Don Metz, an associate professor of education at the University of Winnipeg, has penned an op-ed in the Winnipeg Free Press (Jan 14, J12) arguing that:
- Public school students in Manitoba did not do well on the recent Canada-wide math test;
- There has been a heated debate in the public media about the performances of these students; and
- Contrary to the suggestions made by the mathematicians, the way to improve the performances of Manitoba’s students is to provide more in-service opportunities for public school teachers–paid for, of course, by taxpayers.
The problem with this argument is that it is self-serving. University professors, like Dr. Metz, often get paid for providing in-service sessions for teachers. Not only that, but there is absolutely no good empirical evidence that teachers’ in-service programs improve the academic performances of their students. In fact, there is no good evidence that increasing teachers’ certification level from, say, class 4 to class 7–with substantial increases in salaries–improves the academic performances of their students.
Not surprisingly, there is quite strong evidence that if teachers who take rigorous courses in the disciplines they teach, they are not only better teachers but their students’ academic performances more often improve. In all cases, however, citizens pay the bills.
In recent newspaper articles, a number of mathematics professors from the Universities of Manitoba and Winnipeg have argued for requiring teacher candidates who will be teaching math in elementary schools to have more than consumer mathematics in high school. Obviously, this suggestion much better than providing more ‘Mickey-Mouse’ in-service sessions for teachers and paying large honorariums to people like Don Metz and Alfie Kohn.