Suddenly millionaires, such as Bill Gates, are now experts on teaching. Gates dropped out of Harvard, in 1975, to launch his company, Micro-Soft. He is from an upper-middle-class family and went to an exclusive Seattle preparatory school.
Now he has done research that he claims backs up two trendy conservative beliefs. One, according to The Washington Post, is that Gates proposes ending class-size reduction experiments, lifting caps on class size and offering good teachers financial incentives to teach more students.
The other is to dismiss the idea that teachers pay should be based on seniority. Again The Washington Post said;
“Teachers are evaluated -- but "99 percent get the high rating," Gates said. Few teachers earn poor evaluations, and fewer still are rewarded or denied money according to those evaluations.”
I may not be a millionaire, but I do work for the Wichita School system and I work with teachers daily. I see a definite difference in class size. Some students need more one on one attention than others. Students don’t all learn at the same rate and some struggle with certain subjects. Some students are disruptive and divert time away from the class as a whole. A larger class means less time spent on the many students who need a little extra help. It also means that there are more trouble makers who can feed on each other to disrupt the class. I didn’t need a study to find this out, I used my experience in the class room.
Then there is the idea that we should get rid of the seniority system. Gates said that “Teachers are evaluated -- but "99 percent get the high rating," Gates said. Few teachers earn poor evaluations, and fewer still are rewarded or denied money according to those evaluations.”
I don’t deny there are a few bad teachers who slip through the system, but experience is a necessity in a school. No one can successfully run a classroom without experience. New teachers rely on the experience of the older ones to help them with difficult students. Conservatives, many of whom have never taught in a school, believe new enthusiastic teachers should replace the older ones who have been entrenched in the system. That is a recipe for disaster. We need new teachers, but the old ones help the new ones adjust. The idea of getting rid of the seniority system will only lower the morale of older more experienced teachers. Some will quit or retire early and we will have a shortage of experienced teachers.
Education is not a purely economic issue. We need students who understand the world around them and they need to be able to function in that world. Cutting cost, cutting corners, or justifying pay cuts to professionals who are already underpaid is foolish in the long run. We need the best education we can get and we won’t get that on the cheap.
He has money--but what does he really know?