We all have heard about Michael Lewis’ economic take-down of Major League baseball through the development of “sabermetrics,” the practice of using objective statistical information to optimize a team’s performance at the lowest possible cost. Lewis concluded that this was the result of “the ruthless drive for efficiency that capitalism demands.” Over a decade later, many Major League baseball teams make use of statisticians to get the cheapest players who will give them the greatest “bang for the buck.” Has this destroyed baseball as we know it? Only time will tell.
And now, a story: I was out with a friend for lunch when I inquired about her daughter, who had graduated from college the previous spring. She told me her daughter had found a “great job,” and went on to explain that she was going to be the “educational coordinator” at a school.
“Educational coordinator?” I said, “isn’t that the position that teachers who are in the classroom for like 10 years are given?”
“Well, this is a different type of coordinator,” she explained.
“I don’t understand. Is she going to be helping teachers with their curriculum?”
“No, not really…”
“Oh, okay, is she going to be performing evaluations on students?”
“No, not really…”
“Okay, is she going to be coaching teachers?”
“No, not really…”
“I’m a little confused: if she’s not creating curriculum, performing evaluations or coaching teachers, what exactly will she be doing?”
“She’s going to be looking at testing data and telling teachers what they have to teach in order to raise their test scores.”
As the conversation ensued, I found out that the position of “educational coordinator” would be at one of Eva Moscowitz’s “Success Academies” and that this employee, who had exactly zilch in the way of experience in teaching (she was a biology major in college) would be payed $49,000 per annum to be a full-time number cruncher for the school. Incidentally, this is nearly 10% more than the starting salary of a NYC public school teacher.
I decided to look this up for myself to see if this was accurate, so I went to the Success Academy website and found this exact job description:
Reporting directly to the school leader, the school-based Education Coordinator is responsible for student information related to assessments and special education services school-wide. Education coordinators collaborate closely with the Advisory and Data Reporting departments at Success Academy Charter Schools.
- Coordinate all student achievement testing and data collection for the school.
- Prepare and present data results to school leaders.
- Manage the entire test administration process for all grades and all students within the school. This includes high-stakes exams for scholars in grade 3 and up.
- Train teachers on administration and scoring of assessments.
- Manage scholar promotion and academic data using our Student Management System.
- Coordinate scholar report cards.
- Coordinate the Response to Intervention (RTI) process at the school, including data meetings, tutoring sessions, and meetings with the School Based Support Team (SBST).
- Provide necessary data and information to network Special Education Managers.
- Coordinate student Individualized Education Program (IEP) creation, and interact with teachers, parents, and special education providers to determine current and future educational services for all students.
- Communicate student performance results to parents, including the need for additional support services if necessary.
Incidentally, none of the bulleted qualifications following this job description included anything about relevant work in the field of education. Instead, the number one quality was “Customer service orientation: Employs diplomacy in all interactions.” So what we’re saying is that this requires the same skill set one would have practiced while, say, folding shirts in an American Apparel store?
Getting back to the conversation, I told my friend in no uncertain terms that her daughter was working for “the enemy” and that regardless of the poor state of the job market for college graduates, this was beyond the pale, especially since her children were direct beneficiaries of the public school system that Moscowitz and the Success Charter Schools have so badly wounded.
So now we know the secret ingredient in the recipe Eva Moscowitz uses to boost the test scores at her schools (well, other than barring entry to students classified as English Language Learners and Learning Disabled, not to mention the now legendary high attrition rate.)
What we have here is a the “Moneyball” approach to public education: if you need “good numbers” to prove your value, then hire someone whose full-time job is to analyze those numbers and tell teachers exactly what to teach in order to get those numbers to obey.
And what if the student can’t make those numbers? Well, if you were reading the job description closely, you would have seen this duty:
“Coordinate student Individualized Education Program (IEP) creation, and interact with teachers, parents, and special education providers to determine current and future educational services for all students.”
Hmmm, I wonder what those “interactions” with teachers, parents and special education providers about “current and future educational services” would look like? I can imagine it would sound something like this: “I’m sorry, but this does not seem like the right educational placement for your child. I do have a suggestion for an alternative that might be a better fit….”
Well, at least I have someone on the inside now: let’s see how this “job” pans out!