Saturday, November 22, 2008

Merging Teaching and Baseball

One of the benefits from teaching at W.G.A.S.H. is that the many tribulations caused by the system itself, and by system I mean students, parents, teachers, administration and central office, have unsettled what was a serene professional pool. Before arriving here at the outset of the 2007 school year, I had begun to experience a complacency birthed out of a relatively calm teaching environment. And now after a year of swimming in the murky waters of W.G.A.S.H., I am ready to work towards cleaning up the mess. Who knows how long this desire will last, but they ought to take advantage of it. And it seems they will. I've been asked to join to committees. The first is a parent involvement committee, and the second is a teacher evaluation committee. The second committee spawned this post.
Though not assigned reading, I picked up a copy of Teacher Evaluation To Enhance Professional Practice by Charlotte Danielson and Thomas L. McGreal. In Chapter three of the text, they discuss the differentiation of teachers' careers into novice, experienced, or needing intensive assistance (28). Later, they write, "Once teachers have achieved career (or tenured) status, they are full members of a professional community and should be treated as such. ...It conveys the notion that the job (and therefore the livelihood) of a teacher is never in question (29). I stopped, underlined a few of the remarks, and then asked, "Why should our job never be in question?" The very question made me consider my beloved Boston Red Sox and their latest approach to player development and player retention.

The Draft
Each spring, potential teaching prospects earn their certification in hopes of finding a position. Should a potential teacher desire to teach professionaly, he or she would have to file papers to formally enter the State Teaching Draft. Some of these prospects rate highly and are coveted by every district. However, in the new system, the lowest performing schools would select before the higher performing schools.
Unlike some educators who believe teaching talent comes with time, thus the existence of tenure, I believe that some teachers are born with the potential to dominate their profession the way Jonathan Papelbon was born with the ability to dominate hitters. Yes, Papelbon had to work to achieve that potential, but he was certainly blessed with some natural ability. Teaching is like that. Some people are born with the natural talent of teaching, and through hard work can learn to dominate in a short amount of time.
So, the highly rated and pre-existing talent in some teachers would earn them the spots in the top of the State Teacher Draft. And because the districts selecting first have the highest need for quality teachers, many of these teachers will see immediate action.
Undrafted teachers would then be forced to reconsider their career path or fall into the Unrestricted Free Agent Pool which will be discussed later.
All signed draft picks can negotiate the terms of their initial salary and length of contract. Signing bonuses may also be a part of the equation.
The Minor Leagues
Some teachers selected in the draft, and especially those in the later rounds, will need some time in The Minor Leagues to cultivate skill or refine specific areas. School districts would benefit from ending the practice of low paid paraprofessionals and fork over additional money to pay Minor League Contracts to their draft picks placed as paraprofessionals.
There in the Minor Leagues, these draft picks will study under the experienced teachers, waiting for their chance to step in and perform. Those opportunites might arrive when the veteran teacher falls ill, has deteriorating skill, or retires.
The Major Leagues
The Major League teacher is on the active roster within a school district. Districts entrust these teachers to perform with skill all of the duties and responsibilities of their content expectations. However, like professional sports, veteran teachers must continue to perform to earn employment. Should their skill falter, they run the risk of not getting re-signed at the end of their negotiated contract.
No longer will tenure ensure that a veteran teacher earn a paycheck. Instead, performance will control their employment. Does this run the risk of good teachers not getting re-signed because they are not well liked by ownership? Yes. But if that teacher has compiled a body of evidence proving their ability to add value to a student, they should easily find a position elsewhere. Will owners still continue to pay poor performing teachers? Probably. But if the stakeholders--parents and students--are unhappy, then their voice should persuade ownership to make moves.
Free Agency
At the end of a teacher's contract, he or she will have the opportunity to enter Free Agency. At this time, a teacher may pursue a position at a different school, and again negotiate a contract. He or she, of course, may re-sign with the current school.
Additionally, those who were undrafted may enter the free agency pool. Here, these potential teachers can compete with those teachers wishing to make a change.

This new system stops rewarding (paying) teachers based on years of experience. It also puts pressure on those experienced teachers to be better than those getting drafted. Young teachers who arrive with the skills necessary to succeed do not get treated as if they don't know what they are doing simply because they haven't taught professionally. Imagine the Tampa Bay Rays treating Evan Longoria the same as veteran players who he can outperform. It simply doesn't make good business sense.
The new system also allows for the struggling districts to benefit from the new talent right away. These districts often have the most open spots, but the new contracts would ensure that the talent sticks around for a few years.
Sure there are some wrinkles, like money, but I'm just a blogger on a cold New England Saturday, not Secretary of Education for the Obama-elect Cabinet.


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