Education Reform "Success" Published 2007-08-28 under ,

I am a big fan of the Charlie Rose Show. Perhaps I have been naive in the past, but I have always felt that Mr. Rose had the ability to ask the important questions. But my bubble was broken after watching his interview with Joel Klein, the Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education. The piece was essentially a big slap on the Chancellor's back celebrating his "successes". Throughout the interview, I was waiting for Charlie to ask the big question: "How do you measure success?"

At one point Klein touts the 10% increase in students graduating and the increase in math and language scores. These are laudable stats, but I wanted Charlie to press him on these metrics as a measure of success. If I am to understand the Chancellor, he is interested in those teachers that can successfully teach to the test (improve test scores) and ensure that their kids pass so they can graduate. Never does he list as his targeted outcome the ability of these kids to think for themselves, formulate innovative solutions to problems, communicate ideas with others, work in an collaborative environment, or have a life-long interest in learning. I realize that I am an idealist but shouldn't NYC teachers be given credit if they form these skills and values in their kids?

Now while I did find myself yelling at the TV (to no avail, I might add), I did enjoy listening to much of Mr. Klein's message. He stresses the teacher as the critical component in a child's education. To this end, I congratulate him. I am in favor of his outcome based pay and the notion that salaries should be based on ability. But the problem returns to how do you measure these outcomes and a teacher's ability? Graduation rates and test scores are easy outcomes to tabulate and on which to perform analysis. The more complex metric would involve measuring a host of less quantifiable outcomes.

Isn't this the problem that we as teachers face everyday? Aren't we constantly challenged to find assessment models that value not just memorization, but truly understanding concepts?

Another point Mr. Klein made that is worth noting was his characteristics that make a good teacher. He listed a teacher's ability to engage, capacity to empathize, and knowledge in his/her subject as the three essential components to successful teacher. I really like this list and would suggest that a teacher's interest in professional improvement is an even better indicator that pure knowledge of subject. A thirst for learning and excitement of subject translates better into success in the classroom than does expert knowledge and boredom with the mundane aspects of a subject.

I would really like to hear your reactions to the Joel Klein interview. What are your thoughts on "merit" pay or salary commensurate on a teacher's ability? How do you measure success?

Joel Klein
Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education
on Charlie Rose - 22-Aug-2007