Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Another Silly Distraction... The Uber-aide

I have seen that a small number of districts believe that they have found the secret to improved instruction... The Uber-aide. 

The Uber-aide is a paraprofessional that is paid more than a regular aide and is at least as effective and costs less than a certified teacher, supposedly. I can see that this concept would be attractive to the anti-public school crowd and the privatization proponents.  What I find baffling is that there are managers within public education that have bought into the idea.  Let me explain why they have and the reason for the inevitable “buyer’s remorse.”

Evidently in the districts considering the uber-aide solution they have found it difficult to recruit enough degreed, certified, trained and successful teachers at the salary the district offers.  The effect of the lack of qualified educators is creating a measurable student performance deficit.  But instead of offering a competitive teacher salary, the solution they have set their sights on is to hire a cheaper body (the non-degreed, non-certified, non-trained Uber-aide) for the vacancy. Then it is believed that the ship will right itself and student performance will rise.

Now at the Program / Central Office level, they will explain that it is not just the lack of teachers that is the issue, it is the unmotivated, lazy, and dumb teacher that is also a significant problem.  But this is a complete misdiagnosis.  

Yes, there are poor teachers, but you don’t replace a poor teacher with an aide. That is like replacing a weak Oncologist with a paramedic.  You replace a poor teacher with a better teacher.  The inability to get rid of one bad teacher is a function of poor leadership.  An entire system of poor teachers in leadership failure. Neither is a “teacher” problem.

Finally, the ultimate proof that the concept is failed.  There already are Uber-aides in the public education.  They are known as “Long Term Substitutes.”  These people do yeoman’s work in keeping a classroom moving forward when a teacher is unavailable or out for an extended period.  Yet, I have never in my career heard a principal state the following, “I’m really optimistic about 4th grade this year.  We have two long-term subs in that grade teaching right now.”

No, EVERY principal in that situation is looking everywhere for a qualified, degreed, certified teacher to get in front of those students.

The Uber-Aide concept is about saving money, making money, and/or bailing out poor leadership.  It is not about increasing educational opportunities for students.

Think. Work. Achieve.
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