NAEP scrape

Education Gadfly is amused to see various groups claim credit for the rise in NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) reading and math scores for elementary students. Gadfly notes a strange analysis in a New York Times editorial, which stressed there’s been little progress at the middle and high school level.

But the strangest interpretation of the NAEP long-term trend results must come from the Grey Lady herself, the New York Times, whose editorial page theorized that “the constant flow of data that shows poor and diminished performance in middle schools and high schools” is caused by school systems “placing their most well-trained and experienced teachers in the early grades, a strategy that means the teachers become less and less qualified over all as the students move up the grades.” Not even a shred of proof is adduced, but hey, when you’re the Times, who needs evidence?

The Times editorial board must not have anyone who knows much about education. This is an obvious error. Secondary and elementary teachers aren’t switched back and forth at will. Secondary teachers are credentialed to teach a particular subject; elementary teachers earn an all-subject credential.

There are more would-be kindergarten teachers than high school physics teachers out there, so the elementary ranks are more likely to be credentialed, which is what the Times means by “qualified.” The real problem is that public schools don’t pay a premium for teachers with skills that are in high demand, and rarely compensate teachers for taking difficult assignments or for teaching well. We don’t get what we don’t pay for.

About Joanne


  1. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Would a few teachers care to comment on why the New York Times editorial page makes the “Vast Wasteland” look like the Garden of Eden?

  2. First of all, this looks to me to be a reader opinion, not a columnist opinion, so it should be taken with a grain of salt.

    The fact that in Texas where I teach high school math, it bothers me that the elementary kids score 95%+ on the statewide assessment, but when they reach middle and high school, their grades plummet. Why is that? The article writer has it all wrong as Joanne said – I couldn’t teach elementary if I wanted to because I am secondary certified. I think the blame lies a little with everyone – the students develop a lackadasical attitude and slack off in junior high (their hormones take control of everything), the parents don’t push their kids to excel and blame the teachers when the kids fail, and the teachers needed to teach the upper level math and science courses oftentime feel underqualified to teach the course they have been asked to teach.

    How do we fix it? I’m not sure – raising salaries to attract more upper level teachers may be good, but those of us who have been to college know that an extremely intelligent professor may not be a very good teacher. The teachers we have need to be better trained to get concepts across and feel confident in teaching the upper level courses. Kids need to realize the importance of a high school education, and parents need to support the teachers when it comes to forcing the kids to work.

    Something needs to be done, but I’m not sure what…

  3. Jill, maybe you missed the articles, but a Texas paper did an analysis of TAKS grades and came up with some pretty blatent examples of cheating by teachers/administrators to artificially boost TAKS performance.

    Actually, what you described, kids supposedly doing great in elementry school and falling on their faces academically, is exactly the smoking gun the paper used to uncover some of the more egregious examples.

    The way you stop this sort of cheating is to make it a criminal matter and show a couple of administrators/teachers with their jackets on their heads on the evening news. The benefit then, from cheating, isn’t anywhere near good enough to off-set the cost of getting caught.

    Also, one of the problems that would have to be dealt with before any willy-nilly raising of teacher’s pay would be to determine what’s to be done with the current crop of clearly inferior teachers? These are the people who were willing to go to work for less money and since money’s what’s required to attract good teachers then what was attracted was not so good teachers.

    You don’t propose to keep those losers on the payroll, do you?