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January 30, 2009


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You're assuming here that tenure and teaching performance are highly correlated. While I'm now eight years out of high school, in my experience, excellence and incompetence cut across all ages.

Yes, the school will be losing a very good teacher in your wife, but there also may be addition-by-subtraction elsewhere.

Great point Carl.

I think your exactly right about excellence being random, although certainly there is a tendency to accumulate some wisdom as you grow older. But the tenure system protects both wisdom and entrenched incompetence, and the MEA has resisted positive reforms like merit pay, etc., to the point of refusing to recognize even the tiniest amounts of pay differentials. Jack's wife, according to the evidence he's presented, would make even more money under a merit pay system and have less incentive to take the incentive program (while those not as meritorious and therefore not rewarded as much would have more incentive), and the world and system could have its cake and eat it too.

I suspect that after this buyout occurs, the "best" that do take it will come back in "subcontract" capacities. That's fine - they should be paid as subcontractors outside the union and retirement system (which they are already vested into) and that will represent a savings to the school and opportunity to make extra dollars for the veteran teacher-now-advisor. Retired Superintendents often do this or do it by becoming a short-term fill-in super when districts transition for other reasons. Indeed, that's a best of both worlds solution. There should be enabling legislation (the MEA may resist it already) if its not possible, and this type of subcontracting to semi-retired teachers could be a valuable tool for the next generation of school budgetings.

And that wouldn't require attacking the fundamental existence of the union or rights of teachers to lobby for fair pay. But fair pay depends on fair results and systemwide the public isn't getting that. I understand that there are difficulties in measuring performance particularly across district and for "harder" students, etc., but the best minds in the teaching world should be able to sit down and work out professional benchmarks and standards to reward if they decide its a worthy goal. I wouldn't care if the MEA were primarily the devil designing the details, as long as it agreed to the principle.

Tenure - if it is to continue to exist - needs to also be flexible enough to accommodate for quick removal of the admittedly very rare bad apples like sexual abusers who teach, etc. But last year the MEA spent a $150,000 in legal fees defending, and then protecting the right of the files to be secret, of an abuser. I mean - once the MEA learned the truth, it was time to let the world know (so the guy wouldn't end up at another school). I wouldn't hold an organization responsible for the rare sick individual that worms his way into it - unless the organization lacks the common-sense to know when to let go.

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