Our Cognitive Dissonance on Both Hiring, and Firing, Teachers En Masse

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 14:21

The fundamental contradiction in the national discourse on education policy is the dueling calls to recruit, and simultaneously to fire, huge numbers of teachers.  Everyone knows that we are facing a teacher shortage in public education, and yet discussions of education policy in the media tend to be dominated by calls to fire teachers.  President Obama is actually a pretty good example of this dissonance, in that his website indicates his education policies are designed to "recruit, prepare, retain, and reward America's Teachers.  For example, check out Obama's call for new teachers in his speech today:

And so today, I am calling on a new generation of Americans to step forward and serve our country in our classrooms. If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make the most of your talents and dedication; if you want to make your mark with a legacy that will endure - join the teaching profession. America needs you.

But we also get this from his speech today:

we have let... our teacher quality fall short... stop making excuses for bad ones [teachers]... money is tied to results... holding them [teachers] more accountable... [teachers must] accept more responsibilities... states and school districts taking steps to move bad teachers out of the classroom... there is no excuse for that person to continue teaching.

I don't doubt that President Obama wants to solve the teacher shortage problem in America. However, call me crazy, but for the President of the United States to talk about increasing workloads for teachers, turning teachers into rivals over money and access to better performing students (which merit pay would do), and firing teachers en masse might not actually be the best way to recruit and retain new teachers.

More in the extended entry.

Chris Bowers :: Our Cognitive Dissonance on Both Hiring, and Firing, Teachers En Masse
Of course there are bad teachers, but there are people in every profession who are bad at what they do.  The main problem with bad teachers not getting fired is connected to the teacher shortage, not due to tenure. If you want to solve that problem by recruiting and retaining new teachers, you need to make the prospect of becoming a teacher more attractive.  Part of that means having widely admired political leaders such as President Obama not make public threats to increase teacher workloads, make the profession less collegial, and fire lots of teachers.  Such threats are not a very good marketing campaign for people considering a career in teaching.  Because what people really want to hear about in our current economic climate is an increased possibility of getting fired.

I taught for five years myself, but I ended up leaving the profession. It is an emotionally draining experience, and it is very difficult to be a good teacher unless you can maintain the emotional engagement all of the time. I think people know this, which is why I don't entirely understand why talk of making teachers work harder, making their profesion more competitive, and making their job secure is so common in America.  We don't talk about making the lives of other people who work in public service, such as soldiers and first responders--or even health care workers--in such a foreboding way.  If, as a nation, we actually want to solve our teacher shortage, part of that is going to mean dropping our constant national threats to make teachers lives more difficult.  That is just a really, really bad way to recruit and retain teachers.

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Also, (4.00 / 3)
calls to remove their autonomy over the classroom aren't exactly appealing, either.

The pathetic thing is that there are plenty of data that indicate what makes school districts work and what makes other school districts fail.  But it's much easier to remind people how much they hated Old Man Withers in seventh grade homeroom and blame the teachers.

it's all part of their privatizing agenda -- (2.67 / 3)
What they've done in Chicago is the template, assisted by NCLB, of course --

http://www.counterpunch.org/sh... --

... In the past couple years, Duncan has been turning public schools over to private operators--mainly in the form of charter and contract schools--at a rate of about 20 per year. Duncan has also resuscitated some of the worst "school reform" ideas of the 1990s, like firing all the teachers in low-performing schools (called "turnarounds"). At the same time, he's eliminated many Local School Councils and made crucial decisions without public input.

Charter schools and test-score driven school "choice" have been the watchwords of Duncan's rule in Chicago. Expect more of the same in Washington, D.C.

Duncan pursued anti-labor policies by pushing nonunion charter and contract schools. He also imposed test-oriented, competitive schemes that force schools to close if they can't raise test scores above a certain level.

Yet he failed to implement the kinds of changes that really would improve student performance--such as smaller class sizes and expanded facilities to end overcrowding. Instead, special education teachers were laid off and budgets squeezed. ...

I am absolutely opposed to the privatization of my schools. (4.00 / 2)
MI has some of the best schools in the country, and Charter Schools are the sorry assed crowd that is failing to perform.   I'm also sick of test scores.  Somebody is making a lot of money off testing.  

The problem with schools is the same problem that government and business has - cronyism.   Bad teachers get away with it because somebody at the top lets them.  Another problem facing schools is money.  The job loss and loss of revenues in the states is forcing massive reductions to education.  Inner city schools have their own whole set of issues.  

You just gave me one more thing to add to my list of why I can't get excited about our "dream President".  Others include Iraq, Afghanistan, trade, single payer, and the bailout.  Lord knows he is tons better than Bush or McCain, a touch better than Clinton, and another missed opportunity for real change in this the way this country operates.  

[ Parent ]
Easy and Hard (4.00 / 2)
It has always been my impression that teaching well is very hard but teaching badly is very easy.  I think we've all had that teacher who seemed to just give up on the whole enterprise.

I almost became a teacher and did some student teaching in college, working with a "master teacher" in a junior high.  What turned me off was all the politics that take place in schools between the various teachers, administration and so on.  It was only much later that I realized the same politics take place in all work areas.

One Function of Unions (4.00 / 1)
is to reduce the politicization of the workplace.  Of course, unions themselves are political entities.  But the ethos of solidarity is that workers focus on uniting against efforts to pit them against one another.  It is not to deny differences or paper over conflicts, but to promote a cooperative spirit so that those conflicts and differences aren't used to control workers from above.

Of course unions are imperfect instruments.  But without them, the workplace is invariably even more politicized on a day-to-day basis.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Not the kind I'm talking about (4.00 / 1)
You have to remember this is from the point of view of some ignorant kid in college.  I was turned off on how "master teachers" tried to look better than the other teachers with the obvious goal to move up into management.  The way teachers talked about each other and their students bugged me.  (I always seemed to take the student's side, even more than I would have at their age.)

Really, my complaint was the way actual, real adults acted in the work environment.  At the time, however, I didn't know that was my complaint.  Looking back with my older eyes, I can hardly even remember what it was that bugged me.  In many ways, actually, I was complaining about the same stuff I didn't like among my fellow kids when I was younger.  I think I naively expected people to outgrow that kind of pettiness or something.

These days I just roll my eyes and go on with life.

[ Parent ]
No, I Understand (4.00 / 1)
Sorry I wasn't clearer.  Just using your comment as a point of departure.  I got a pretty good picture of what you were talking about.  I was just saying how much worse it could be under a totally dog-eat-dog regime.  Hierarchies of job status can only be modestly mitigated by unions in terms of such harmful effects.

Even the ILWU--the West Coast longshore union that's one of the most militant in the US--has been forced to accept a form of two-tiered structure, with main one, daily assignments out of its hiring hall, predicated on complete equality (the person with the least hours worked is the first one up for a new assignment), while the second tier consists of "steady men" (sic), who work for one employer on an ongoing basis.  (Usually skilled positions such as crane operator.)  The currently slow-down has apparently meant the end of the steady man position, at least for now, which may be a good thing overall, as solidarity is more precious than ever during tough times.  But if this is what happens with a very militant, bottom-up union, you can imagine how it is most places.

I think I naively expected people to outgrow that kind of pettiness or something.

Yeah, I sort of naively still do.  For one thing, folks like you and me keep showing up with our high expectations.  Sooner or later, we're going to figure out some way to realize them.  The "Rankism" framework is a good start, IMHO.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Can I add some real life stuff..... (4.00 / 1)
a key ingredient is good leadership.

Even with a decent leader (in schools, the principal), there are always a few pot stirring types.   If you put a large number of people together in a work place, in a tribal setting, in a neighborhood, there will always be a few who did not outgrow and will never outgrow that stuff.

But for one period of my teaching life, I had the MOST INCREDIBLE principal as my boss.  She was the consummate professional plus.  She was smart, organized, had great people skills that got her the respect and admiration of 99% of the staff, the community (parents, etc) and students.  

She did not have to ever ask us (staff) to come to something at night, outside our work day...we showed up because she did and she was enthusiastic and treated us like professionals.  She spent time in our classrooms and was never afraid to give us positive feedback, making us all want to get better.  And still there was a jerk on the staff who tried to create problems, stir resentments, put herself first to get kudos...
it happens.  

[ Parent ]
Not all unions are created equal. (0.00 / 0)
The politicization of the workplace is still there.  Story:  English teacher, male, ex gym teacher/coach, totally not doing his job or working in the best interest of his students, being carried by other English teachers, and he gets away with it because he is in the principal's clicque.  The teachers carrying him resent it to no end and are helpless to do anything about it.   In fact, they are being made to compete against him for technology (smart boards, etc.)that he won't bother to learn or use because "it wouldn't be fair" to him.  Principal's are another huge and unique problem in public schools.  If the principal is a jerk, the school is a jerk.  Shades of the "Psychotic Organization", which basically says the personality and values of the head of the organization become the personality and values of the organization. Really, really true with building principals.

[ Parent ]
I agree with the substance of your post (0.00 / 0)
but I think you could have found a better Obama quote to illustrate it. Like it or not, there are bad teachers in the system, and it is inordinately hard to remove those teachers from the system. Obama is right that states and school districts need to take steps - and be able to take steps - to remove teachers who continue to single out individual kids in front of the class in spite of repeated complaints, who tape kids into their seats to maintain discipline, and whose classroom favoritism is readily predictable from the relative socioeconomic status of the kids in the class.

I think Obama has gone too far in other places in endorsing merit pay etc., and I think that a dramatic decrease in the student:teacher ratio is far more important than weeding out the bad teachers. But I don't really find this particular quotation from Obama worthy of even mild condemnation. You could have instead used this quotation, from the same story:

"Too many supporters of my party have resisted the idea of rewarding excellence in teaching with extra pay, even though we know it can make a difference in the classroom," he said, delivering the first major education speech of his presidency. "Too many in the Republican Party have opposed new investments in early education, despite compelling evidence of its importance."

I question whether we really "know" that merit pay can make a difference - and suspect that if instituted on a system-wide basis it would probably cause an overall decrease in teaching quality and teacher morale, even if some individual teachers improved as a result.

I'm shocked, shocked (4.00 / 1)
I am shocked to learn that there are bad teachers in the profession. Next, I will learn that there are bad lawyers in the law profession, bad health care workers in the health profession, bad cops in the law enforcement profession, and bad bankers in the banking profession.

Shocking! I updated the quotes.

[ Parent ]
Absolutely - the bad teacher think is a distraction from the real problems (4.00 / 1)
But I think there's an impression that while Democrats favor measures that help weed out bad health care workers (e.g., no tort reform), they instead protect bad teachers. The way to push back against that isn't (in my opinion) to avoid talking about the bad teachers, but instead to hammer the point that the difficulty of "disciplining" or "removing" bad teachers is not only a tiny issue compared to the scale of the problem, it's actually a symptom of the real problem and would probably largely disappear if the real problem was addressed.

Basically, as long as schools are under-funded and teachers are under-valued, there's going to be bad teachers. Make teachers feel valued and fund them competitively with equally valuable jobs and then see how much of a bad teacher problem is left over - I'd guess it will be pretty small. (Let's see - the jobs teachers do are easily more valuable than most financial analysts - so they really ought to be getting 7 figure bonuses.)

Merit pay and disciplining bad teachers are just forms of whack-a-mole. Removing bad teachers is something we'd like to see result from better funding of education. Merit pay is something I'd rather not see - bribing teachers seems like a recipe for greater disparity in teacher and school quality.

[ Parent ]
More pay alone isn't the solution (4.00 / 1)
That will incentivize bad teachers to stay, not go.  You'll make the problem worse.

[ Parent ]
Bad teachers (4.00 / 2)
A cousin taught high school English in both Catholic and public high schools.  In one sense, he was an excellent teacher.  The kids in his classes learned some literature, wrote a little better, and some improved their grammar.  Unfortunately for him, he feuded with his principals and/or Department heads constantly.  Was he a "good" teacher or a "bad" teacher?

Before we go after bad teachers we have to do a much better job of defining what is good and what is bad.  It better mean more than being a pain in the butt or a union activist.

An aunt taught third grade in the same very small town in Pennsylvania for forty years.  She wasn't motivated by the money and the Obama thing is both unfair and irrelevant to her life's work.

What I see is rather interesting.  Kids know more of the things that might be tested but less of the things that won't be.  There seems to be (for example) a huge deficiency in geography where kids know the location of Disneyland but have little sense about Colorado or Illinois or anything else except Florida, Texas, California and their home state.  Basic history and in some cases science is pretty shoddy.  Literature is frowned on (definitely not cool).

Can we improve education?  Yes.  Is this the way?  I tend to think not.  There is an old saying that goes measure twice, cut once.  A little more caution, a lot less criticism, a lot more understanding all seem in order.

[ Parent ]
Japan (4.00 / 1)
I read a story several years ago on how Japan was trying to change their educational system to be more like Americas.  They get great test scores in Japan, but were worried they couldn't compete with creativity and well roundedness.

The grass is always greener, I guess.

I don't know if anything actually changed in Japan.  The article may have just covered a passing fad with only a handful of Japanese advocates, but it stuck with me as a good counterpoint all the criticisms we hear in this country.

[ Parent ]
Bad teachers aren't protected because of unions, (4.00 / 2)
tenure, or systems.  They are protected by incompetent, lazy, and/or crony operating administrators who don't do their jobs.   In it absolutely amazing how teachers get blamed for everything. From the students not learning to the teachers not teaching, they own it all.  

[ Parent ]
But there are systems in place to get rid of bad doctors and bad cops (4.00 / 1)
Unfortunately, teaching doesn't really have that.  Face it.

Neither does banking, for that matter.

[ Parent ]
This Really Isn't True (4.00 / 6)
There are ways to get rid of bad teachers.  They just aren't the sort of large-scale, high-profile ways that the anti-teacher and anti-teachers' unions folks would like to have at their disposal.

Much more important, IMHO, is the lack of support structures to prevent good teachers from getting burnt out and losing hope.  Whether it results in good teachers quitting, or staying on while they gradually turn bitter and bad, either way, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and we ought to be giving a whole lot more attention to this side of things.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
You are right Paul (4.00 / 4)
I can attest to that.  I was a very active union member, teacher advocate and I was able to get the union leadership to  make sure a really bad teacher was "fired."  At the same time, they made sure she had due process.  And she had tenure.  

It's call hard work, documentation, and procedure.  And it takes time.  There is a reason for that.  Firing someone without due process is wrong in any profession.

[ Parent ]
Thanks! (0.00 / 0)
As a reporter on my day job, I always like to have first-hand sources!

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Two points (0.00 / 0)
1. Yes, there is a way to fire a bad teacher, but it takes years and years and years.  Meanwhile, that teacher's incompetence is an open secret and his/her students learn to hate school.

2. Yes, there need to be more support structures, especially smaller classes.  But that doesn't negate the fact that there is a huge accountability problem within our school system.  We can debate why the problem is there and what the solution is, but we shouldn't debate that it exists.

[ Parent ]
There is a system to get rid of bad teachers-- (4.00 / 2)
Principals and school administrators have to  do their jobs and document the problem via a progressive discipline model. As Obama said today, teachers should be afforded opportunities to correct problems.  That is guaranteed in a progressive discipline model.

The problem occurs because the bosses do not follow the rules.  Frankly, they are too lazy. It is easier blame the union then do their job correctly.

I live in a true blue state--I will have a choice in November

[ Parent ]
Thank you (4.00 / 1)
It is hard work to get a teacher fired. IT SHOULD BE. It's called due process.  But it can be done and is done when the administration is doing their job.

But you are right.  It is so much easier to blame the teachers and their union.

[ Parent ]
Cronyism is a big part of that. (4.00 / 1)
Principals don't go after their "pals".  They go after the teachers that "rock boats" whether they need to be rocked or not.  There is a saying.  "If you have a problem, you are the problem."   Teachers who are sick and tired of carrying bad teachers and rock the boat are not viewed very favorably.  It makes their administrator look bad.  

[ Parent ]
Right (0.00 / 0)
Having a process isn't enough when there are deeply entrenched cultural barriers to making the process succeed.

[ Parent ]
It's not true from the other side either (0.00 / 0)
The "systems in place to get rid of bad doctors and bad cops" are probably just as effective as the systems for getting rid of bad teachers.

The point I was trying to make isn't that Obama was right to harp on bad teachers, but that the specific quote Chris originally had up wasn't a very good illustration of what's wrong with Obama's rhetoric about fixing the schools. Unfortunately, the original quotation has also been removed from the updated story that Chris originally linked to: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/200...

I don't see the point of picking a fight with Obama about saying there's no excuse for bad teachers continuing to teach - there's a lot of other things in Obama's rhetoric on education that are much more problematic: commitment to charter schools, merit pay, concentration on teacher discipline rather than teacher professional development, way too much stick and not enough carrot.  

[ Parent ]
Just thinking aloud here (0.00 / 0)
but do state-level balanced budget amendments track school funding?  I would bet that they do, just because you can only cut school funding when you can justify it politically, and balanced budget mendments are a good excuse.

I'll Be Doing A Diary About This Next Weekend (4.00 / 7)
I did a pair of diaries this weekend about the broader context of Obama's educational policy, "Obama's Anti-Pragmatism On Education: Part 1--Background" and "Obama's Anti-Pragmatism On Education: Part 2--Gerald Bracey Reports".  I promised a followup in which I would look more closely at the innards, including unions and employment policies.

But it's worth noting what I already wrote about, particularly Bracey's reminder that education has been in a recurrent state of "crisis" since the time of Sputnik, and that the US has maintained it's international competitiveness despite constant dire warnings of falling behind other countries.

For example:

The February 7 Wall Street Journal quoted secretary of education, Arne Duncan, saying, "Educationally, we used to lead the world, and we have sort of lost our way in the last couple of decades. We just have to educate ourselves to a better economy."

Supposedly, Mr. Duncan came to Washington from Chicago. His statement is more indicative of someone who arrived from a cave or another planet....

"Lost our way in the last couple of decades?" In 1983, 26 years ago, then secretary of education, Terrel Bell, put forth "A Nation At Risk." It said we had sort of lost our way in education. Finding "a rising tide of mediocrity" in the U. S., it painted Germany, South Korea and, especially, Japan, as countries that were leaving us in the economic dust.

You remember Japan. "A Nation At Risk" and media stories portrayed Japan as an economic colossus astride the globe. The reason? Its students scored high on tests....

Japan has suffered almost 20 years of either recession or stagnation. Its students still ace tests in international comparisons, but the Japanese now know that high test scores do nothing "to educate ourselves to a better economy."

A few years after "A Nation At Risk" scared people, the United States began the longest sustained economic expansion in its history....


If anything, the current catastrophe only emphasizes the weak link between schools and the economy. High scoring nations have suffered at least as much economic damage as the U. S. Above-average Iceland is an economic basket case. France, whose students also score well, is on strike. In spite of its test aces, Japan's Nikkei stock index hit a 26-year low in October 2008.

The most recent global competitiveness reports from the Institute for Management Development and from the World Economic Forum, which just had its annual bash in Davos, Switzerland, ranked the U. S. as the most globally competitive in the world--as they have for years. Whether or not today's cataclysm will affect the next sets of rankings, you can be assured of one thing: the schools will have had nothing to do with it.

In short, the fundamental "post-partisan" "pragmatic" premise on which Obama is operating is sheer delusion.  Trying to break the power of teachers' unions--which these sorts of proposals would certain help to do--is the last thing that a Democratic president should be enabling in any way, shape or form.

I should also note that here in California, when the Gropenator tried to force through a provision for undermining tenure in order to make it easier to get rid of "bad" teachers, a local state senator, Alan Lowenthal, head of the Education Committee at the time, repeatedly pressed for the Gropenator's data, so that the Committee could hold hearings and do its own investigations.  But it was just like WMDs and Iraq or "family farmers" and the "death tax"--there was no real data.  No actual examples at all of the supposed epidemic that was ruining our schools.

Lowenthal concluded that it was quite likely there was never any intention to get legislation passed.  Rather, it was just a shadow play to justify attacking the legislature as "protecting special interests" and then running a union-busting initiative.  Of course the CNA-inspired resistence wrecked the Gropenators initiative plans, but that seemed to be what was going on at the time.

There is nothing but bad faith behind this on the GOP side, and nothing but toadying and/or ill-informed naivite on the Dem side.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

Over 20,000 teachers laid off in CA so far (4.00 / 6)
The deadline to notify teachers about a layoff for the next school year is Friday. More than 20,000 layoff notices have already gone out. My sister, who has been teaching for three years and has tenure (and who is beloved by her students' parents) is getting one today. She's at her wits end - she has wanted to teach as long as she can remember, and is good at it, and is devastated that she's getting laid off.

Teachers should never be laid off unless they did something to deserve it.

And yes, this is becoming another occasion to push the "merit pay" bullshit, as newspapers like the LA Times are now doing.

We have a glut of qualified applicants in Seattle (4.00 / 1)
This is all anecdotal, but:

In Seattle, there are huge numbers of applicants for any teacher opening.  To break into the system, a new teacher has to sub for several years, and once they arrive, there is a culture of dumping challenging students on the newbie.  These are obstacles to entering the profession.

A lot of this is a system that rewards tenure over quality and keeps openings rare.  Again, this is both local and anecdotal.

I agree that teaching needs to be more attractive in general and teachers shouldn't be generally threatened with firing.  But it is a sad reality that getting rid of incompetent teachers is next to impossible, which also helps keep good young people out of the profession.  It's a subtle but real problem that demands thoughtful solutions.

Same in Long Island and New York City (0.00 / 0)
If it's any consolation (and I suspect it's not), my sister-in-law is finding the same situation as she seeks a full-time teaching position in one of the Long Island education districts or New York City.   Some demand exists for particular specialties, but that does not extend to the entire profession.  The budget difficulties all state and local governments are experiencing merely exacerbates the problems.

[ Parent ]
Same in Michigan except for this.... (4.00 / 2)
"rewards tenure over quality and keeps openings rare".  Tenure is like completing a 90 probationary period - no big deal.  You can still get fired, you just can't get fired without cause.  The reason job openings are rare is because there is no money to reduce class sizes and create more teaching jobs.  In fact, budget cuts are forcing schools to make class sizes bigger and bigger; increase walking distances and decrease transportation; privatize non-pupil services; eliminate programs for gifted and talented; institute pay to play for sports, etc.  However, ADA requires them to spend exhorbitant amounts to educate special education students (one I am personally aware of costs $100,000 a year), and law requires them to provide free bus transportation for parochial schools.

Schools are a dumping ground.  They are social workers, nurses, cops, mediators, babysitters, vocational trainers, rehabilitation specialists, and when they have time, educators.  

[ Parent ]
I totally hear you on class sizes (4.00 / 1)
Good point.

[ Parent ]
Obama's Education Policy: We're Leaving Behind the "Stale Debate" by Embracing the "Stale Debate" (3.50 / 8)
These are supposed to be stunning new directions for reform in education: teacher merit pay (an idea that's been around since the 70's), charter schools (a cornerstone of Reagan conservatism), teacher "accountability" as measured by student test scores (the Bush doctrine)? These so-called "reforms" are so much part of the "stale debate" that Obama derided that one has to wonder where he and his education policy team have been for the past, oh, 30 years. It's true that there absolutely should be a renewed emphasis on the importance of good teachers in our schools. Research shows that an effective teacher enhances student learning more than any other aspect of schooling that can be controlled by the school. But the tired ideas posed by Obama have no track record whatsoever of actually improving the performance of teachers. One thing that does: "Student achievement improved most when teachers were engaged in sustained, collaborative professional development that specifically focused on deepening teachers' content knowledge and instructional practice." (pdf)

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

"merit" (4.00 / 4)
Dana Goldstein points out:

All the major papers are celebrating Obama's education speech this morning as a bold call for "merit" pay. I need to make the following point: The word "merit" did not appear anywhere in the address. Instead, Obama talked about "recruiting, preparing, and rewarding outstanding teachers." This is code-speak for performance pay, which is understood as distinct from merit pay, as it is not primarily calibrated according to student test scores. The president promised, "Good teachers will be rewarded with more money for improved student achievement, and asked to accept more responsibilities for lifting up their schools."

I don't know enough about the education debate to comment one way or the other, but at least one person seems to think the exact wording matters.

[ Parent ]
Thanks for this (4.00 / 2)
and yes, exact wording does matter. Yet, phrases such as "money is tied to results" (which Obama did say) has always been understood in the field as test results. If Obama and Duncan truly see the need to depart from that failed policy of the past, and move toward the more differentiated model proposed by Randi Weingarten and others, why would he continue to use the old rhetoric? Why wouldn't he talk about the need to implement policies based on new research indicating that teachers need to be able to work effectively in teams, use formative assessments (rather than high-stakes tests) to see evidence of student learning, and broaden the array of instructional strategies in the classroom? If he was truly trying to make a clean break from the "stale debate," he could have made it more obvious by not emphasizing "bad teachers" as the core of the problem.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
Teachers, Achievement, NCLB, etc. (4.00 / 9)
We have known for more than a century what it takes for kids to learn but have made those opportunities available primarly to white middle class kids.  Until 1973 or so, a high school education -- or not -- was enough for someone to get a family-supporting job in manufacturing and eventually afford a boat to take to the lake and a retirement in modest comfort.  That track in high school was good enough for about 75% of the kids.  The other 25% were in the college-track and they got the full liberal arts education, high school version.

Since then, with decent jobs evaporating, and with races integrating -- or at least attempted -- it became necessary to educate all 100% of our kids to something akin to that old college-track, only up-dated with current technology, math, science, etc.

We think we know how to do it but in urban districts the social dislocations have over-powered school districts' ability to make it happen.  Now we have situations where 5-year olds show up having no "book sense", having never held a book, with a vocabulary of 1,100 and having heard 600,000 words or phrases of discouragement and prohibition and only 50,000 of praise or encouragement.  The children of professionals in contrast have 5,500 word vocabularies, are readers or pre-readers, and have the mirror-opposite experience of encouragement/discouragement, with resulting differences in brain development.

By third grade those differences have become life-shaping and accurately predict dropouts in high school -- actually, the phrase should be push-outs.

We know how to deal with all these issues in poor urban schools, we truly do.  We just don't care enough to to take them on systemically, with the required resources.  Most of our teachers want to be professionals and most are open to meaningful professional development, just not the worthless seat-warming they have been dished.  Instead, NCLB is ever-nearing the intended judgement day when, the Republicans hope, the axe will fall on most urban public schools and they can be privatized.

When we sincerely acknoweldge the consequences of our failure to offer decent and meaningful educational experiences to consecutive generations of poor urban kids, we might decide as a polity that, finally, we should actually do all that we know needs doing.

Taking the issues on systemically (4.00 / 5)
is indeed the problem. The factors that have the most predictable influence on student achievement -- the student's home life, motivation, and background knowledge -- are never addressed in our system through effective interventions in early childhood education. We continue to just blame poor struggling parents and underfund rural and urban schools. The next most important factors affecting student achievement -- teacher effectiveness, a guaranteed curriculum, and fair and effective feedback (in descending order of importance) -- are addressed piecemeal through very poor policies on teacher education-certification, textbook contracts, and standardized testing, respectively. The result is good schools for people who care the most and/or have the most money. And dysfunctional schooling for everyone else.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
Arne Duncan on Sunday (4.00 / 1)
I am going to be at a meeting in D.C. on Sunday at which Duncan is speaking and answering questions.  There is a glimmer of hope that Obama's new attention to the earliest years, birth-to-three and its attendant need for teaching good parenting skills, will encourage a systemic approach at least for the early years.  That cannot but help.

Geoff Canada's Children's Zone and his Kiddie College in Harlem offer some hope in that regard, just as his frustrating experiences over two decades trying to make broad-based differences later in students' lives offers strong cautionary lessons about expecting too much from a K-12 systemic reform effort.

[ Parent ]
Thank you for this diary (4.00 / 6)
and to Paul for his diaries.  Nice to know there are progressives who actually find the "blame the teachers" meme wrong and unfair.

My heart broke listening to Obama this morning.  Sadly he and Arne Duncan are continuing the NCLB blame game. I taught for 40 years.  I am now retired.  But I was really, really hoping for change.  I came into the profession at the beginning of the union movement.  I worked hard to improve the profession because fairly compensated teachers who did not have to worry about being fired because their principal did not like their politics or because their social life was private (this was especially important for women)....are good for kids. I fought for small class sizes and autonomy because these things are good for kids.

In my forty years I saw some bad teachers......
but their number was miniscule when compared to the hard working, good teachers.  But of course every bad teacher is used like a neon sign by the right......even if they are less than 1% of the profession.

MERIT PAY is immoral and wrong.  Pitting teachers against each other is IMMORAL AND WRONG.  It hurts kids.  
Reward commitment to schools in poor neighbor hoods.  Reward  with supporting schools in poor neighborhoods to get the materials they need without digging into their own pockets.

I am disheartened.  I have read too many progressives diss and insult teachers, and I suspect "their" child had a bad year and now there are BAD teachers and it is all their fault that their child is struggling.
I went to catholic schools k-12 (only because our then large ethnic catholic churches paid for all of to go......we were poor...)  We had HUGE classes and I had some of the worst teachers ever.  And some of the best.  
My parents valued education because as poor, uneducated, first generation immigrants, they believed it was their children's way out of poverty.  When I whined or complained about a teacher, my mother who worked in a textile mill since age 12 told me: "I don't send you to school to like the teacher; I send you to get an education and that is your job whether you like your teacher or not."  
I did not suffer irreparable damage because some nun disciplined me in front of the class.  Nor did I become a failure because the teacher punished the whole class because of a few jerks.  In fact, one more jewel from my mother: I came home one day (in sixth grade) really angry because I and my friends got blamed for something we did not do and we had to write this long essay.  I was whining about how unfair it was .....now my mother, instead of running to the school, blaming the teacher, or pulling me from the school, or telling me that teacher had no right to yell at me, said this: "Honey, I want you to think about this.  Think about a time when you did do something wrong at home, at school, anywhere and you did not get caught......in the end," she said, " it works out."  We were not talking about expulsion...we were talking about me having to write and essay.  My mother may not have had an education herself, but she sure had some common sense...she loved me as much as any parent but she got it.  I wish more parents did....

Now I do not believe in humiliating children, and I cannot imagine anyone taping a kid to a chair in this day and age.  
But sometimes a teacher will tell the entire class they have been overly loud, and perhaps ask them all for five minutes of silence.  Would that really do emotional life harm?  And yet I know a teacher who was reamed by administration for doing such a thing because some parent said "How dare that teacher tell my child .......".  
I have been yelled out and cursed at by a parent for daring to tell a child (after three weeks) she either learns the part she had in the play, or I would give the part to someone else.  
I have been cursed by a parent for giving a child a 0 on a test because I literally caught her copying another child's test answers.....the other test was on her desk.  And yet I was given the third degree because this parent told me "We are Christians and my child does not lie".  I could do a book on how many times I have seen parents curse out teachers, threaten them, and then some....

My colleague was falsely accused of slapping a child.  The child said it was in class....and literally 24 eye witnesses (the other children) attested to the fact that it did not happen.  And yet, the police were called by the parent and the teacher was "interviewed" by them.  Nothing happened but still....

and yet on so many progressive blogs I read "those bad teachers" are never fired....a myth but still pushed.
How do we fire abusive bad parents who would like to scapegoat anyone, including teachers, for their failed parenting?
And less anyone doubt it, I dare you go to your local school and spend some quality time in a classromm, in a school observing....not just going to see the teacher your child whined about in an effort to play "gotcha."  Go watch the staff, the entire staff work.  Ask how much of their own money they spend.....

Anyway thanks for the column.  I guess I should be glad to be retired, stop caring and move on.

Why Immoral? (0.00 / 0)
"...MERIT PAY is immoral and wrong.  Pitting teachers against each other is IMMORAL AND WRONG.  It hurts kids..."

I fail to see why merit pay is inherently immoral.  I can understand how it could come to be that way.  Doesn't it all depend on how the system is established to measure performance.  If the system uses the blunt club of merely measuring performance on an end-of-year test pass/fail without taking into account the incoming performance of the students, then yes that would be immoral and wrong.  If a sophisticated system were established which would attempt to measure the performance of each student against the baseline of their incoming performance, then it needn't be immoral and wrong at all.  So long as the teachers unions resist calls for any type of merit pay, they'll never be able to demand a seat at the table to insist on good metrics over bad.  Frankly, that's too damned bad too, because I believe they could make some startlingly good recommendations too.  Don't plan on winning the war by winning Pyrrhic victories in small battles.

[ Parent ]
I believe it is immoral for this reason (4.00 / 3)
If I, teacher A, have come up with an innovative process, that seems to work well for my students with learning disabilities, and indeed is improving test scores....what should I do?

Share it with my colleagues or keep it to myself?  In my view, the first thing I did when I was teaching when something worked, was share it within the school.  If it worked within the school fairly consistently, we shared with the district etc.....

But if the system is about rewarding financially, guess what testing becomes?   Competitive.  So NOW, something works in my classroom and I keep it to myself because I will get X amount of dollars...  

If a sophisticated system were established which would attempt to measure the performance of each student against the baseline of their incoming performance,

So one year I had a really low group of students....at an already low performing school.  I had three students on the 1%ile in math.  I had one student on the 98th percentile.
We worked hard.  The three students on the 1%ile went up to the 10th, to the 11th and to the 12th percentiles.  My top student went up to the 99 percentile.  One of my other top students went from the 96th to the 92 percentile.

Now my friend who worked in a higher income school had the overwheming majority of students in her math class start at the 70 percentile and above.  Most of her students made gains.......

Who should get rewarded?  Me, for my three students who jumped nine points or more (HUGE improvements but guess what, they remained UNSATISFACTORY) or my friend whose entire class moved forward at the "normal progression".
If you looked at our two classes and compared scores overall on average, she wins. If you ignore everything but the gains, I win.  In the end, we both worked hard and yet you want one of us to resent the other???  
 Our school was the lowest performing school in the district.  It also had the highest amount of free lunch students.  It also had the lowest amount of education re: parents.  In other words we had the lowest amount of high school and college graduate parents.
And yet we often made huge strides with our students.  But we were at the bottom still and the way it is looked at here is on a bell curve.....so unless the other students stopped growing and advancing, we consistently were rated at the bottom of the heap along with the other schools in our urban area.  We called it "scores by zip" code.  

So who do you reward?  The schools/teachers/ where there were huge jumps even if the students remained Unsatisfactory?  Or the schools were the kids continues to make "progress" at the rate expected by some artificially set score of what a student age 10 SHOULD be doing?
Do variables matter? Do the kids have to love school?  Do the parents have to like the teacher?  And if School A, that happens to be in the most affluent part of town, continues to reap the benefits of merit pay, or rewards, why would I want to stay at a school where no matter how hard and how long I worked, and no matter how much progress the kids made....we still stayed at the bottom.

For me, schools should be cooperative, not competitive.  For example, one school here had a waiting list of parent volunteers, while the school on the other side of town cannot get a volunteer.  So I suggested the affluent schools send their volunteers to our school....but alas, I was ignored.

MERIT is not the answer. Pitting schools and teachers against each other remains for me, an IMMORAL and wrongheaded solution that will create the atmosphere for cheating.

[ Parent ]
Cookie cutters (0.00 / 0)
I agree completely that using absolute scores doesn't prove anything (other than rich schools should get even more money, of course!)

But that isn't necessarily the same thing as paying better teachers more.  Intuitively, it is obvious that better teachers should be payed more.  Teachers that share what works should be rewarded even more.

I certainly can see, though, why the threat of a stupid, horrible merit system like you describe greatly outweighs any potential gain from a good and reasonable system.  Even the obvious choice of letting the principle or some other evaluator make the final call doesn't sound very appealing, I'm sure.  And even if the system was perfect, would it really help?

As a software engineer, I've always been evaluated for performance gains.  While the system completely and totally sucks, it always seemed better than not being evaluated and just getting the same raise everyone else got.

[ Parent ]
Software engineer = teaching? (4.00 / 2)
Really bad analogy. Up there with the manufacturing analogy that kids are on an assembly line and teachers are the workers responsible for "molding" the final product. The one critical reason that "pay for performance" models are inappropriate for individual teachers is that the factors that are outside of the control of teachers -- students' homelife, motivation, and background knowledge -- are the most powerful determinants of student achievement. In fact, one groundbreaking study, The Coleman Report, concluded (incorrectly) that these factors are so strong that schools basically can hope to have very little effect on student achievement in the long run. Other factors -- such as a safe environment for learning, a viable curriculum, and fair and constructive feedback -- are also totally outside the control of teachers. School districts control safety and discipline policy, textbooks and content, and testing, grading, and reporting. Although the teacher's role in education is very important, there is really a lot that is totally outside of their ability to influence.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
No analogy implied (0.00 / 0)
As would come up in my daughter's mock trial the other day, I'm not trying to introduce hearsay, I'm trying to show state of mind.

For a lot of us, merit pay is the default, how we assume the world works.  Arguing against it just seems bad.  BTW, every job has factors beyond the control of each individual.  (Requirements are constantly changing, for example, in my world.)  The question is whether those factors are understood and applied in evaluation or just ignored.

Now, if you read everything I wrote before the last paragraph you'll see I am becoming convinced.  

And, of course, I've always rejected paying teachers based on raw results from student's high-stakes tests.  That is so clearly stupid it took a while to fully grasp some people were actually recommending it.  Given that level of stupidity, better to stop all attempts to add performance based pay.  They are just a distraction more likely to do harm then help.

But I still think that theoretically, merit pay could be done correctly.  I've just given up on that theory meaning a damn thing.

[ Parent ]
So would special needs teachers (4.00 / 4)
ever qualify?  Or PE teachers?  Or music teachers? Or Art teachers?  There are no real tests to qualify.  Sure the PE teacher gives physical fitness tests.  Should the students be rated on sit ups or leg lifts or running?  Does the most physically fit school merit that teacher extra pay???

How should we rate the music teacher in elementary school?  On how many students play their violins well?  I can tell you now that the teachers in more affluent schools would win the money because besides what he/she teaches, those students often get private lessons too.  

Or should you have to be a teacher in the areas of math/science to merit the pay?  So why bother go into teaching the arts when there is no merit available to you?

Who decides and how?  Is it an aggregate score...of all the students in the a teacher's classes?  Who monitors their tests?  The teacher who could get more money from them scoring well?  Or an average?  If it's an average, if you are at a school with large numbers, one bad score won't hurt but if you happen to be in a small school, one bad score can do you in.

And if one year you get a student in your class who happens to be disabled with dyslexia, or just a lower functioning ability in math then what.  
I have watch what has happened.  A new kid comes to a school to register and immediately principals and teachers want to know how did this kid score on the state tests.....will he/she be an asset or a will they "lower" our rating.  Seriously, is that what we want to happen.......this is what rating our schools has done already.  Put "MERIT" money into the mix, and sadly, kids will be the losers.

What qualifies one as deserving merit pay?

[ Parent ]
That's the geat thing about theories (0.00 / 0)

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
The variations aren't that great (0.00 / 0)
In Britain the government started talking about the concept of "value added" a few years back. Essentially they tied the resources to the progress of students relative to that that was expected.

It hasn't been much better. Good schools don't show the benefit of the good teaching, as they're too near the top of the scale to progress further. Secondary schools with very poor intakes also have very bad scores, because half the students have essentially given up any chance of success. Scores vary widely from year to year, especially in primary schools, because each year's intake is different and it isn't a like-to-like comparison.

Meanwhile the simple league tables based on SATS results are still the main measure the papers use, and improving schools are still damned for things they really can't affect.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
Excellent..... (0.00 / 0)
I was going to answer this myself but am happy someone else did.

Students are not widgets....
there is no one way to reach students......
if there was a magic potion so that every student learned from every teacher.....100% of the time, believe me we would be drinking the potion and serving it up....

I have had lessons that were fantastic and got most of my kids excited one year, and another year, not so much.  

No two kids are alike when it comes to learning....no two teachers are alike when it comes to instruction....

Merit pay will pit teachers and schools against each other...and will set up the scenario for cheating..

[ Parent ]
Students are not widgets.... (4.00 / 1)
Damn straight.  As I said elsewhere, I think the assumption that all kids are the same is the number one problem.  That stupid concept just seeps its way into everything.

Basing teacher pay on raw student test scores is so stupid I (still) have a hard time believing anyone suggests it.  But, I know, they actually do.

[ Parent ]
But what do you base it on... (0.00 / 0)
student opinions?
parent opinions?
administration opinions???

Does the quietest, most "well behaved" class win the teacher extra pay?

What is merit pay based on and who gets to decide?

[ Parent ]
My youngest daughter's kindergarten teacher( unbelievable how time flies (4.00 / 2)
she graduates from HS this year) pretty much demanded that every parent volunteer during the school year. If both parents worked she had 'special projects' that she sent home for them to complete.

I was fortunate enough to volunteer in the classroom and was able to do so right up to when she was in the 4th grade because all the teachers were asking for assistance and in all those years I saw an increase in special needs children with serious behavioral issues,  saw more standardized testing(MCAS) forcing many senior teachers to abandon lesson plans about subjects  they loved and were remembered for by older students.

Teachers work hard.

Pitting them against each other is ridiculous.  

[ Parent ]
Thank you (4.00 / 1)
I truly believe that people who actually spend time in the schools, not as a judgmental note taking academic, but as a part of the school (as volunteers) they get a real feel.

Talking about something in the abstract is much different than the real thing. I remember my first years being such an eye opener.  Sure we had been given all the tools of academia...but there are so many variables. I was teaching this lesson, using a lot of hands-on, doing all the right things and right in the middle of the lesson, one of my 5th graders (a really sweet and bright little girl) came up to the front and was trying to tell me she felt ill but before she got the words out, she threw up on the "lesson".....the papers, the visuals......everything.  The kids all went screaming toward the outside door......

I laugh when I think about it now.  The lesson, that day, was pretty much over.  I took the kids outside (after sending the student with a helper to the office) because it smelled....luckily it was early fall and warm.  And so I had to reteach, remake everything.  That's just one example.  
There's no book, no science, to prepare you for all the variables you deal with....deaths of a child's parent, illness, neighborhood issues, special needs, lack of materials, etc etc etc.    

I always appreciate it when a parent who has been there and looks at the big picture comments...thanks.

[ Parent ]
This is just another example of accepting a rightwing frame that I am (4.00 / 5)
beginning to think far too many of Obama's generation(which is mine as well - he is one year younger than I am) got from attaining adulthood under Ronald Reagan's presidency.

It drives me nuts.

Does anyone really honestly think that any teacher wants their students to fail? Or doesn't care if students some do fail? Each test is a reflection on how well the teacher taught the material as well.

This merit pay is a seriously bad idea: I can just envision the demands parents will make to have their kids in a certain teacher's class...charges of 'who you know' will abound...

I am not a teacher but I have had 2 kids make the National Honor Society and they have had some wonderful teachers and some average ones but our school district does a lot of team teaching and the average ones benefit from working with the wonderful ones and a lot of it comes down to experience.  

Teachers (0.00 / 0)
I have always respected my public school education and the people who conducted such education, still two points:

on the one hand, some of the worst critics of teachers are the racial minorities, and;
on the other hand, the teacher's unions were among the worst supporters of Bill Clinton and his centrist policies.

These are two ambiguiites that should be kept in mind.

And who should have teachers supported??? (0.00 / 0)
George H W ?????
Bill Clinton pushed to raise standards for teachers in AR.  We did not have a problem with that.  We believe that BEFORE someone is certified to teach there should be rigorous standards?

I really do not get your point here.  

Ted Kennedy, hardly a centrist by anyone's standards, was a co-sponsor of NCLB, as was another "liberal" George Miller.
To make this about supporting Clinton is just silly.

[ Parent ]
that's the problem too every election -- Unions were not for Obama at first -- (0.00 / 0)
he ended up being supported just because he was the Democratic nominee.

NCLB has hurt public education enormously -- and charter schools and merit pay hurt it even more.

Kennedy -- or any Democrat -- working hard to hurt public education by making NCLB law simply shows how insane it is to assume Democrats are good on unions or public education -- or anything. It proves that they're not automatically good -- and as long as unions line up behind them anyway and work for their election nothing will change.

[ Parent ]
Charter schools (0.00 / 0)
Could someone explain why charter schools are considered bad?  I was barely a year ago I learned that charter schools were considered "conservative" and "liberals" were against them.  The only charter schools I've ever been exposed to were clearly liberal in philosophy, so this came as a shock to me.

I understand the complaint against vouchers, but always thought charter schools were the liberal, public take on the idea.

Personally, I think the number one problem with education is the assumption that all children are the same.  That assumption permeates our high-stakes testing, "merit" pay and so on.  Charter schools seem like a reasonable counter to that problem in communities dense enough to support them.

What am I missing?  Educate me.

[ Parent ]
Apples and Oranges (4.00 / 2)

Arne Duncan's charter school experience consists of schools chartered by the Chicago School District, and that he essentialy created and indirectly ran.  They are, in practice, magnet or speciality schools that have their own governance boards, with teachers still members of the union and paid by the school district.  In Chicago, charter schools are a form of decentralization and site-based management, with some form of local control or influence.

Most charter schools, however, as started on a shoe-string, hire non-union teachers, siphon off money from needy urban school districts, and they are often led by persons with big egos and weak boards of directors.  They rarely out-perform the urban district's schools from which they take students.

Worse yet, a growing number of charter schools are former parochial or private schools that convert to charter schools so as to tap into the local and state per-pupil financing that is available to charters.  For these failing private schools, becoming "socialist" is a way to survive.

We are hoping that when Duncan and Obama talk about charter schools, they are takinbg about the former and not the latter.

[ Parent ]
that's not true -- Charter and Contract schools in Chicago are not run by the BOE -- (4.00 / 1)
in fact, they've even handed some of their regular public schools over to non-profit and private operators/managers, firing all the existing staff -- they call those "turnaround schools" -- http://www.chitowndailynews.or... -- Studies cast doubt on CPS strategy

... The turnaround schools are managed by the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a nonprofit group. ...

One version -- pushed by Mayor Richard M. Daley and U.S. Education Secretary and former city public schools CEO Arne Duncan -- is a system of innovation, spurred by opening up the public schools to private and non-profit partners with the financial resources and ingenuity to help it improve.

Charter schools are a big part of that model. But a second UIC study, The Charter Difference, is casting doubt on their effectiveness at the high school level. ...

They have both there -- and regular Charter schools as well as these "turnaround schools" are run by outside companies and organizations and all funded with public school money -- as well as extra grants and subsidies too.

this is the Renaissance 2010 site -- http://www.ren2010.cps.k12.il.... --

Charter schools are independently operated public schools that are not subject to the same state laws, district initiatives, and board policies as traditional public schools.  Charters are operated pursuant to Illinois Charter Law.  Charter school teachers are employees of the non-profit governing board or education management organization hired by the non-profit board.

Contract schools are independently operated public schools under Renaissance 2010.  Contract schools operate pursuant to the Illinois School Code, are managed by an independent non-profit organization, and employ teachers who work for the non-profit.  Contract Schools have an advisory body comprised of parents, community members and staff.

Performance schools are operated by CPS and employ CPS teachers and staff.  These schools are subject to the collective bargaining agreement between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union and other labor organizations, however they have flexibility on many areas such as curriculum, school schedule and budget.  In lieu of Local School Councils, Performance schools have an Alternative Local School Council (ALSC), which allows parents, community members, and staff to be involved in all aspects of the school's activities. ...

[ Parent ]
For One: Competiton for scarce resources (4.00 / 6)
Usually charters are started without any additional budget being added to the district, which means that schools have to take money out of their existing budgets to pay for the charter. This is usually done by assigning a per-pupil expenditure (PPE) amount to the charter. If your charter attracts 100 students, and the district PPE is $10,000, then the other schools have to give up the amount of PPE they have "lost" to the charter. Now we all know that economies of scale don't work that way. When you take 20 students out of a school it doesn't mean you can run the same school for the same proportional amount that you ran the year before. What it usually means is you have to fire the reading specialist and all the students miss out. Another problem with charters is the false expectations it engenders in parents. They think their students' problems will all be solved by moving to the charter. But research shows that charters don't necessarily perform any better than regular public schools. Charters can also separate the student population by class and income as parents who are inherently more involved in their students' education pull their students out of the regular public school to attend the charter. Also, and this was certainly the case in Chicago, charters can lead to the abandonment of neighborhood schools, which will lower housing values in already economically vulnerable neighborhoods. (Enough? I got more.)

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
Because of several reasons... (4.00 / 4)
a) they get public monies, diverting them from public schools, and yet they can by pass the "union contract"; it was a way for anti union conservatives to get into the schools and hire anti union people
b) all the research has been clear....and I have seen it here in my district.  We have had charter schools since the 90s (this is a conservative area where they got lots of support).
One of them replaced a public school in a very poor urban area.  They extended the school day and school year, hired lots of "new" (cheaper) teachers......and after ten years scored no better than similar schools in the urban area.  
One charter school did very well...it's in one of the most affluent areas of the city and it does about the same as the public schools there.

In the end, I see charter schools as a way of union busting.

[ Parent ]
Public vs. charter isn't even apples to apples. (4.00 / 1)
This report argues that evidence exists for the case that the charter school movement is largely a failed reform. The report puts the charter school movement in the context of dissatisfaction with public schools and the public sector in general. It then describes the claims for charters made by the early charter school advocates, emphasizing the advocates' promise of increased achievement. From there, the report reviews evaluations of charter schools in Arizona, California, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina, and Texas, as well as several national evaluations.

The review shows that charters have not lived up to their promise of increased achievement. This failure is surprising given that charter schools are small (most have
fewer than 200 students) with small classes, two factors known to increase achievement. This failure becomes even harder to understand given the advantages that charters enjoy in their freedom from the rules, regulations, and contracts that are said to bureaucratically burden the public schools.

It appears that charter school advocates who believed that charters could increase achievement and should be held accountable for doing so have lost control of the procharter
movement to those for whom deregulation is a sufficient condition for declaring success.

If public schools were deregulated, how much better could they do?  Public vs. charter isn't even apples to apples.  

[ Parent ]
Not That NCLB Ever Had Any Merit (4.00 / 2)

but it did come with the promise of enormous federal financial aid and it did focus districts -- most for the first time ever -- on the kids (all those sub-groups) who were truly falling between the cracks.

Kennedy was not "insane".  He just trusted that Bush handshake too much and wanted to believe that he was doing something monumentally important.  Who can say anything intelligent about contingent histories, but it is a fair bet that had all the promised money materialized, some school districts would have successfully undertaken the systemic birth-to-college approach, for all kids (including using extended days and weekend schools to provide many of those middle class life experiences that are so critical to what NCLB measures) and all other districts would have those models to emulate.

[ Parent ]
Educational outcomes are very closely aligned to class (4.00 / 3)
Naturally, this means minorities tend to have the worst educational outcomes. But this isn't necessarily because they're badly taught - although more money and smaller class sizes always help.

The fact is that a lot of children arrive at the age of 5 and it's quite clear that they're going to struggle for the rest of their school careers. If they aren't read to as a matter of course (which is difficult if your parents work long hours or aren't good and enthusiastic readers themselves), if they come from a family where nobody's had the benefit of a successful education (which is quite likely if they do come from a poor family), if there are high levels of stress in the home (which, again, correlated to income) or if parents don't have time to meet teachers (which correlates to a need to work every hour that you have to put food on the table), then the child will probably struggle. And I could give more problems if you wanted - my mother's a headteacher in quite a deprived area of England, and some of the anecdotal evidence I've got from her is heartbreaking.

I don't think the problem is that teachers aren't sympathetic to racial minorities. I think the problem is that the economic system of the United States is stacked against racial minorities and the poor in general.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
totally -- and tying school funding to local property taxes makes it even worse -- (4.00 / 1)
giving public funds to private charter schools, and horrible Federal ideas like "merit pay" and NCLB reduce public school funding and effectiveness even more.

[ Parent ]
That's one side (4.00 / 1)
On the other hand, when teachers cope by giving the children every reason to believe that they can never succeed - when zero tolerance for misbehavior leads to kids being denied every recess, thus breeding more misbehavior; when the low performance of some kids in the class is actively and specifically compared with the high performance of kids that do have all the advantages at home; when the biggest emphasis of every day is whether a kid was "in the red" and if so why they weren't "in the green" like so-and-so; when kids are penalized for trying to do but not correctly doing assignments that would require a parents help, but the assignment is sent home on a small piece of paper written in english only; when the lack of sufficient teaching staff for a large number of students leads to teachers irresponsibly lashing out at the students that cause them the most problems - then the school environment is not doing nearly enough to level the inequalities.

Sorry - you can't blame the inner city rebellion against the public schools on the disadvantages of those who live in the inner city.

I don't think it's fair to blame more than a tiny fraction of it on the teachers either. The system is set up so that teachers in these schools have to be truly spectacular to actually manage to be good teachers, to continue their professional development, to keep up with changing ideas of best practices in teaching, and to maintain their enjoyment of the job.

[ Parent ]
I'd agree with that (4.00 / 1)
I just think that schools are no more biased against the poor and minorities than society in general. If anything, probably less so, as teachers will tend (if they pay attention at all) to realise where these problems are coming from.

The problem, of course, is that 'less biased' isn't good enough. There actually needs to be an effort to unstack the deck (like by nationalising educational expenditures and putting in a weak inverse correlation to the local tax base, to give the first idea that comes to mind) for the systemic societal challenges that the underclass faces to be ameliorated.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
There is only ONE way to bring "all children" (4.00 / 1)
up to the 'standards' set for schooling.

All children must be born in, or at least be raised in, an upper- or upper-middle class family environment: literacy and experience-rich, with lots of reading material around the house and parents who, as a matter of course, value reading, literacy, linguistic competence, etc.

It is they for whom the "standards" are ALWAYS written, and those are how kids who do well on those 'assessments' do well...

So, if you want all kids to "perform" at levels the standards recognize as satisfactory, then you have to make sure all kids have 'standard' experiences in their neo-nat and early childhoood rearing.

By the way, Obama revealed in that one remark just what a fucking charlatan he is.

I was never very much on the team, but I am now OFF.

I disagree (4.00 / 2)
That's like Rush Limbaugh saying "How can these liberals talk about creating jobs in Michigan when they also want to stop producing Hummer, stop building gas-guzzlers, stop building SUVs?"

It's a nonsensical attack. In the real world, we need more teachers. In the real world, there are a small percentage of current teachers who are so ineffective and/or lazy that they ruin opportunities for the children who take their classes. Both of these facts are true. Both are problems. Both have to be addressed.

The fact that one requires hiring teachers and the other requires firing teachers doesn't mean they are in stark contradiction, any more than building more electric cars and ceasing production of Humvees is a "contradiction".

Now, I'm against eliminating tenure -- my dad is a public school teacher and I know quite well that Principals and even school boards can develop ridiculous and unfair reason to fire teachers who aren't "team players". But, I do think that making it nearly impossible to fire the most incompetent teachers is a problem for the school system. Perhaps we should set up independent, federally-trained mediators who have final say over firings, so that local personality conflicts and turf wars don't ruin a good teacher's career.

But to say that Obama's desire for more higher quality teachers is a hurtful contradiction is a bit ridiculous. You'd be better off complaining about the massive teacher layoffs due to the recession at the same time we have a teacher shortage -- that's a much more real and troubling problem.

"Charter schools have been notorious for union avoidance campaigns since their inception." (4.00 / 1)
AFT-Massachusetts Organizes First Charter School Union in Massachusetts  -- http://www.massaflcio.org/aft-...

An overwhelming majority of teachers at the Conservatory Lab Charter School in Brighton chose to join the American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts, making this music-oriented elementary school the first unionized charter school since the state began the charter program in 1993.

The teachers organized under the state's Written Majority Authorization law, passed in 2007, which allows public employees and some private sector employees to join a union once a certified majority have signed authorization cards. Twenty out of the twenty-one full-time teachers at the school signed cards certifying that they wanted a union. Charter schools have been notorious for union avoidance campaigns since their inception. By organizing under the state's majority authorization law, the teachers were able to avoid an anti-union campaign from the school's Board of Trustees who opposed their decision to form a union.   ...

When the school's Board of Trustees was informed that a majority of teachers had decided to join a union, their reaction was to call a meeting of all school employees and express their disagreement with the decision to unionize, stating that a union was not compatible with the school's mission.  ...

Massachusett's law is what we need nationally -- note Obama doesn't talk about the standards or performance of all the non-union charter school teachers.

boneheaded (0.00 / 0)
Chris, your argument is like saying that spending initiatives and balancing the budget are contradictory. It's stooping awfully low. I mean, I couldn't help but thing that it was a strangely Rush-like argument. And I generally love most of your posts.

Can we acknowledge that there are multiple problems with our educational systems, and maybe try to address more than one at a time? That's not too far beyond the pale, is it?

Also, commenters, please don't smear all proponents of merit pay as attacking or blaming teachers. Some people believe that all teachers, good or bad, should be incentivized and rewarded for doing good work.

The truth about Saxby Chambliss

Well tell us how (4.00 / 1)
who decides who gets how much and why?
Test scores?? Well forget about people wanting to teach in low socioeconomic schools......or schools that don't rid themselves of special needs students!

And how do Art, PE, Music teachers get a chance for MERIT?  
and how does a special needs teacher get rated?  

Who decides?  Students?  Parents? Peers?  Administrators?

I will say it again. It has been proven over and over...high stakes (i.e, money for a few) will create the atmosphere for cheating.  It has already started with NCLB.

MERIT pay is wrong....teachers and teaching should be cooperative for the common good, not competitive for the good of a few.  Get the Reagan mentality out of here...please.

[ Parent ]
it's really pretty simple (0.00 / 0)
Administrators decide. Within each school. Annual reviews that take into account test scores, yes, but also sit-in performance evaluations by administrators; feedback from students, parents, and colleagues; attendance and performance in teacher education programs; etc. etc. Reviews should factor in collaboration with colleagues, and innovations in the classroom. This all might seem very shocking to you, but it's how the rest of the work world operates.

NCLB is a whole different ball game. It's evaluating schools, not individual teachers. That's why it's based purely on making numbers, and that's why there's cheating. When a school cheats, I don't know what happens under NCLB, but the school certainly isn't shut down. When a teacher cheats, he/she should be fired for cause, or at least disciplined.

The truth about Saxby Chambliss

[ Parent ]
Let me take the other side (4.00 / 2)
Why do you think evaluating teachers for pay raises will improve performance?  Do you have any evidence of that?  Just because the rest of the world does it doesn't mean it is a good idea.

[ Parent ]
evidence? (0.00 / 0)
I'm not an education policy expert. I'm just saying what makes sense to me. I'm sure there are studies out there on the subject. If you find some, post them.

The truth about Saxby Chambliss

[ Parent ]
That's not simple at all (4.00 / 2)
that's a popularity contest...

and no it is not shocking to me at all.  Despite the attitude and belief of condescending folks like yourself, teachers know what the "real" world is like.  Education is not a business and students are not products.  There is no "quality" control and we don't get to reject a child whose parents abused and neglected him, or abandoned him.  We don't say bad "raw material" when the child enters a classroom in the second grade and does not know how to write her last name because she has been in eight schools in two years.

Unlike the "real" world,  students are affected by more variables than any material you could compare.  Sickness, divorce, parents in jail, nutrition, and individual development.

Clearly those of you in the "real" world are experts because ...you went to school.  Amazing how many people think they know how it works simply by having been in school.  

[ Parent ]
sorry (0.00 / 0)
for the condescension. You just seem fixated on metrics rather than on qualitative measurements. Many professions are evaluated based on qualitative measurements for exactly the reason you describe, because you can't evaluate based on how many widgets the employee produced.

I'm not sure how such evaluations become "popularity contests." I think that parents, students, colleagues are all capable of giving substantive feedback about teachers if they're asked the right questions.

And by the way, buster, you gotta problem with me basing my opinion on my personal experiences? Well I think that you shouldn't be allowed to have an opinion about health care unless you're a doctor, and you shouldn't be allowed to have an opinion about the environment unless you're a tree. How's that for a response? Oh, just so you know, both my parents are teachers.

The truth about Saxby Chambliss

[ Parent ]
Reverse Condescendation (0.00 / 0)
Be careful.  You are now beginning to show an attitude that you believe teaching is sooo special and sooo different than everything else that in no way could a teacher ever be judged or held accountable.  Sure, other people doing work with stupid, inhuman widgets can be held accountable, but not teachers.  Don't assume you are that special.

I doubt this is really what you think, but your post is inching awfully close to that.

I think the problem is you are stuck on numerically determined metrics.  Given that real people are actually suggesting that, I forgive you.  But that isn't what people here are suggesting.

Evaluating based on metrics like that wouldn't work in the "real world" either.  I've heard of people trying to evaluate programmers based on how many lines of code they write, bugs they fix and produce, and so on, but it is just as stupid in that environment as using test scores to evaluate teachers would be.

[ Parent ]
No, it's frustration, not condescension (4.00 / 2)
but the truth is that teaching is different....very different.  So is being a cop; so is being a fireman.

Answer me this.  Would you consent to merit pay for police officers?  For fire department workers?  
Would you set up criteria as to how we judge who is a good cop?  Can we base it on "how many people arrested?"  Or maybe "how many fires are put out"?  
Why would those things be wrong and in my view, they are wrong.  Would Officer A be fired for not making an arrest?  We already know what can get a police officer fired, a fire fighter fired, a teacher fired.  But what makes one deserve more money than the other???

Teaching is not a science.....I will never believe it is. I spent forty years of my life in education.  I think I have the experience to understand why having teachers compete against each other for a piece of a limited bonus pie is wrong.  Would you want police officers competing for money? Would they want that? I doubt it.  They have each other's backs......and so do teachers. And sometimes that can be bad but MOSTLY it is good.  

You are working in the private sector.  Public education is not a private sector environment.  If as a consumer who wants to buy your product, I don't like how your company evaluates...I can choose to not buy.  
In private schools, merit pay would work because as a consumer if I think the evaluation for merit pay is wrong or unfair, I have other options.  PUBLIC education is one of the commons, like law enforcement, like fire departments etc etc.  
In a private school, if I am competing for money for our school, I can rid the school of low performing students.  
Do you want public schools finding ways to get rid of families and students?  Does anyone want police officers competing for more arrests? Fire fighters competing for putting out more fires?  

I apologize if you I am being condescending. I am frustrated.  There are many ways we can give "merit pay" without setting up this business world model.  We do it already. If you teach in the tough big cities, you make a lot more money than teachers in small town, middle class areas. If you are a police officer in New York City, I guarantee your pay is much higher than the cops get in Mayberry or any other small town.  

There are ways to encourage with money an improvement in the schools that are failing.  Making teachers within those schools competitors is not the way.  I KNOW IT in my heart. I have been there.  Schools in tough areas need a strong, cooperative staff who work together just like police officers and fire fighters need fellow officers they trust.

To me it is so clear. I am frustrated here in this thread. It is the same right wing, voucher meme I have been hearing for years.  Blame the schools and the teachers in them for problems that are in reality societal.  Making it a competetive deal is just wrong. Putting dollar signs on kids successes and failures is wrong.   You will never convince me otherwise.

[ Parent ]
Private sector evaluations (4.00 / 1)
I think part of the problem is you are making assumptions about how evaluations work in the private sector that, to my experience, simply are not true.  There are almost no hard numbers like "number of arrests".  There may be a few measurables like making deadlines, but even that is up to interpretation because things are always changing.  I've never been evaluated by how many of the final product is sold or anything even close to that.

Evaluations tend to be scores from, say, 1-5 on various goals set the previous year plus a generic section, like:

1. Job Proficiency and Competence
2. Customer Satisfaction
3. Peer relations and teamwork
4. Initiative and resourcefulness

(I just grabbed an old evaluation and copied those in.)

Basically, it is just a conversation with your supervisor that you aught to be having from time to time anyway, put into a formal, once a year format.  A final number comes out of it and it is used to make mild adjustments to the pay raise you would get anyway.

For the most part, it really is only helpful for the extreme cases, identifying those that really did go above and beyond and those that aren't making the cut at all.  For the rest, its just a pain in the butt, but at least it guarantees that one conversation a year.  (Which, again, should be happening anyway, but often is not.)

We also write self evaluations on the same subjects.

So my opinion of these evaluations isn't very high, but it isn't that low, either.  They just seem like a normal part of work life that doesn't have a really clear alternative.  It seems very strange to me that teachers (and yes, cops and firemen and anyone who works for a living) don't go through the process.

I also don't see how this has anything to do with being competitors with your coworkers.  If anything, it helps identify those that are doing the best job helping their fellow workers.

All the examples you give, like "how many people arrested" are clearly stupid and not at all what I'm talking about.  Nor do those examples register with me as anything remotely close to what happens in the private sector; at least not anything I've been directly exposed to.

[ Parent ]
Principals (4.00 / 3)
I really should stop commenting on any kind of merit pay, because I'm convinced the problems outweigh the benefits.

But yes, many of us have been evaluated yearly by whoever we report to for our entire adult lives.  It mostly sucks, but it does work.  Non-teachers need to cooperate in the work place as well and there is no contradiction between being evaluated and cooperating.  In fact, not cooperating with peers is likely to lower your evaluation, not raise it.

Art and PE teachers are no different than any other.  I guess the assumption that merit pay means high stakes testing is the cause of all this, but no one on this list, to my knowledge, has even come close to suggesting that is a good idea.

And it isn't about high pay for the few.  Typically you are only talking the difference between, say 3% and 4% pay raise any given year.  (I guess some of the pushback from those of us that have always lived with this is "why are you so special?")

Personally, I think this is all one big red herring.  Simple teacher evaluations and pay adjustments would help only a little, neither solving nor creating any major problems.

Attaching pay to high-stakes testing, however, is just an assault on the profession and union.  On that, I agree 100%.

[ Parent ]
So if that's the red herring (4.00 / 1)
what's the heart of the matter?
* Stripping the education policy debate of business ideology. Use research-based findings from real schools to guide policy.
* Acknowledging that there are factors outside school's controls that thwart education achievement and use government resources to fund interventions that can prepare these kids for excelling in schools.
* Remedying the funding gaps that leave so many rural and urban schools unable to deal with the day-to-day of running a positive learning environment for all their students.
* Making teaching a rewarding career by using public funds to make it equitable to employment in for-profit endeavors. As recently as the 1960s, in Manhattan, teachers salaries were equivalent to stock brokers. It's a societal decision to show what we value in our economy.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
Agree on all four (4.00 / 1)
In particular, starting salaries need to be higher to make it easier to compete for kids coming out of college.

[ Parent ]
Sir (4.00 / 3)
I taught for forty years. I was evaluated by the principal every year.  One year was the BIG evaluation with principal, another teacher, another administrator; two years just the principal. As well, I had to be re-certified every five years
....with inservices and college credits (paid for our of my own pocket).

I am still tittering at the 3% and 4% every year.  In the district in which I worked for over three decades out of my four decades, I ONCE got a 3.5% pay raise.  Most years we bargained hard and long for 1% and 2%.  During the late 80s we had a three year pay freeze and I guarantee you during the 90s boom we did not get any compensation for those three years.  Our pay raises came mostly from credits....BA +15 credits...a jump, then BA +30 or MA+.

I worked for forty years, had two MAs which I paid for myself and my highest salary was (I was at the top of the pay scale) was close to a beginning entry professional in most other fields.  If I went for a doctorate (at the cost of $40,000) I would have earned a $1000 pay raise.  I would have had to teach at least 40 more years to make up the cost.

I would prefer starting teachers' salaries go up across the board..to attract talented young people who should not have not have to wait and work until they are in their 50s or 60s to get a decent salary. That would do a lot more for education than merit pay.

[ Parent ]
This is the bottom line (4.00 / 1)
There are so many things that can and should be done for the education system. Do merit pay and teacher accountability first and there will be so many confounding factors that it will be impossible to tell whether either is having a positive or negative effect.

That teachers should have to bargain as a union to get less than cost-of-living pay increases is a travesty. We entrust our kids to teachers, the least we can do is ensure that their standard of living is stable. We expect them to work in inner cities or rural areas, but don't pay to keep the roof from leaking or fix the heat system. We want them to be creative in their teaching, but won't give a decent expense account to buy the extra supplies necessary for reaching every student. We want them to be a stable fixture of the community, but won't provide for stable funding through economic bad times.

Merit pay and teacher accountability are distractions from the far bigger problems with the education system.

The other thing about merit pay: should we also give cash rewards to the best students?  

[ Parent ]
Certification (4.00 / 1)
What a stupid waste of time, re-certifying someone that often.  Paying someone for advanced education that may or may not help how well they teach also makes very little since.

Wouldn't it make more sense if instead of all this fake stuff, the actual evaluation process played a roll in your salary?  If they know you are doing a good job, why do you need to re-certify?  That's stupid.  If they know you are doing a great job, why not pay you more?

I agree with the above that this is basically a distraction; none of it fixes the real problems.  But I still think the system I described makes much more sense for all involved then what you just laid out.

And on the money issue, yes software pays way too much.  Particularly in the late '90s they were just throwing money at us.  What we do isn't even a smigin as important as what you do.  I've literally worked on projects for years that never got more than a customer or two and was eventually shelved; total waste of time in any real since.  

On a personal note, though, this meant my wife got to stay home with the kid while I worked full time.  Originally, we both worked part time, but the difference between my salary and hers (secretary) made that division of labor unpractical, so I went back full time.  Not that I expect you to feel sorry for me or anything, but that really sucked.  Me, living in a conventional marriage instead of home with my kid.  Not the way it was supposed to go.  (Later I got to work from home and we home schooled the kid, so there was much togetherness again, that was cool.)

[ Parent ]
just plain wrong (0.00 / 0)
Chris, I want to follow up on my previous post by demonstrating just how absurd your argument is. Suppose a school has 20 teachers. Just suppose that Obama says that the school should fire 10% of those teachers based on performance (2 teachers) and provides funds to hire 5 more teachers.

What you're saying is that the school would end up with 20 - 2 + 3 = 23 teachers. Wrong. The school would actually end up with 25 teachers, because when teachers leave, schools almost always retain the budget for them, so they can hire replacements without having to request more funds.

Here's a another way to looking at it. Suppose that you're middle management at a private company that's going through a growth spurt. You have an employee underneath you who really sucks. You tell your boss that you want to fire the guy, and your boss says, "Yeah, he's awful, he's dragging down the company, but the CEO says it's time to grow, grow, grow! If we fire this bad apple then it only sets us back." Hopefully you'd be thinking, WTF is he talking about? Not only is it bad business, but it doesn't make budgetary sense.  

The truth about Saxby Chambliss

WTF are YOU talking about (4.00 / 1)
"Just suppose that Obama says that the school should fire 10% of those teachers based on performance (2 teachers) and provides funds to hire 5 more teachers."
Is that even remotely close to what Obama even said? "For every unqualified teacher who we're firing we're hiring 2.5 more to take their place." Where did you get that? At least Chris is responding to the substantive argument: that you don't make the teaching profession more attractive by explaining to teachers how much more pressure you're going to be putting them under to achieve results they have very little control over. Here's "another way of looking at it": Business analogies have nothing whatsoever to do with public education. Profit is not the motivation, productivity is difficult to locate to specific sources, the product and process are inherently non-standardized, and accountability is diffuse.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
chill out (0.00 / 0)
I was just giving some numbers so that I could make my point. Make up whatever numbers you want. My point was that firing teachers does not mean that you will end up fewer teachers. And it that regard, education is exactly the same as private businesses.

The truth about Saxby Chambliss

[ Parent ]
I don't need to chill (4.00 / 1)
thank you very much.

I am done with this conversation.  I voted for and worked for Obama.  I disagree with him and Arne Duncan and the notion of fixing education is about firing and hiring teachers is nonsensical at best.

[ Parent ]
When you say "just plain wrong" (4.00 / 1)
you need to back it up. And when you "make" your point, you need to argue from the substance of the diary and not make up BS.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
okay, then put in X and Y (0.00 / 0)
It doesn't matter what the numbers are. We don't know what the numbers are because Obama hasn't drafted a bill. Put in whatever numbers you want, and my point is still the same.

The truth about Saxby Chambliss

[ Parent ]
shoot (0.00 / 0)
I meant 20 - 2 + 5 = 23

The truth about Saxby Chambliss

[ Parent ]
Teachers do not grow on trees (4.00 / 2)
If polite society views itself to have a special mandate to make teachers' lives hell, teaching will not be an attractive profession for the best and brightest to go into.

You go around threatening to fire teachers and promising that you'll make them work harder (as if keeping control of and educating 30-odd highly complicated machines with a mania for troublemaking wasn't difficult enough) and you will get a lot of people who do not want to teach.

There is not an endless supply of teachers, so your analogy is ridiculous.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
Stale drivel (4.00 / 1)
designed to appeal to one very specific audience: the entrenched corporate/political establishment.   It is what has passed as bold education reform for quite some time among a certain set of very important people, yet it requires nothing of them except more strident demands that others need to toughen up, make greater sacrifices and work ever harder, all for the good of the children and the nation.   It almost always is accompanied by calls for teachers to give up their tenure and benefit packages too.  

Thing is, beyond the beltway and boardrooms, such a message never really did gain much permanent traction, in spite of the enormous amounts of corporate funding and consultant time devoted to spreading the gospel. (Just ask Bill Gates.)  Now, it is beyond meaningless--close to insulting, really -- given the financial catastrophe that is decimating the capacity of nearly every school district in this state.  Local school board meetings in these parts are regularly packed with hundreds and hundreds of folks concerned about the immediate viability of their kids' schools and educational prospects.   (This last point is noteworthy...I'm wondering if others are experiencing the huge outpouring of direct public participation at the school board level?    It is truly an amazing thing that seems to be completely out of the sight-lines of the progressive blogging community. And it has been happening like this for a while now.)

With school closures looming, teachers being laid off by the hundreds in my district and tens of thousands statewide, and the likelihood of our local high schools without counselors, librarians and arts and music, no one -- and I mean no one -- is rallying our board for merit pay and the need to fire all those bad teachers.  No way.  The people's demands have been very clear:  preserve and re-commit to our neighborhood schools, close or consolidate under performing and exclusive charters and small boutique schools that are draining the district--in fact "no more charters" has become a mantra, and do everything possible to protect teachers and other staff from lay-offs.

Cognitive dissonance, perhaps.  To me it comes off as almost a throwaway.  A message to the big dogs that they don't need to worry about this administration going off message when it comes to national education policy. A big nothing...a waste.

Can we get back to banks?   For god's sake, please, just focus on getting it together there.

I find that so disrespectful (0.00 / 0)
I just want my kids to have a quality public education. So we have differing opinions on how to achieve the same goals. I'm not in a board room or in the Beltway. Maybe I'm a "big dog?" I guess i'll take that as a compliment.

The truth about Saxby Chambliss

[ Parent ]
Of course you want quality education for your kids (4.00 / 1)
I believe all of us who comment here are operating from the same base. No disrespect intended.

But please try to understand that my disappointment in this comes from the fact that Mr. Obama's statements are nearly identical to the rhetoric that has accompanied national education policymaking for the last eight years, at least.  It signals no significant change.   It also is wholly divorced from what's going on in my district at least (a large, high poverty urban district in Calif).   Our former school board, lured in with large pots of money offered by major corporate donors, embraced charters, an emphasis on building new boutique schools (at a cost to investments in neighborhood schools) and the rhetoric of the need to bring private-sector sensibilities to teacher hiring and firing.  

Today, it has become pretty apparent that this model was never financially viable nor stable.  The corporate money is largely dried up, most of the charter schools are bleeding both permanent staff and kids, and the community is sending a very strong message that they've had enough.   Not only was the old school board jettisoned, but the city voters embraced electing members via cohesive neighborhood districts rather than at-large, which saw school board candidates having to run city-wide and needing to raise $75,000-$100,000 to do so effectively.

School board meetings have also become the most vibrant hothouse of democratic governance in these parts...hundreds of citizens are giving up their Thursday nights to make their feelings clear that with the state largely insolvent, federal promises left unfulfilled and corporate money fleeting and fickle, they want local control over their schools back.

I'm off to class now...I still have great faith in public education and love what I do.   That's why I bother to comment and call it like I see it.  I know you bring the same sense of good will to your participation.  Peace.

[ Parent ]
Teachers (0.00 / 0)
It is interesting that my comment seems to have caused, inadverntally, a large of comments.  Sorry if I have offended anyone here.
My point was that teachers, who progressives defend so much, support centrist presidents like Bill Clinton who, by the way, was not such a great hero as one might think.  If teachers really cared about others they would support more radical candidates.  I know this problem-my union, AFSCME, too was a big supporter of Clinton.    


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