Tuesday, March 15, 2011

60 Minutes and the $125,000 Teachers

"60 Minutes" recently aired a segment about a charter school in New York City that offered teachers a starting salary of $125,000.

The 60 Minutes segment was interesting, but I thought the report was an epic fail on Katie Couric’s part.

First of all, what makes the principal, Zeke Vanderhoek, of the “The Equity Project” charter school qualified to make decisions on teacher hiring and teacher effectiveness? His classroom experience was gained through the Teach For America program.

While I can’t find any details on his length of time or accomplishments as a classroom teacher, he was only 32 when he began this charter school and his former job was Founder of the Manhattan GMAT prep company.  That company was founded in 2001, so I can’t imagine he spent more than a couple of years as a classroom teacher, and I cannot find any evidence of him being a school administrator prior to his current job.

To me he seems to be lacking any documented accomplishments that make him qualified for his current job.
Also, in the 60 Minutes interview, Katie Couric asks about tenure.  Mr. Vanderhoek begins his response with “The idea that somebody could have a job for life….”

TENURE IS NOT “A JOB FOR LIFE!!! It is merely an assurance of due process.  Why didn’t Ms. Couric question him on that response?

Also in the 60 Minutes segment,  the former “chancellor” of New York Schools, (he didn’t have the qualifications to be superintendent) Joel Klein was interviewed. Klein is asked by Katie how you get tenure and he responds:
Klein:  “If you have a pulse you get tenure....tenure is something you get for showing up.”

I can’t help but wonder why Katie Couric didn’t challenge him on the tenure issue with questions like the following?
  • Mr. Klein, how long were you in charge of the New York City schools? Wasn't it 8 years?
  • Mr. Klein, did you realize that 60% of the current teaching crop in NYC have been teaching for 5 years or less? If you look at the totals over 8 years the number of teachers hired under your tenure might be as high as 70% (or more).
  • Mr. Klein, weren’t 80% of the current crop of principals placed in their positions while you were in charge of  New York City schools?
  • Mr. Klein, isn't it true that principals are the ones who grant tenure?
  • Mr. Klein, what do you have to say to the fact that a majority of the teachers who you claim are granted tenure for merely breathing have been granted tenure by the 80% of the principals who were appointed under your tenure as head of the NYC schools?
  • Mr. Klein, explain exactly who should be held accountable if teachers receive tenure for merely breathing?
  • Finally: How dare you Mr. Klein try to perpetrate these lies and slanders regarding tenure on the American people?
In case you’re not aware of Joel Klein’s prior background, his primary career was that of a lawyer. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joel_Klein

Since resigning as chancellor, he has since accepted a job as an executive vice president with Rupert Mudoch’s “News Corporation” the parent company of Fox News.

Upon introducing Mr. Klein to the News Corporation, the company said Mr. Klein would be a senior adviser to Mr. Murdoch “on a wide range of initiatives, including developing business strategies for the emerging educational marketplace.”

Other questions that should have been asked in the 60 Minutes segment: Does the school have a library?  How about a social worker or counselor?  What is its attrition rate?

Finally this  all comes on the heels on a study that shows a $75 million dollar merit pay scheme in New York City did not work at all.

Oh... Katie Couric did reveal one criticism....the test scores at The Equity Project charter school aren't as good as the surrounding public schools and the student achievement gains at the school aren't what was predicted.

Will politicians and policy makers ever realize that teaching experience does count for something and perhaps consult with some real life accomplished classroom teachers before they launch any new hair-brained schemes?