The former Intel CEO basically wants to explode everything in public education in Arizona, from training teachers to how they get paid.
And Craig Barrett is getting a platform to do just that with his appointment Monday by Gov. Jan Brewer as chairman of the Arizona Ready Education Council.
In a broad interview with Capitol Media Services, Barrett said Arizona public school children are doing much worse than the national average.
âWe’re sort of the poorest 10 or 15 percent of states,â he said.
He said the council’s primary focus will be to get Arizona to adopt core national standards and then, using them as benchmarks, to make sure Arizona’s youth get better.
But Barrett, while acknowledging that Arizona is “not very high” in per student funding compared to other states, dismissed the idea that more money is at least part of the answer. .
In fact, Barrett said he doesn’t even believe the state needs to pay teachers more to attract the best and brightest into education. He says the key is to pay each teacher not only based on their performance, but also based on supply and demand business practices.
Simply put, if there is an overabundance of people willing to teach physical education, the school shouldn’t have to pay that person as much as someone qualified to teach chemistry.
Andrew Morrill, president of the Arizona Education Association, said he had no problem with performance pay. Morrill said his organization supports a series of changes both in state law and even at the local district level, although he said there still needs to be a base salary.
And he cautioned against what he called the “forearm approach,” where a new person comes to the table, looks at various ideas that have been explored – then uses a forearm to do them. rule out for a new solution or “the only thing we need.”
âThis generally represents an incomplete understanding of the problem,â Morrill said.
Barrett, however, said he understood the problem in his current role as chairman and chairman of the BASIS charter school chain.
Charter schools are private public schools. They get nearly the same amount of public funds as district schools, but cannot charge tuition. But they are exempt from many regulations, not only from the pay levels that exist in most district schools, but also from the mandate to only hire certified teachers.
Barrett said the model works, claiming that about half of all Arizona schools rated as top performing are charter schools, even though they only educate about 12% of students in the public school system. .
âAnd they operate on a lower budget than regular K-12 public schools,â he said.
âI’d rather take this conversation (about teacher pay) and turn it to, take the money we have and pay teachers based on performance and bring content experts into the classroom,â Barrett said. . “And I think there is enough money to do all of this.”
This, in turn, leads to Barrett’s conclusion that while it takes certain skills to know how to teach, the current process of teacher education is not the answer.
“There are many ways to get this pedagogy besides those classic, mind-numbing four years of experience in a school of education,” he said. Barrett said you need someone who understands a subject and then gets a “boot camp” in teaching skills.
Morrill, however, said teacher certification was more involved than the ritual of going through college and getting a teaching degree.
At the very least, he said, the state, as the primary source of education funding, understands that people walking into a classroom and working with Arizona’s children are ready as soon as possible. first day.
“What you don’t want is to let anybody in and then say, ‘Well, don’t worry because if they’re not good, we’ll fire them in two or three years.'” Morrill said. He said that while there may be improvements in the way teachers are trained, “that does not mean that you are ending the formal practice of teacher training”.
He also took issue with Barrett’s claim that the charter school model is, by definition, better.
âWhen you think of charter schools as the whole class, their performance distribution is roughly equal to that of traditional schools,â Morrill said. “Taken as a group, they do not outperform or underperform traditional schools as a group.”
Either way, Morrill said, there is no evidence that charter schools could sustain their performance if they were to grow “to meet the enormous diversity of Arizona’s student body.”
Barrett has made no secret of his dissatisfaction with the level of public education in Arizona. In March, he told the Arizona Commerce Authority that if Intel was looking for a site to build a brand new operation, Arizona wouldn’t even make the Top 10 list.
âIf you want those high paying jobs – jobs that pay two to three times the national average – look for your educational infrastructure to be the key,â he said.
In addition to its broader mandate to improve education, the council fulfills the functions of some of the previously announced goals, including:
â¢ Increase the number of third-graders reading at or near grade level to 94 percent, from 73 percent.
â¢ Increase the high school graduation rate from 75 percent to 93 percent.
â¢ Double the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded at Arizona colleges and universities.