The new head of the giant, beleaguered LAUSD, John Deasy, has taken a strong stand against making teacher ratings public as the Times releases more of them. My feeling is that making teacher ratings public is even more violently wrong than Deasy says it is--it is just another tactic corporate America uses to pry public institutions, even publicly owned land out of public hands.
If we are seeing teacher ratings, why aren't we see performance reviews of school principals? Board members? Librarians? Administrators? Cafeteria managers? Maintenance workers? Cal State University professors? All these also are involved with the quality of education and all serve ultimately at the mercy of the State.
No, we only see ratings of elementary school teachers--some of the hardest working, longest suffering, worst paid public servants in America.
California's spending per pupil on public education is almost laughable compared to most other states. Local multimillionaires and billionaires like Richard Riordan and Eli Broad have not only tried to pry schools out of the public's hands on the cheap--they have also made sure that their banker friends benefited from ceaseless school construction bond issues. Five construction bonds for schools came our way in eleven years, costing LA's homeowners an average of $555 extra per year on their property taxes, through 2044--but the schools can't even afford janitors to clean the buildings built by the program. This colossal misallocation of tax resources helps the cause of classroom instruction not one iota, yet the Times continues this morning on its merry teacher-bashing path.
While the paper's news section invents new projects that are more hopeful of garnering pageviews than transforming education, the paper's editorial section is beginning to understand that teacher-bashing may actually be disspiriting. These are not, after all, professional athletes paid tens of millions to see their every move criticized in the local fishwrap of record. Over the weekend, the editorial pages of the Times, somewhat at odds with the news section, pointed to an education reform tactic that doesn't mindlessly bash teachers but truly reforms education at every level. And it's an obvious one: four-day-week schools.
Four-day-a-week schools are working in rural America. It is readily apparent how switching to a four day schedule might have cost benefits. But now there is evidence that it has educational benefits too. Right or wrong, this is a far more productive line of inquiry than the teacher-bashing line.