student achievement data in calculating salaries, by increasing competition through innovation and charters — is not anti-teacher. It’s taking the profession much more seriously and elevating it to where it should be." I could not agree more.
This next piece is from the Washington Examiner, and discusses the issue of whether teachers should receive higher pay (as they do in the Amherst and Regional schools) for having masters degrees in light of evidence showing no association between education and effectiveness in the classroom (http://washingtonexaminer.com/news/business/2010/11/economists-want-stop-teachers-degree-bonuses). This article notes that "The biggest losers will be university education schools, because they make a lot of money on master's degrees, Hanushek said. 'There's a relationship between education schools and teachers that is not particularly healthy,' he said." Given the increasing pressure on school budgets, I certainly agree that it makes sense to avoid spending money on things that don't improve education for kids.
This issue of whether higher pay should be given for teachers with masters degrees has also been raised by Bill Gates, as reported in Education Week (http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/state_edwatch/2010/11/bill_gates_on_school_budgets_cut_wiselyand_change_pay_schemes.html). Gates also makes the point that schools could save money by increasing class sizes, as long as those classes are taught by highly effective teachers. Again, these strike me as very interesting ideas to ponder for our schools.
My Goal in Blogging
I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.