New Mexico should have $4 million teachers

Many in the teaching establishment, especially among the unions, mistakenly call Rio Grande Foundation and other education reformers “anti-teacher.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Rather, we view teachers as being not altogether different from the rest of us. We respond to incentives to perform well or work harder and our talents generally fall along a bell curve: some are awesome, most fall in the middle, and some really stink. We believe that a freer market in education (as opposed to the socialized model found in the US) would both encourage excellence and allow for greater earning opportunities by top-performing teachers.

I found this story about a teacher who earns $4 million in South Korea to be fascinating. He engages in a wide variety of entrepreneurial and innovative behaviors that allow him to do quite well financially. He also operates in at least a sector of the South Korean education sector that is open to such activities.

New Mexico in particular and the United States (to the extent that the federal government remains involved in education) should embrace reforms including digital learning and the profit motive that enable in-demand teachers to earn serious money like this gentleman in South Korea.

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5 Replies to “New Mexico should have $4 million teachers”

  1. This was published in the Albuquerque Journal, Saturday, August 10:

    An editorial in Saturday’s Journal characterizes all opposition to a new teacher evaluation scheme as, “dedicated to the status quo.”

    Is defense of “the status quo,” really the reason for opposing the New Mexico Public Education Department’s plan? Look at the track record of the previous “school reform” scheme in New Mexico. The plan for grading schools met with widespread legitimate criticism by dedicated teachers, principals, administrators, parents, legislators and a prestigious organization of scientists and mathematicians who perform statistical analysis for a living.

    PED was wrong about school grades and it is wrong about evaluating teachers. Even after training sessions, the plan is still not understood by those who will be using it. It is still statistically indefensible. The evaluation plan still does not take into account the complexities, subtleties and realities of teaching in New Mexico. It seems to pull evaluation categories and percentages out of thin air.

    This teacher evaluation scheme is punitive, arbitrary, subjective and harmful when it should be instructive, collaborative, objective and helpful.

    Meaningful input from the teachers, school staff, principals and superintendents, who will be living under this scheme and charged with making it work, has been ignored in spite of PED’s claims to the contrary. Worse still, a report in this same Saturday issue of the Journal tells us that apparently no one in PED is concerned about the financial costs or the logistics of performing these evaluations. According to this report, “… teachers with at least five years of experience can be classroom observers in the coming year, if they undergo training and pass a test.” Will these teachers be trained at no expense, no compensation for their time? Does PED assume these teachers’ students will somehow teach themselves with no need to hire or pay replacement teachers?

    Nor has anyone in PED addressed the additional time required of already over-worked principals if (when?) funding for the necessary additional staff is not provided. Rio Rancho Public Schools administrators say they will need 18 new assistant principals to meet PED’s mandate. What is the response? Once again, public education is expected to do more and more with less and less. As a retired teacher, I can tell you we’ve been doing that for years. One observer with actual classroom experience, who actually listens to teachers, raises legitimate concerns about a system that appears to be “rushed and underfunded.” His wise counsel was treated with the same dismissive attitude by the education secretary-designate as it was by the Journal. Cut by the Journal!

    We are putting teachers into difficult and/or unworkable situations which make it harder for them to meet their obligations to their students. We then judge them harshly because they can’t perform up to our expectations. It’s the same as tying a quarterback’s arms behind his back and after his team loses, criticizing him as a slacker and cutting his pay.

    Officials at PED don’t seem to realize that the very educators they want most to retain are the educators who are being driven from the profession by every action they take. For many teachers I know, this latest evaluation scheme dreamed up by PED is not just the final straw, it’s the final slap in the face. What will it take for PED to realize that meaningful school reform will only occur when it is done with teachers rather than to teachers? I think it’s time for educators all over New Mexico to stand up and say, “Enough is enough!”

    It is not because I’m “dedicated to the status quo” that I raise these issues. I raise these issues because of the many educators I know who are “dedicated to teaching and learning.” They deserve an evaluation program that truly reflects their abilities in their classrooms, treats them with respect, provides guidance in areas where improvement is needed and, if necessary, counsels others less-suited to the classroom, out of education.

    That is evaluation I can support.

    Ken Whiton

    1. The teacher evaluation scheme is at best nibbling around the edges at reform. In a competitive education marketplace or even a school choice environment, teachers would be evaluated by principals, parents, and students all of the time. Excellent teachers would be paid well and respected for their important work. In a monopolistic environment as now exists, these teacher evaluations may be the second-best option or they may be a hindrance to success. It is hard to tell without years of data that can only be generated in the real-world. Teachers and administrators should be respected in the process, but their opinions cannot be final as many of them have strong incentives to avoid accountability to those outside the system.

  2. “There you go again!” -Ronald Reagan.

    Two “Silver Bullets”:

    “Silver Bullet #1: Turn Public Education into an unregulated corporate enterprise focused on the bottom line with no other accountability beyond making a profit for shareholders. How does a parent make an informed choice? Any consideration for the folks actually in the classroom will disappear. “Accountability” means more time wasted on high-stakes testing which leads to cheating. Think Florida (Skandera). Think DC (Rhee). And, of course, we don’t want Professional Educators to have the final say in anything. After all, what do they know? All the important decisions about Teaching and Learning can only be entrusted to corporate bean counters! As a retired Teacher I can say with certainty that it would be impossible to put any trust in people with that attitude toward myself and my fellow Educators. The biggest problem with education reform effots is that they are always done to Teachers rather than with Teachers. The #1 reason Teachers leave their profession is that they are being micro-managed by overbearing, nit-picking, principals and administrators who have little understanding of what is actually involved in Teaching and Learning. From the preceeding statement I can see you still haven’t gotton the message. “Oh, so you’re a succesful businessman who’s never spent a day in a classroom and you’re going to tell me how to improve Education. I’m all ears!”

    “Silver Bullet” #2: Blame the Teachers. They’re lazy, they know what to do but don’t care enough to do it and they aren’t held “accountable” (See #1). All we have to do is make them fight for their jobs and their compensation and things will improve. Funny, but the Finns (as in Finland), with the highest test scores in the world and the most educated work force, don’t do it that way! We are doing everything opposit, including corporatization, to what they are doing. They also (Oh My God!) listen to Teachers! We should be looking at what they’re doing and seeing if we can make it work in NM. Please tell me where this K-12 education-for-profit is working in the US. In closing I have one question: If Teachers are so “unaccountable” and so politically powerful, why aren’t they all rich?

    1. Blah, blah, blah. You say “unregulated corporate enterprise” as if it is a bad thing or really “unregulated.” For starters, the best areas of our economy are dominated by corporate enterprises operating in a relatively free market. Seen the improvement in cell phones or computing technology these days compared with the 1980s? A lot more improvement than we’ve seen in the schools for sure. Oh, and being focused on the bottom line means helping one’s customers. If they don’t value what you produce, you won’t make money.

      I agree with you on why teachers are leaving their profession, but the micromanaging and nitpicking are features of government or tightly-regulated enterprises.

      And, no, I don’t blame teachers. Their unions, yes, because they fight so hard for the status quo, but many teachers are eager to see a more innovative, competitive, quality-driven profession absent the dead wood that tarnishes the profession.

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