Sunday, January 22, 2006

Mike Cope's Blog--Wisdom from a Friend

Mike Cope is a tremendous minister, a great preacher and a dear friend. Mike serves as Senior Minister for the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas. I have seldom "lifted" an entire entry from another blog, but, with Mike's permission, that is what I am doing here.

What follows appeared on his blog on Friday, January 20, 2006. You can check out his almost daily posts at:

The idea behind merit pay scales for teachers is that we want the very best teaching possible for our students. We've all known teachers (though, truthfully, I haven't known many) who were failing their children.

However, when the pay increases are tied to students' performance on standardized tests, there is a huge problem. It encourages teachers to gravitate toward classrooms with fewer kids who are challenged--challenged socially, culturally, emotionally, and intellectually. In other words, if you can find a classroom full of kids from gated communities, your chances for increased pay skyrocket.

I like what Denver is doing: tying pay scales to teachers' willingness to teach in classrooms with students who from the poorest families and those who are English-language learners.

Another possibility is to base the performance NOT on standardized tests but on the attainment of goals that have been agreed upon by teachers, parents, and school district representatives.

Having said that, I'm so thankful today for the (mostly) wonderful teachers my three children have had here in Abilene. It was very important to us that our kids go to school with students from other races and other economic situations.

From Ben Witherington III, one of my favorite NT scholars:

We are not owners of this world; we are only stewards and caretakers of it, for God's sake. The Bible does not support either a godless communistic philosophy of property and use of the world's resources, nor does it support a godless capitalistic vision of the same. The Bible suggests there is neither private nor public property, only God's property, of which we are all stewards.

The whole modern theory of ownership is faulty, for we brought nothing with us into this world, and we will take none of it with us. It also follows from this theology of stewardship that since it belongs to God, we have an obligation to use and dispose of it all in a way that glorifies God and helps humankind.

The theory of charity too often has as its essential premise "what's mine is mine, but I may choose to share it with you." The problem with this thesis is that the earth is the Lord's and all that is therein. We have simply been entrusted with a small portion of it to tend and use for the good of God's dominion while we are here.


IBreakCellPhones said...

Trouble with standardized tests is that they're relatively easy to administer and score.

What about, instead of grading a school on the one and only metric of how many students pass the test, add a few more metrics to encourage putting resources in at all levels of student achievement.

Would that be a good way of measuring teacher performance? That way, there wouldn't be as much of a penalty for students that weren't passing, and it wouldn't be so easy as to let the overachievers be on cruise control.

Larry James said...

Ibreakcellphones, I think you are on to something here. The testing process/metrics need to be more complex and comprehensive. We are losing art, music, PE and who knows what else in our quest for outcomes now narrowly defined. Education is not as simple as our current testing mania makes it seem.

One of my daughters who is a public school teacher tells me that only those at the top appreciate the current system. Everyone else sees its flaws and those at the top haven't a clue as to what is going on beneath them.

Now that I type that it occurs to me that education is not the only arena where things work that way!

We need to apply political pressure in an organized manner to change the system for the benefit of every student.