Sunday, January 06, 2008

"Take the Lead" vs. the race to the bottom

Via the good doctor, some depressing news:
Newly released national education statistics show Washington's average teacher salaries have dropped even further behind the national average and remain dead last among West Coast states. The average Washington teacher earns $12,000 less than the West Coast average.

Washington's class sizes are ranked 46th in the nation.

A separate report from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy
(page 15) shows that Washington now ranks 45th in the nation in per-pupil spending, which indicates a further slide in support for Washington's public school students.
Or is it? What I said about relative rankings a year ago still holds true:
First, can we forever banish 50-state ranking statistics, throw them in the burn barrel where they belong? Someone has to be ranked fiftieth, unless all states spend the same amount, dollar-for-dollar, which will never happen. Imagine if every state spent upwards of $15,000 per student per year. Would the citizens of Mississippi really care if they ranked last at that point? Furthermore, rankings that don't factor in cost-of-living adjustments are worse than useless. Let's talk about benchmarks, baselines. Relative assessments are essentially meaningless.
I'm all for improving compensation--I want to attract more, better teachers--but not in favor of misleading or dubious rankings to help us get there. Show me the absolute numbers, give me the ideal reference point, and let's set a goal and get it done.

1 comment:

Dr Pezz said...

Good points, Jim. I definitely feel some of the statistics are quite relative, but the class-size ranking concerns me most of all. I don't like seeing the typical class rising in size.

Plus, I'd love to see a realistic class size formula used where special education, classes mandated to be small (reading, WASL prep, vocational, etc.), and the like are not factored into the mainstream courses' loads.

My school has an OSPI figure of 19 per class, but I've only had two English classes smaller than 20 as I enter my ninth year here and this year my smallest is 30. If the specialized classes are eliminated, our school's average is actually nearer to 28, and my department's average size is 30. Scary.