Friday, November 16, 2012

You Get What You Reward

Instapundit notes a Michigan school district with uniformly failing student achievement scores had teachers who were all rated "highly effective."

As he notes, the shock is that this is shocking.

Mind you, I've been mostly happy with my childens' teachers even if the system itself is frustrating. But I live in Ann Arbor. We're fine, here.

But early in my legislative career I learned that our teachers are twisted by teachers unions.

At one time, a small part of my job included ghost writing honorary tributes and resolutions, in addition to the official resolutions of state business. I honored a lot of people and events, such as the retirement of Gerald Ford's football jersey at the University of Michigan (it was read aloud at the half-time show). I honored a ship being transferred to the Australian navy. I even honored the ending of the science fiction show Star Trek: The Next Generation. Among many hundreds of others. I once wrote a tribute honoring the retirement of the conductor of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra that reportedly brought tears to the man's eyes, even though I knew nothing about classical music. I could write a unique and glowing tribute to an Eagle Scout knowing only the boy's name and home town and have it printed and ready to go in twenty minutes. Sometimes legislators would forget to ask ahead of time and I often got that call.

Anyway. I saw a lot of stuff. I enjoyed that aspect of my job and like to think that my work is hanging in a ship, studies, and hallways all over the world. No byline, of course. But it is there.

One request I had was a retirement tribute for a teacher. The teachers friends and colleagues who provided information for the request included several pages of achievements in the teacher's long career. I had no shortage of information to work with.

What shocked me then was that of all the lines of achievements, only one had anything to do with teaching children. Everything else involved union activities.

Mind you, I was honoring a retiring teacher and not a retiring union organizer.

So when you read that all the teachers were rated "highly effective," I have to ask what were they being rated at doing in a highly effective manner? Under the way their colleagues saw them, those teachers probably were highly effective--if you ignore that little teaching distraction. So no, that is not shocking.

But I'm sure that the children processed through that school district will long be proud that they had highly effective employees who sent them out into the world with few tools to prosper or even survive in our legal economy. I hope they won't be too shocked that it counts for nothing.