Monday, February 16, 2009

Stimulus

The big, bad stimulus package has been approved and should be showing up at a school near you.  In the meantime our localities have already begun to hunker down for the economic storm.  In my area this means buying out veteran teachers who are near retirement.  In some areas that means teachers with as little as TEN years experience.  Other economic factors have been drawing experienced teachers away from the area for years.  Most notably, nearby districts that pay sometimes one-third more in salaries which makes driving daily out of the hometown an attractive prospect.  
OR, even more horrible than than losing teachers - headlines have been made because localities want to cut SPORTS - (gasp!)
But back to stimulus.  I'm particularly interested in tracking the plans for the 4.3 billion earmarked for Professional Development.  From the White House website, it looks like most of it is planned for mentoring new teachers.  I'd like to see a comprehensive PD program that imbeds continual learning in the job, close to students and teachers, and geared to improving the work of both - with time provided.  Time does cost money so the money will be needed to make big changes.
For those unfamiliar, right now PD is a grapeshot affair.  Teachers elect to chose their own PD because they often have to pay for some or all of it.  Not a happy prospect for those who can barely make ends meet as it is.  Additionally, teachers are rarely identified and subsequently encouraged to be potential leaders. Resultantly, buildings and systems can sometimes be led by those who hope to (either, both, or sometimes) just get out of the classroom, just take home higher pay, or actually make a difference.  Not a formula for getting the best and the brightest.
Worse yet, however, would be a trail of cronyism.  Board certification, by outside evaluators who are unaware of who is being evaluated, has been the best work-around to local politics.  It, too, has some drawbacks but I've yet to see a better plan.