Friday, January 11, 2008

Wrong headline, important story 

There was of course much attention paid to the new EdWeek Quality Counts comparison of the educational system in the fifty states. The StarTribune headline blares "State gets D+ for aid to teachers" and has the usual wheeze for more state money from the usual suspects.
State Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, and chairwoman of the House K-12 finance division, argued that such findings show that "the chickens have come home to roost" in terms of the state's inadequate funding of education.
And the usual whining occurs that the scoring of these items is somehow unfair:
Advanced degrees, experience and national board certification seem to be overlooked in favor of state-mandated tools, which can be dicey, he said. "A lot of these things are best addressed at the local level," [Rob Panning-Miller, president of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers] said.
The scores are here though, and I encourage you to look at a comparison of MN to other states nearby. Wisconsin scores better than Minnesota in school finance, spending 4.1% of its taxable resources on education versus 3.5% in this state. But that is simply grading inputs as if it were outputs. If the schools of Minnesota wanted to score better, they could have looked at the actual scoring within the area of teacher quality. What do we lack, looking at their scoring?
You could point out more, I'd guess, but these are three that do not require a whole lot more money, and certainly not money that is going to show up in teacher salaries -- and that's why I doubt we'd see them.

So do we give aid to teachers? We do, just not in the way that they want. The important story in this report is that we are not doing well in evaluation of what we're getting for the money we put in. We need more transparency, we need more attention to young teachers, and yes we need more evaluation. Perhaps when we have those things it would be easier for schools to raise money from levy referenda.

UPDATE: Leo has a grade for the writers at the STrib.

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