Public Education

Who can change policy?

Who can change policy?

College work is in full swing.

(hilarious as I’m turning 34… am I smart or stupid? Will my wife still love me when it’s over?)

As I re-engage my creative mind within the collegiate terra firma of mental fertility, there is one glaring detail that lingers on the horizon as I simultaneously beseech myself to stay abreast of the national epidemic of political gridlock:

There is no shortage of interesting ideas!

Seriously… I hear good ideas everyday. Very few of them should be implemented with 100% faith and ubiquity, but they should be attempted nonetheless.

The Chicago teachers’ strike is a very good example of the final compromise that could have been entertained months ago while the details of the “initial” teacher assessment model could have been fine-tuned through the collaboration of the union AND the mayor’s office. If one employs the “golden axiom of social intelligence” [We are smarter than I] a successful strategy would reveal itself with minimal energy:

  1. Collaboratively discuss theoretical model that may prove accurate.
  2. Make predictions.
  3. Strategize implementation to answer the questions of BOTH parties (the union AND the administration).
  4. Implement for a provisional year.
  5. Employ third party expertise to THOROUGHLY analyze results.
  6. Present results to both parties and meet collaboratively to discuss & critique. Compare with predictions.
  7. Renegotiate steps 1, 2, & 3 before implementing within policy.

Mutual respect and mutual goals should be the new paradigm for local, state, and federal policy. When we acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers, we can finally have the open mind to attempt collaborative solutions.

A closing note: one interesting consequence of collaboration is the revelation of selfish spearheads of personal belief. Ardent figureheads of unyielding ideas are of more danger to our communal benefit than those who are willing to compromise. If democracy is a sacred idea, we must reduce the power of metaphoric monarchs. The union president doesn’t always support EACH of its members and the superintendent’s policy is RARELY a result of administrative consensus.

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This day is usually filled with brooding…

Strolling back into a high school after a 2 month vacation and seeing your coworkers is a happy occasion that gets quickly thrown to the side as socially ardent teenagers quickly smash through the doors and shout to their supporting cast of boisterous pseudo-hooligans while we make our opening speeches. Teaching is honorable… and our abilities of crowd control are rarely acknowledged.

Today, for me, began with a text from my coworkers… cursing me from their annual re-insertion into public sector protocol while I lay in bed thinking about how best to mentally prepare for my 6:30-9:30pm graduate class on Probability. My daily stress level during the “school year” has officially plummeted from an 60/100 to a 20/100. My advisor has even shunned my overzealous work ethic and told me to “settle in” to my schedule. Wanna know my schedule that needs settling into? M 4:30-7:30pm, T 6:30-9:30pm, W 4:30-7:30pm, & Th 4:30-7:30pm. I think I’ll hit the gym during the days that I work on my comfort level.

Now, it’s not all easy. Specifically, I have very little experience with this new form of statistical mathematical notation. The language of math of physics is much more visual and robust. We don’t randomly insert a vector term unless there is a physical property that includes direction… whereas, statisticians can randomly insert and fit an extra nominal term within a model that has no physical interpretation; it’s just data. It is data that may or may not be important. Rarely do physicists do anything “extra.” We are barebones, brute force mathematicians that learn the elegant tricks when we have to. So my prediction is that this change in philosophy is going to carry my forehead into the figurative brick wall as I glean the nuances of Item Response Theory and Hierarchical Multilevel Analysis.

On another note, my fourth class in “Teacher Evaluation” is going to require a great deal of empathy. Subjective/Qualitative Evaluation is farthest thing I’ve ever witnessed from a hard science that attempts to portray itself as an evolved, structured analysis. I have a feeling that I’ll be making hand waving arguments and laughing at the false pretenses of administrators. Nearly every paper on teacher evaluation that I have ever seen, shows that local administrators show extreme bias in their evaluations… so much so that third-party university professionals are usually called in to “correct” for the skew in qualitative data. Sadly, qualitative data is still the only evaluation method my former colleagues and I have ever been subjected to.


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