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Education Matters: Efficiency is only skin deep

October 22, 2010|By Dan Kimber

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

There is a memorable character from the movie "Teachers," Mr. Ditto, who reminds me of a few teachers I had in school and, I must add, a few I have known over the years as colleagues.

In the movie this fellow got his name by starting each and every class by having designated students distribute the day's handout while he sat at his desk with a newspaper propped up in front of him. At the end of the class all papers were collected by a student and placed on the desk of the teacher, who still had his face buried in the newspaper.

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At the end of the movie, Mr. Ditto has a heart attack and dies at his desk with his newspaper still propped up, and the students throughout the day, following their routine, were unaware of their teacher's demise.

Aside from the dark humor in this depiction was a painful reality that there are some very, very bad teachers in our system of education. The point was made, however exaggerated, that in the end, the students were as completely oblivious to Mr. Ditto as he had been to them.

I'm sure that most of you reading this can recall some lousy teachers you had in the course of your education. The question of what constitutes good and bad teachers has received a good deal of attention lately in our nation, more so than any time that I can recall in my career.

The questions being asked are not new, but the answers get a little tricky: How to assess teachers? How to remove the bad ones, how to reward the good ones, and who should be given the power to do either?

Tenure for teachers is also coming under greater scrutiny, with proponents seeing it as necessary job protection and critics charging that it makes it impossible to get rid of bad teachers.

Assessment of teachers is increasingly being based on standardized test scores, and that has indeed stirred the pot of controversy in and out of schools. The L.A. Times' decision to publish teacher scores and then rank their effectiveness accordingly, with New York schools now following suit and other states looking to do the same, is, to say the least, an ominous trend.

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