Beth Goldberg is a Middle School Mathematics Teacher at Linden Avenue Middle School in Red Hook, NY in the Mid-Hudson Valley.  Beth has been teaching for eight years since obtaining her Masters of Arts in Teaching at Bard College.  Prior to earning her MAT, Beth was a senior executive at JP Morgan Chase where she had global responsibility for a suite a payment services products.  Beth holds an MS in business from the MIT Sloan School of Management and a BA in Mathematics from Wellesley College.  Beth has seen how mathematics skills can create transformative opportunity and she is dedicated to providing her students the solid mathematics foundation they will need to succeed in life.


Edu-Reformers Should Understand This!


Today’s business and education elite are passionate about the need to
reform education.  Business and even education leaders like New York State Education Commissioner King argue that a data driven management approach to oversee teacher performance should be used to reform the education system. This approach is both naive and problematic on many levels.


Students are not inanimate outputs like machines or software.
Schools are not factories. Students are living and breathing
individuals. Each student comes to the school with a unique personal
history and personality which plays an integral role in his/her
education process.

After a twenty year career in business, I decided to become a
mathematics teacher. I returned to school to obtain another master’s
degree in adolescent education. I was convinced that my management
expertise would be readily transferable to teaching. I had managed an
international staff, how hard would it be to manage a classroom of
thirty or less students? Needless to say, I quickly learned that
teaching students was far more complicated than managing adults. Why,
you may ask? There are three simple reasons that I would like to
share with the business intelligentsia.

1. Your employees are paid to listen to you, your students are not.

2. In business, employees are selected based upon a search and
interview process. Teachers do not select their students.

3. In business, an insubordinate employee is fired. An insubordinate
student is merely one more challenge for a classroom teacher.

To judge the effectiveness of teachers based upon an annual high
stakes test would be comparable to judging the effectiveness of a
business leader based upon one meeting or one memo. A business leader
may have an ineffective meeting because of a variety of reasons.
Similarly, students’ test scores on a particulate day are influenced
by a host factors including their home life and social interactions.

Today’s education policy appears to missing the mark. Vilifying all
teachers will not rectify the problems which plague a subset of this
country’s education system. The current ineffective policies have
been developed by individuals who lack experience teaching and are
removed from students.

Nonetheless I do recognize that there are certainly lessons from
business which are applicable to education. Here are a few for the
NYS Education Commissioner and his colleagues to consider:

1. Those who are closest to the customer should provide the necessary
feedback and market information so that sound strategies can be
formed. Using business terminology, teachers with years of experience
working with students are your best source of market intelligence.

2. Any large scale implementation requires a detailed project plan. It must be effectively managed as demonstrated by adhering to published deadlines and commitments. Releasing thousands of pages of curriculum materials for teachers days before teachers need to use the information is unacceptable.

3. Communicate clearly and effectively to all your customers,
colleagues and staff. Listen to their concerns.

When I left the business arena to become a teacher, I naively had no
idea of the complexities and challenges faced by teachers each day.
Teaching is one of the most rewarding and challenging endeavors I have
undertaken. Even though the career is much more demanding and
complicated than I anticipated, the satisfaction I receive from a job
well done more than compensates me for the effort I invest in teaching
my students. I hope that the numerous problems accompanying the
education reforms now underway in New York and across the country
will be acknowledged and appropriately addressed before the
education system is bankrupt.