Confehr: On goats, teachers, lawmakers, repetition

Friday, September 23, 2011

History only appears to repeat itself to those who don't pay attention to the details, according to a national news commentator quoting a college professor.

Well, it sure looks like it's happening again.

Mayor Barbara Woods will be welcoming crowds to Lewisburg next month for Goats Music & More, complete with country music singer Lorri Morgan. GM&M is a festival that's grown to, as the name implies, so much more.

Wednesday, the mayor spoke of GM&M and so much more about the status of education today in Tennessee. She was a principal for many years in the Marshall County system.

In the early 1980s, the Career Ladder was introduced with incentives for teachers to get better pay for better performance based on an evaluation system.

"As soon as they started Career Ladder, the librarians and guidance counselors and auxiliary teachers asked, 'How do I get that, too?'" Woods recalled.

Somehow it worked out.

Now, that might be compared to a teacher evaluation system that started this year. It's experienced problems. As one school board member told me last week about what appears to be a repetition of history, "I'm sure the intent was good."

There's another comparison born of an attempt to improve education.

The pupil teacher ratio was lowered. With fewer students per teacher, it seems logical that there would be more time for personal attention. Regardless, there had to be more teachers because there weren't fewer students.

Guess what that did to teacher evaluations when the number of evaluations was increased for teachers who had not achieved tenure.

Principals and other administrators were busier than ever.

Woods was so busy with evaluations that she had to lay down the law on what she'd do next.

"If there's no blood flowing rapidly, do not take me from an evaluation" of the teachers at her school, Woods said.

That was nearly 30 years ago.

Now, evaluations are to last 90 minutes instead of 45.

One of the several teachers, speaking on a condition that they not be identified, reacted to a newspaper story saying a county school system hired more assistant principals. It's because evaluations will take twice the time, the teacher said.

Woods' recollections reminded me that Councilman Robin Minor retired at the end of the last school year, noting the way lawmakers were treating teachers. He'd been at the teachers' march on Legislative Plaza.

The march was to protest lawmakers' decision to revoke teachers' ability to negotiate a work contract. Lawmakers also changed teachers' probationary period from three to five years before they could achieve tenure. Does that mean more evaluations?

And then, someone called in saying college students are changing their majors because they don't want to become teachers under these conditions.

Now, if you believe the market will correct such things, you'd realize that when the workforce contracts in a certain field, then the wage rate goes up.

My expectation is there will be more people at the Goats Music & More Festival Oct. 7-9.

These views are the author's and not necessarily reflective of the Tribune's views.