Running errands with my daughters today the Diane Rehm show was on the radio. She was interviewing Steven Brill, the author of Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools. My gut impression is that Brill genuinely respects teachers. In spite of that, he drove me crazy during the interview, to the extent that I was slamming my hands on the steering wheel. My oldest daughter actually asked me, "Mommy, why don't you just turn off the radio?"
First of all, I have to admit to not having read the book. I have heard some great things about it and am adding it to my list of books to read. Also, we were making stops so my listening to the interview was briefly interrupted a few times (something that was probably for the best).
One of Brill's major arguments throughout the interview was clearly for merit pay (although I never heard him use those words). He frequently spoke about teachers being frustrated by the fact that no matter how hard they work they would make the same amount of money as anyone else who had been breathing for the same length of time. There are so many problems with that argument. One, the idea that teachers are only motivated by money or that their compensation is a competition. Two, that there is an available solution to this 'problem'. Research on merit pay has shown that it doesn't work. We have no good, meaningful way to judge teachers. Finally, "breathing for the same length of time?" Really? Those were his words.
With breaks for our errands I was surviving with only minimal damage to my steering wheel. As we arrived home Diane Rehm asked a question about why teachers are always blamed, what about the parents. (By the way, Rehm was not exempt from my frustration, her questions were often as irritating as Brill's answers.) Brill responded by saying that successful charters have proven that all kids can be taught. I nearly screamed and did slam my car door when we got out. If kids are in a charter school someone, most likely a parent, has put forth the effort to get them there. That leaves plenty of kids whose parents don't know how to do so or don't bother to. Sheesh.