Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Should We Create Education Mortality Panels?

I'm not sure how I'll feel about this Jamie Malanowski proposal  tomorrow or next week , but at first blush it makes some sense.
Here’s an idea. Before my wife worked in education, she worked in health care. It is her observation that when patients have bad outcomes–that is, die–hospitals are very serious about rooting out why. When patients die, especially patients who were not admitted in dire condition, the hospital convenes a Mortality Panel to investigate what happened, with an aim to fixing the problem. Sometimes they find shortcomings by a doctor or a nurse or someone else on the staff, and take steps to address it. But often they find that the outcome wasn’t always within their control. Patients drink, smoke, take drugs, have poor diets, have underlying conditions, suffer environmental insults, and so on. Here’s the idea: if you want to hold teachers responsible for student performance, make the teachers’ performance part of a total evaluation. By all means, examine whether the teacher was up to the job. But other questions should also be asked. Did the student do his homework? Did the student come to class? Does the student possess a learning disability, or an underlying medical or psychological condition that affects performance, and does the school address those issues? Does the student have a parent at home? Did he have breakfast? Did he have a place to sleep? Is the student a discipline problem? What has the school done to address this kid’s challenges? If not, is it because of a funding issue?
I have no desire to defend bad teachers.  I have no desire to defend myself when I have a bad day.  At the same time, some students refuse learn and others return to situations that make the events in the classroom trivial.
By all means, hold teachers accountable. Better yet, hold everybody accountable

I suspect that Governor Duagaard and Melody Schopp won't warm to this proposal because many education mortality panels might discover that last year's funding cuts hurt student achievement even though many teachers and administrators did their jobs well.

The biggest proble, with this idea is that the patients are dead, but the failed students are alive.  Something or someone needs to help them. Nothing in this proposal deals with creating second chances for students who fail.

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