Posts Tagged ‘Economic Issues’

Teacher and Para-Professional Shortages in Schools Mirror Those in Private Sector… and the Reasons for the Shortages Do As Well

August 29, 2021 Comments off

Our local newspaper’s front page features an article by the local business writer with the headline “Schools Facing Educator Shortage”. The article describes the problems confronting local school districts who are opening anew after a wide range of modified virtual and in-person offerings last year resulted in a highly stressful year for everyone associated with public education. What is most noteworthy is that school districts are facing a double whammy: in our region it seems that enrollments are rising due to move-ups from other parts of the country AND the fact that children who opted out of in-person programs are returning as well. That combined with wages for para-professionals that are lower than that paid to substitute teachers makes hiring problematic.

The article quotes several administrators and teachers on the possible rationale for the shortage, which include burnout that led to early retirements, the above-referenced wage differentials, and the fact that those entering education from other fields are offset by those leaving education for other work, especially at the paraprofessional level.

Perversely, the problem of finding paraprofessionals MAY work itself out when rent subsidies and stimulus checks disappear. But if prospective hires for those positions are drawn from a pool of workers who are forced back to work due to economic circumstances, will those new hires be motivated? In an ideal world, employers would be forced to address labor shortages by raising wages… but in our desire to return to our pre-pandemic world, employers will be draw from a pool of desperate workers trying to keep their heads above water.

US News and World Ratings Rightfully Called Out for Commodification of College Education.

August 8, 2021 Comments off

Although the term “commodification” never appears in this Washington Post article decrying the US News and World Report rating “system”, the article describes how Ronald Reagan and his neoliberal enablers in the Democratic Party turned college attendance into a game based on free spending on wasteful frills. The essay concludes with this question:

The result has been ever-increasing tuition, piles of student debt and colleges and universities without massive endowments — or that try to tread a different path — struggling to survive. It has also left academia with an open question: Has all the spending increased educational quality, or simply created a more expensive, one-size-fits-all college experience, one that perverts what academia ought to be?

Readers of this blog know my answer.

NYTimes Article on Remote Workers Being “Left Behind” ASSUMES That “Getting Ahead” is in Every Employees Best Interest. Is It?

August 5, 2021 Comments off

Early in my career I was hired to lead a school district in the NH Seacoast region. Upon arriving in the district, I learned that our schools had received an anonymous $10,000 grant to institute a gifted and talented program with the proviso that we hire Joseph Renzulli to help us design and implement the program. At the time I was unfamiliar with Dr. Renzulli’s work, but after working with him and his team of consultants from University of Connecticut for three years I was sold on his approach to offering gifted and talented programs.

At our initial meeting, Dr. Renzulli asked me what I hoped to accomplish during my tenure as Superintendent and how I thought a gifted and talented program would help attain that goal. As an incoming Superintendent with a mathematical bent, I had spent some time examining the test scores of the schools I would be leading. I told him that I wanted to boost our Iowa test scores which were statistically “lower than expected” at some grade levels and in some schools, lower than some of the nearby districts with comparable demographics, and hovering at roughly the 85th percentile. I hoped to boost the scores to the 92nd percentile and hoped a gifted and talented program would help pull them higher by increasing the number of high scoring students.

Dr. Renzulli asked why I wanted to get higher test scores. I was astonished at the question. Surely he understood that a higher score was better than a lower score. Surely he knew that in order to move the percentiles to a higher level I’d need to have more children scoring in high percentile levels. In the conversation that followed, I came to understand that Dr. Renzulli saw giftedness through a broader lens than test scores. In fact, given the chance to do so, I sensed that Dr. Renzulli would abandon test scores as a metric and rely on teachers to identify the giftedness that each child possessed and adjust the content and rate of instruction to match the interests and abilities of each student. Test scores were a convenient and inexpensive way to measure learning, but they were a deeply flawed construct for identifying gifted students or “school success” because they failed to capture some of the most important qualities of students or schools.

This exchange in the early 1980s came to mind when I read Sara Kessler’s NYTimes Dealbook article titled “Will Remote Workers Get Left Behind in the Hybrid Office?” The article described how the recent phenomenon of businesses offering its employees the option of working remotely was affecting promotions. Early data collection indicates that on-site workers get more attention from managers than remote workers and, since college educated women are more likely to work from home they are less likely to return to the office, they were being “left behind” in terms of opportunities for promotion.

But… what if “getting ahead” is a flawed construct for measuring success? What if seeking a higher salary or higher position on the organization chart is as meaningless as boosting test scores from the 85th percentile to the 92nd? What if our culture valued caregiving to children, family members, and each other the same way it values the accumulation of wealth or a high-level position in an organization? What if well-being was our culture’s North Star instead of consumption, competition, and comparison?

And here are two related questions that are applicable to this blog:

  1. How does the structure of schooling contribute to our current cultural norms and suppress the North Star of well-being?
  2. How would schools be re-structured if they focussed on well-being instead of competition and comparison?

I may be wrong, but I have a sense that more and more workers are wrestling with work-life balance after the pandemic. Spending time alone or with just one’s family, being away from schools and their emphasis on competition and comparison, being away from offices where extra-hours are valued over spending time on self-care and family nurturance, and away from the commuting and the intense personal schedules that accompany the busy-ness that goes with being outside of one’s home environment, workers have time to consider what is REALLY important and, in some cases, it isn’t getting more money or getting ahead.

Categories: Essays Tags: ,