QUID PRO QUO

Basing a teachers pay on the college degree that the teacher has is a curious development. Despite the temptation, I won’t deal with the comedic aspects of the proposal.

            But I do think that teachers should get more pay. So, if teachers are asking for a higher than normal pay raise – give it to them. BUT, in exchange, insist that all teachers produce results.

            Right now, neither Berkeley nor Cedarbridge regularly produce classes of students who are able to pass internationally accepted examinations.  Right now, both Berkeley and Cedarbridge have difficulty in regularly producing classes of students who reach the adjusted – and lowered – standards of the Bermuda College.  Right now, neither Berkeley nor Cedarbridge regularly produce classes of students who are able to win local academic scholarships in numbers proportionate to their overall size [Berkeley and Cedarbridge together have about 55% of the total Bermudian pool of secondary school students]. Right now, neither Berkeley nor Cedarbridge regularly produce classes of students who gain freshman year places at competitive entry universities and colleges.

            This is not a new state of affairs. It’s been like this, in some instances, for more than twenty years.

            Saltus, Warwick, BHS, BI, and MSA regularly produce classes of students who meet international standards such as the GCSE[UK], IGCSE, and US High School diploma requirements. Saltus, Warwick, BHS, BI, and MSA regularly produce students who win a disproportionate share of Bermuda’s more than $1,000,000 worth of academic scholarships. Saltus, Warwick, BHS, BI, and MSA regularly produce students who gain freshman year entry to the most selective universities and colleges.

            Between them, these five private schools have expanded and now absorb almost half of all Bermuda’s high school students. There’s also been a proliferation of ‘home schools’. Parents who don’t send their children into Bermuda’s private system also send their offspring to public and private secondary schools in the USA, Canada, UK, and the Caribbean.

            Bermuda’s parents, black and white, are heeding Malcolm X’s advice. They are using “every means possible” to get their children out of the already paid-for public system in order to send their children into what amounts to a ‘twice-paid-for’ private educating system or into a home-school – either here or abroad.

            Why do these parents do that? Because these parents see that Bermuda’s public educating system doesn’t succeed. These parents see that it isn’t working now. They see that it fails to produce results that match the dollars spent on it. They see that, through the years, it hasn’t delivered a good output.

            So why pay the teachers more? Pay them – but demand results. Pay them – but insist that the current trend changes.

The trend? Tests show – AND HAVE SHOWN CONSISTENTLY FOR MORE THAN THIRTY YEARS – that Bermudian students who are in the public system score well when they’re five and six. That they score less well – are falling behind – five years later when they’re ten and eleven. And that they have clearly fallen further behind when they’re fifteen and sixteen.

This process of deterioration – dis-education? – was first shown by the ‘old’ California Achievement Test [CAT]. The CAT was used from the early 1970’s until the 1990’s. Now the ‘new’ Terra Nova test, in use since the 1990’s, displays the same phenomenon.

            In plain language, this means that Bermudian children who are schooled in the public system; who spend their whole twelve [now being upped to thirteen] years in the public system; who get as many dollars spent on their education as does a student at Saltus [the most expensive school in Bermuda’s private system]; will not improve – and won’t hold his or her place – over those twelve [now thirteen] years.

            The ultimate reality is that a Bermudian child who spends twelve [now being upped to thirteen] years being schooled in the public system will not do as well as another Bermudian child who spends exactly the same period of years in the private system.

            But, over those twelve years, the same amount of dollars – more or less – will be spent on that child’s education.

            So why spend even more on teacher’s pay? Spend it, but demand, require, insist on, results.

            Each year, every year, for the entire public school system, publish the results achieved. Publish those results by school. Let Mr and Mrs and Ms Public know and see which public schools achieve good results. AND WHICH SCHOOLS DO NOT.

            Give the Principal of an under-performing public school the right to get rid of under-performing teachers. In exchange for more pay remove – from the Union agreement – any tenure clause that guarantees that Union Rules will provide untouchable job security for a mediocre or bad teacher. Take out those clauses that enable a bad or mediocre teacher to lay back in expensive mediocrity or harmful non-performance for all of his or her teaching life. And, obviously, the Principal of a consistently under-performing school will find it wise to seek another career in another field – before being moved on by parental or Departmental pressures.

            Teaching does require a strong personal commitment. Teachers in the private sector, all of whom are teaching to international test standards, either make that personal commitment AND ALSO succeed at teaching, or they get out, or are gotten out. How long would the Trustees of Saltus [or BHS or Warwick or BI or MSA] keep their present Head if end of year results plummeted or fell, year after year?

            How long would a private sector teacher or Principal last if – annually – he or she trotted out a well-crafted, almost poetic, recitation of reasons for failure – “drugs, family problems, breakdown of the family unit, disruptive students, lack of parent support…”.      Doesn’t happen does it? And, over the last twenty years it hasn’t happened. Not in the private sector.

But it has happened – is happening now – in the public sector. Each year, a poetic recitation of reasons. Each year, no decent results. But each year, the dollar cost rises, and the negative social impact increases. Georgia Assemblyman Julian Bond points out: “Violence is …children going to school for 12 years and receiving 6 years’ worth of education.”  So, from Julian Bond’s perspective, our own Bermudian public educating may be “doing violence” to our own Bermudian children.

            If one considers that a child actually goes into the paid-for public system at age four [4], then it will cost more than $100,000 to educate that child over the [now] fourteen years that it will spend in the total public system. It costs about the same – perhaps just a tiny bit more – if the most expensive school in the private system is used for thirteen years.

            No person or family that shells out one hundred thousand hard-earned dollars  [$100,000] for a product should be cheated out of that product, or receive a bad or faulty product that cannot be returned or exchanged. The private system delivers a full product. Full value. The public system delivers a faulty product. Less than full value.

            Pay them! But they must deliver! Deliver! DELIVER!

            Every year publish the results! Publish! PUBLISH!

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