There have been a number of interesting RSA animates this past year. One that I shared earlier is very informative on what public education should be all about. It's by Sir Kenneth Robinson at: http://comment.rsablogs.org.uk/videos/
Its main points:
I) "The best use of money (as a motivator) is to pay people enough to take money off the table. Pay people enough so they are not thinking about money, they are thinking about the work."
II) Three factors lead to better performance and personal satisfaction: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.
Imagine if these were values that the Minneapolis School District worked to instill in the Teachers' Contract! Sadly most on the Board and the District Administration have been working in just the opposite direction.
For years they have pursued worthless merit pay gimmicks through ATPPS and Q-comp. The union has also been guilty of this.
With respect to Autonomy, the District is doing everything possible to strip teachers of this. We are micromanaged more and more every year. We cannot decide what is best for our students because some outside consultants the District has hired apparently know our students better.
While the District certainly wants us to improve and work toward mastery, they have tried to accomplish this in counter-productive ways. Time is what is needed to achieve mastery, and we keep losing more and more of it.
Purpose is the hardest thing for anyone to take from our profession. It is arguably the reason we continue to teach in spite of all of the attacks we face. No matter how many people accuse us of being selfish, we know we are in this for the students. Yet, sadly, "education reformers" have found ways to strip even this from us.
The push for standardized testing and "accountability" pressure us to focus on political feel-good measures rather than true learning. We see first hand the harm this is doing to our students, and how it takes away from our true purpose.
I only hope the new board will take to heart the messages in these two lectures and work with teachers to create public schools that promote creative, divergent, and critical thinkers, and where the staff truly feels valued.