The $125,000 Teacher – And Corporate Counterpart

This past Sunday 60 minutes featured a story that no doubt will contribute to the warm dialogues concerning the public schools, teacher unionism and tenure. .  The Charter School – TEP, The Equity Project – makes the case that paying teachers a substantial salary, somewhat on par with (my words here) what a high level Instructional Designer or Learning & Development leader earns, will improve student test results. Or what we would call improved performance and employee effectiveness.

Unlike the corporate world where ILT or e-learning, video, collaborative or virtual learning; in other words the whole pastiche of the learning/training tookit,  TEP teachers, in decidedly low, or no tech environments are expected to produce tangible evidence their students, regardless of their deficits are inspired to meet the expectations of their teachers and principal. Of course, many factors, among them poverty, neighborhood, family life and the social environment contribute to most of the students starting out well behind peers in wealthier districts, particularly in the suburbs. Few of them have had good experiences in school. As to the teachers, screened rigorously and fully aware that with no tenure protection they must effect significant change, work long hours on both lesson planning and peer evaluations. Zeke Vanderhoek, the school’s founder and principal expects demonstrable change. Should there be a

falling off of classroom control, low or static student metrics, that teacher is gone. As well documented in the show, these teachers were remarkably ‘on’ , vigorous, caring and aware of techniques they might need to develop to resolve student difficulties. When I was a school principal I would have walked over glass to get this kind of talent.

This isn’t a brand new concept. School districts from Chicago to LA, Houston to Denver are moving towards this model. In the late 80’s when education dollars were flowing, experimentation was rife. Between municipal and school district turf battles – many fought over tenure – creative and potentially viable programs simply vanished.

All of which brings me to this point. We in the ‘for-profit’ world can and do measure merely learner uptake  (tests, sims, role plays). However, with the exception of sales training, our ability to point a laser –line of sight — from training/learning to either performance improvements using rigorous evaluations; to higher margins, a more robust bottom line – and most importantly, an employee who will make good decisions – even when unobserved, tends to be pretty weak.  I know, I’ve been compelled to build courses that fall short of a true evaluation experience, designed by our best development staff because, there is neither appetite, nor a compelling reason to incur the time, costs and resources of such experiences. Of course there’s always Kirkpatrick – we can hide behind that canard, but in the end it’s a house of cards.

So – the school pays extraordinary wages for extraordinary results – and the whole community is obliged to work towards a goal. In our world, where tools and assets are more readily available for any type of experience and evaluation, why can’t we go the whole way to meet bigger goals by compelling learning to meet more robust performance markers.

It’s almost comical that, in a school where teachers can be terminated at will if they miss a goal, how come there is an ocean liner full of lame training/learning being delivered – and no one – at least to my 25 year experience on the corporate side, has ever been terminated because employees underperformed.

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