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December 17, 2010 04:48 PM UTC

Education symptom. ...Updated....

  • by: Laughing Boy

(Hopefully the discussion can be on what works and not a flame-war – promoted by DavidThi808)

On the thread talking about Douglas County parents finally finding a potential way around the unions’ destructive policies that have destroyed public education, Ardy had asked me for some evidence demonstrating my point that teacher’s unions had lost track of what their mission was about and now concentrated almost solely on being a political force rather than actually focusing on finding the best way to educate students.

UPDATE: I have emailed Bill Moloney to ask him if he’d more thoroughly source his paper for the Centennial Inst.  Will advise.

Below the fold is a gleaming example that demonstrates this.

The L.A. Times did an exhaustive piece on the test scores of students, sorted by teachers, and looked for trends with individual teachers.  

The results were striking – what became clear is that certain teachers were able to clearly drastically raise their students’ test scores across demographic lines, while some other teachers had the opposite effect, again, across socio-economic and demographic groupings.

Here seems to be the nut that runs counter to the unions’ current mission: (Emphasis mine).

• Many of the factors commonly assumed to be important to teachers’ effectiveness were not. Although teachers are paid more for experience, education and training, none of this had much bearing on whether they improved their students’ performance.

Other studies of the district have found that students’ race, wealth, English proficiency or previous achievement level played little role in whether their teacher was effective.

“In the past, too often we’ve just gone with gut instinct and haven’t been careful about whether those things are important,” said Richard Buddin, a senior economist and education researcher at Rand Corp., who conducted the statistical analysis as an independent consultant for The Times.

Students are tested across the country throughout the year, but teachers are not often rated by these test scores.  Why?  

I’ll give you three guesses.  Here’s more interesting information about ‘value-added analysis’.

Value-added analysis offers a rigorous approach. In essence, a student’s past performance on tests is used to project his or her future results. The difference between the prediction and the student’s actual performance after a year is the “value” that the teacher added or subtracted.

For example, if a third-grade student ranked in the 60th percentile among all district third-graders, he would be expected to rank similarly in fourth grade. If he fell to the 40th percentile, it would suggest that his teacher had not been very effective, at least for him. If he sprang into the 80th percentile, his teacher would appear to have been highly effective.

Any single student’s performance in a given year could be due to other factors – a child’s attention could suffer during a divorce, for example. But when the performance of dozens of a teacher’s students is averaged – often over several years – the value-added score becomes more reliable, statisticians say.

The approach, pioneered by economists in the 1970s, has only recently gained traction in education.

A small number of states and districts already use value-added scores to determine which teachers should be rewarded and which need help. This summer, one district took a harder line: Washington, D.C., schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee fired 26 teachers based in significant part on their poor value-added scores.

Wait…I’ve heard that name before somewhere.  Hmm.  Oh – that’s right!  Union money poured in to the campaign coffer of the D.C. Mayor who appointed Rhee’s opponent:

The national union spent roughly $1 million in contributions to a labor-backed independent expenditure campaign — also supported by the public workers union AFSCME — and on its own extensive political operation, a Democratic political consultant familiar with the details of the spending told POLITICO. The spending suggests that the vote — while not a referendum on Fenty’s attempt to shake up the school system — was deeply shaped by that policy.

Oh, right.  It’s for the kids.  Good bye, Ms. Rhee.  Thanks for at least trying in D.C.

Continuing on with the L.A. Times (the right wing propaganda spin rag that it is) piece.  

What was striking to me about the article, is that several of the teachers whose students suffered test-wise under them (scores dropped while under their tutelage) were interested in figuring out how to reverse the trend – ‘how can we improve this?’

Here’s why:

Because the union exists not to protect the best teachers, but to protect the worst.  Not just from being fired (seeing teachers being fired for performance is more rare than seeing bigfoot), but from even being evaluated in a manner such as the Times dared to do.  Once teachers get tenure, that’s about it.  It would take an incredible scandal or egregious violation of the law to be fired.

Bill Moloney, former Education Commissioner, recently had a piece in the Enver-day Ost-Pay that cleverly touches on the root of some of these glaring issues.

Of course, because the Ost-Pay are assholes, I can’t quote it or link to it, so I will paraphrase and link to a paper that Moloney did for the Centennial institute.


Education is an entitlement, whether we choose to look at it that way or not.  And because of the unions’ focus on class size reduction (which does not translate in any way to educational improvement) it is now an unsustainable entitlement.

I would also encourage you folks to listen to this interview Moloney gave on Mike Rosen’s show.

It’s civil, and incredibly insightful.

Following is a highlight from Moloney’s piece for the Centennial Institute:

Q9: What is wrong with the way America recruits, trains, compensates, assesses, and retains teachers ?

A9: Nearly everything, sad to say.

a. Recruitment: Other nations only admit the “best and the brightest” into teacher preparation programs, accepting only a small minority of candidates based on rigorous objective criteria. In this country, candidates are self-selected based on paying tuition, piling up irrelevant credits, listening to the least esteemed professors on the campus, taking no tests in their intended subject areas, receiving inflated grades, and serving no real apprenticeship – after they are hired by people who have no objective criteria to judge them in the first place, and who therefore utilized such extraneous criteria as “Are you certified?” or “Can you coach?”

b. Compensation: In the USA, unlike other nations, teacher pay is based on a lock-step “unitary salary scale” that values only seniority and the random acquisition of credits – making no distinction for the importance of subject or successful performance. Merit pay is therefore almost unheard of.

c. Training: In the USA, unlike other nations, teacher training is falsely assumed by employers to have occurred in the Ed Schools from whence candidates came.

d. Assessment: As is well known, rigorous evaluation and the removal of bad teachers simply doesn’t happen.

e. Retention: Public schools have no capacity to make a counter-offer to a highly successful physics teacher tempted by private industry. Said teacher must be paid the same salary as an elementary P.E. teacher with the same seniority and credit totals.

Q10: Why isn’t class-size reduction a good idea?

A10: CSR is the most costly and damaging “reform” in the last half century. Elementary class- size caps in California, mandated by referendum, starved all other education initiatives and ultimately bankrupted the system. Florida is currently ignoring and in the process of repealing a similar referendum mandate.

Years of research consistently demonstrate that class-size reduction doesn’t improve educational outcomes. Even if it did the immense cost would be an unacceptable trade-off.

Other industrial nations routinely operate with class sizes that are twice America’s 15-1 student- staff ratio and still consistently outperform the US in educational outcomes. They use money saved to recruit and retain high-quality teachers who can then deliver high-quality instruction.

Q11: Then why do people like and often vote for class-size reduction?

A11: CSR has an intuitive appeal, and seems logical. People have been told by educators that it really works. People have not been told about the research, the enormous costs, or the more valuable things they lose because of the costs.

Funding and Fallacies

Q12: Is education under-funded, as we are often told? Or is there runaway cost escalation in our schools? What do the data show?

A12: The data show runaway cost escalation. There is no other way to interpret them. a. Education spending per pupil in this country, adjusted for inflation, has increased more than

100% since 1983.

b. Between 1955 and 2007 student-staff ratios fell from 27-1 to 15-1.

c. The number of American teachers jumped 61% between 1970 and 2008, even though student population increased by only 8%.

d. Teacher salaries, adjusted for inflation, have increased 42% since 1960.

e. In the same period, teachers’ health and pension benefits have risen to a level approximately double that of the average American.

Productivity is said to increase when more output is achieved for each person employed and each dollar invested. When there is less output per person and per dollar, productivity has worsened.

It is clear that the latter description fits, given the persistently mediocre learning performance in US classrooms over several decades, despite ever-greater applications of human and financial resources. (See details under Q2 and Q3 above.)

By no stretch of the imagination is American public education, or Colorado public education, under-funded. They are under-delivering on reasonable expectations, under-performing on minimal standards and, worst, under-serving the children placed in their care.

I know almost all of you are liberal Dems, or at the very least, self-described liberal independents.

You are almost all very good people, as well.  I know that I’m a very anti-union person in most all cases, probably over-the-top about it, but this is one case where I can demonstrably show you that the teachers unions, because of their leadership, are doing everything they can to stop some moves that might damage their grip on power but might actually be the best thing for U.S. students.  I’d just appreciate it if you would read some of these links and respond.

Oh – the L.A. Times?  For the sin of putting this database together is now the target of a massive boycott by the teacher’s union.


124 thoughts on “Education symptom. …Updated….

  1. Teachers unions have too little regard for student achievement. That’s not why they are in existence.

    Unions primarily exist to ensure that qualified teachers are hired, and fairly treated after hiring.

    In that respect, they’re a force to be reckoned with.

    The issue of student achievement is quite another subject, and imo, a cultural problem tied to family, economy, personal responsibility, and even diet, discipline (or lack of), etc.

    Thanks for the work you put into this, LB.

    We can all agree that a well educated citizenry is a requirement for a well functioning society on so many levels.

  2. the percentage of people living in poverty, and falling educational scores.

    The story of children rising from poverty to become world class intellectuals is exceedling rare, and ever more so with the advent of tv.

    There is a dumbing down in this society, imo, and I wonder why.

  3. I do, however, think it is important to give some context as to who Centennial Institute is since your diary pulls heavily from their 14 page policy brief with Moloney.

    It is Colorado Christian University’s think tank, established in 2009 and the director is former Senate President John Andrews.  

      1. The same John ANdrews that supports elimination of all publicly funded education.

        I thought that was misprint the first time I saw it.  It’s not -K12, higher ed, he believes that publicly funded education is a mistake that we would be better off undoing.

        1. Things were better in the good ole days when there was zero social mobility and if you were unfortunate enough to be born to the wrong parent, then tough shit?

          I think that should be the new Republican motto for everything-

          “Want a free quality education for all? Tough shit!”

          “Don’t like unemployment? Tough shit!”

          “Want affordable health care? Tough shit!”

          “Want jobs kept in America and not sent overseas? Tough shit!”

          (sorry, I digress on a blog about education…)

                1. but I would say LB would simply agree with most of what I saw at that link, and David would deny agreeing with most of it while arguing strenuously for much of it.

  4. these are all statements, not a single one of which is backed up by cited studies or anything.  For instance, teachers’ salaries increased 42%.  From what to what?  Why should I be indignant unless I know the basis of your statements?

    Once again, agitation and hand waving with lots of silly statements passing as information with no support or intelligent analysis.  This does not mean that some part of the premise isn’t correct, but hell, how can I tell from this piss-poor document?

    1. I’ve linked to everything I’ve quoted. You noticed that, right?

      In particular, please reference Maloney’s paper for Centennial.  It’s well referenced and easy to read.

      Here is his bio:

      Author: William Moloney is a former Colorado Education Commissioner (1997-2007). He holds a doctorate in education management from Harvard University.

      In a rich and varied professional life spanning 35 years, he has served as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, headmaster, assistant superintendent, and superintendent in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

      Dr. Moloney’s career includes several years overseas, four of them as a director of the American School in London. He served three terms on the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, more commonly known as “The Nation’s Report Card”.

      He is also co-author of The Content of America’s Character and Education Innovation: An Agenda to Frame the Future. His columns have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Rocky Mountain News, and Denver Post. He is a Centennial Institute Fellow.

      1. You have linked to everything. The issue is Maloney, a Centennial Institute Fellow, who wrote a 14 page policy review for his Institute and failed to provide a single source. That is unheard of for a policy review from anyone, let alone someone with his credentials.  

    2. there is a footnote that suggests reading “Stretching the School Dollar,” a single volume compendium published in 2010 which Centennial claims includes most of their sources for what is cited here.

      I also have a real issue with a 14 page policy review that does not offer a single footnote to another source. Moloney doesn’t strike me as someone who would make up facts. That said, he needs to quote his sources and material and so does Centennial.

      And after researching Centennial’s website, it’s almost impossible not to claim that this “Institute” has an agenda that is anything other than singularly right wing.

      All that said, this diary opens up some genuine questions and gives me pause that we haven’t really deviated from an educational policy that has been failing for nearly 40 years. It’s more than hand wringing when we rank internationally 18th in reading, 29th in science and 35th in math.  

    1. The bathwater happens to be the most powerful union in the country.  They aren’t going to give up their hold on power and money easily, even if it means doing the right thing for the kids.

      Honestly, what union worth their salt is going to agree to getting rid of half of their constituency?


        This is just another attempt to keep the rich educated and the poor in servitude while giving legitimacy to the Christian Madaris.  The phony pharisee hates teachers almost as much as he hates the poor.

  5. I read through the parts of Moloney’s piece that you provided. There is no real claim here that these shortcomings in US education can be blamed on unions. Some insinuation, yes, but I don’t see the link between, say, recruitment flaws and evil unions. Can you clarify this?

    As for the rise in costs to education students – have you compared this to the costs of keeping a young adult in prison?

    State correctional expenditures increased 145% in 2001 constant dollars from $15.6 billion in FY 1986 to $38.2 billion in FY 2001; prison expenditures increased 150% from $11.7 billion to $29.5 billion.

    The average annual operating cost per State inmate in 2001 was $22,650, or $62.05 per day.

    In contrast, according to the US Census Bureau (summary here) we in Colorado spent

    just $9,079 per pupil in 2007-08.

    Or this:

    Colorado … beginning teacher salaries, at $36,211,

    How can you claim that these education costs are too large or growing too fast, unless it is in comparison to something else. Is it reasonable to pay starting teachers just 50% more than we pay to incarcerate one of their failures? Do you think it is wrong for teachers to try to get paid more? Should teachers devote more of their time to negotiating for pay raises? Do you think they should be paid less? Why do you think anyone with skills and smarts and a family to raise would pursue teaching?

    But thanks for trying, LB. I still don’t see the causative link between unions and the decline of student test scores (or whatever metric is in vogue right now).  

    1. The only thing I’m getting out of this line of argument is that teachers ought to be rated by their class’s test scores. Draining public education money from public schools and redirecting them toward private schools, based on this evidence, is like using a machine gun to kill a fly.

    2. Is that the Unions will resist any type of change that threatens even the worst-performing of their members.

      How many teachers have been fired in DPS in the last few years?

      I remember asking Michael Bennet that a few years ago, and he said ‘I don’t know – two or three?”

      Here’s a great example from Michigan.  Home of the oldest hockey team in the NHL.

      KALAMAZOO – After Timothy Grider was arrested for picking up a prostitute in 2009, Byron Center Public Schools suspended the special-education teacher.

      They also searched his classroom and found a half-empty bottle of vodka – a violation of school policy.

      Grider didn’t get fired. Instead, the 19-year veteran teacher agreed to resign for a year’s salary and benefits, a settlement worth $106,307.

      Public school teachers in Michigan and throughout the country are covered by tenure, a set of legal protections that makes their dismissal for incompetence or malfeasance a complicated and expensive process.

      As a result, tenured teachers are rarely fired. Michigan has more than 100,000 public school teachers, and in recent years about 60 cases annually have been filed with the State Tenure Commission, including disputes involving economic layoffs and charges of dismissal for cause. Of the commission’s 15 decisions during the 2009-10 school year, nine resulted in the dismissal of a teacher.

      1. You are basing your arguments on anecdotes again. Maybe we should generalize about financial managers based on the behavior of Martin Erzinger?

        Do you normally spend this much effort looking for anecdotes to rationalize your ideology?

    1. There are good and bad teachers.
    2. Teachers can be effectively evaluated on the basis of their students’ test results.
    3. On the basis of those evaluations, teachers should be rewarded or fired.
    4. Unions oppose all teacher evaluation.
    5. Unions oppose any action resulting from teacher evaluation.
    6. Unions only support pay increases based on seniority and credentials.
    7. Teachers are overpaid.

    So, the solution to all of our education difficulties is as follows:

    1. Test all students.
    2. Fire the bad teachers.
    3. Use the salary that’s freed up to reward the good teachers.
    4. Don’t replace the bad teachers. Instead, let class sizes increase.

    Because this is guaranteed to work, we can conclude that the only thing standing between us and educational nirvana is the teacher’s union.

        1. Double them.

          Class sizes in the countries who are kicking the shit out of us are much larger.

          If you can stand it, the interview link I posted is really fascinating.  Moloney is no firebrand, and talks of the union folks as “nice people”.

          It’s really not a terribly acidic interview.

          1. my best teacher (2nd grade) had 35 kids to teach.  My second worst (4th grade) had nine.  So I’m calling your point fair enough.  Crap teachers are crap no matter how few kids are in the room.  Smaller is better, but good v bad is more important.  To me.  Totally random opinion.

          1. Big difference between high school and college.

            In high school good teachers work like mad to keep kids from dropping out. Even so, about half of all Denver kids don’t make it to graduation day; about one of four kids statewide never graduate.

            In college, a teacher / professor has kids who want to be there, and faces little pressure to nurture kids to stay in school.

            Have you ever taught or lectured at a high school or university? How much time was spent on class discipline in high school, and how much on class discipline in college?

            DavidThi: proof that it’s not just academics who live in ivory towers.

              1. then he is truly is Principal Dunderhead.

                Maybe Texas really is an alien planet.

                P.S. Do people really go to college classes with 500 students? Biggest one at my university was 200.

      1. I’ve always thought that there’s something wrong when I pay my mechanic more than we pay our teachers.

        And while I’m not convinced it would work, I do think that we should have incentives to retain our best teachers and rid ourselves of the worst. Some sort of comprehensive evaluation is a good first step. The second is having the cohones to actually do something based on those evaluations.

        And there, the devil is in the details.

        1. Is that IMO this is a pretty well-reasoned diary, and has some great responses – kudos to Sir Robin in particular.  Thank you.

          What sucks is that it’s just going to be crickets in here.  So many on this site that would have made sure there were at least 250 comments on a diary in August titled: “Sources: Romanoff Says Bennet Has Hairy Ass” aren’t going to respond or dialogue on an issue where I’d really like to hear some defenses for what’s going on with the largest union in the country, and the fact that the government entitlement they represent is essentially failing horribly in nearly every possible way.

          So those of you that responded, even if you totally disagree, thank you very much for at least getting in the ring.  I probably didn’t change your mind on anything, but hopefully we learned a little about each other’s sparring technique.

          1. but I agree with Laughing Boy about teacher unions.

            In my first lousy union job (supermarket bagboy), a co-worker told me one line that’s always stayed with me: “Every management gets the union it deserves.”

            As a parent and taxpayer, what did I do to deserve this teacher’s union?

          2. a bunch of people who hate teachers’ unions and got rid of tenure in Colorado over the union’s objections commiserate over how little power they have and how oppressed they are.

            Gosh, I wonder why your fair and balanced diary only got one kind of response.

            I’m doing fine either way where I am, but I wouldn’t tell any highly qualified teacher to come to Colorado, since they could get paid more, have more job security, and get a hell of a lot more respect in many other places in the country. Why would a good math teacher, who is in demand everywhere, want to come here?

            1. Skiing

              I’m only kid of kidding. On another thread Ritter is called the jobs guv and again Forbes rates CO #4 for businesses. This despite the fact that our education infrastructure is going down the toilet. All those companies locating to CO know that it’s easy to attract PhDs and other talent to CO for the quality of life that comes with 300 days of sun and lots of recreational opportunities. For example, insiders joke that NCAR stands for National Center for Alpine Recreation.

              1. The question I’ve asked twice (and you’ve oddly responded twice to the question by not answering it) is why any teacher would want to move to Colorado after all your “pushing back.” The mountains are nice but there’s only so much they can do to make up for the shitty treatment teachers have gotten in this state. They’re inanimate, after all.  

                1. I’d prefer to do so in a place where:

                  1. I wouldn’t have lousy performers as peers.

                  2. I would be given the tools to show me how to do a better job.

                  Those are both very important to me, always have been.

                  1. quit sitting on the sidelines sniping teachers the way you snipe Boulder city council members. Go become a teacher and find out directly if all your pet theories are actually true, or were you really just MSU all along.

                    1. quit sitting on the sidelines sniping out politicians and find out if all your pet theories are actually true, or were you really just MSU all along.

                      ps – I have taught, as a substitute teacher.

                    2. were you, like Johnston, a three year man?

                      Sniping about politicians is different. Teachers don’t put themselves out there in front of the world espousing their mundane idiosyncratic opinions for the world to critique. Politicians do. They are fair game.

                      And I would do that, it’s just that I just believe Clint was right- a man’s got to know his limitations.

                    3. Like it or not teachers (and police), because of the gigantic impact they have on us, (and don’t forget – we pay their salary) are going to be closely reviewed by the voters.

                      As to Michael Johnston, I have a lot of respect for the fact that he did teach for three years which gives him a very good understanding of the job.

                    4. we ALL have our children’s futures in our hands. This is my essential problem with your line of the argument David. You continually lay it all at the feet of the teachers which is bullshit!

                    5. My kids school has approximately 500 students, give or take. That’s approximately 1,000 parents. Each of those parents, with their differing views, standards, political leaning, etc should be deciding whether any individual teacher is doing a good job. That makes a lot of sense now. I can see how that will really improve our school system.

                      In fact, I think the PTA should set up a committee, they could call it a tribunal, and every month they could parade the teachers in front of it to be graded. The grades for the teachers could be based on concerned parents like you David and what you think of any of them.

                      And I really just thought you had your head up your ass about this anti-teacher bias you keep espousing. Now I see your wisdom.

                  2. perhaps because you make a lot more money by doing something else, or because you have to worry less about other people’s problems. Instead you spend much of your time bitching about how the state doesn’t award you enough contracts, how your tax burden is oh so oppressive, etc. etc. If you were a teacher you’d complain about parents who think dropping their kid off and picking them up with the SUV is as much involvement as they need in their schooling too. But I don’t think you could handle it.

                    1. Which back when I did this was one of the most active parent groups, not only meeting regularly with the Board and Administration, but with numerous principals and teachers. We also had one member on every principal interview board and I volunteered for a number of those.

                      And when I lived in Plano Texas I was on the advisory committee that did the investigation and then put together a major bond proposal for funding new schools and re-vamping existing schools.

                      So yes I’ve put in time trying to improve the system. I’ve also done a lot of room-mom stints (in Plano I was the first Dad to ever do it), guest lectured in classes, and substitute taught.

                      I think our big difference is you are focused on the negative impact review will have on some teachers (it will) while I am focused on the benefit it will have for many students. Different priorities.

                      ps – As to my “tax burden,” I supported the software sales tax. My objection is the Department of Revenue won’t tell us when we should collect it.

                    2. “…is you are focused on the negative impact review will have on some teachers (it will) while I am focused on the benefit it will have for many students. Different priorities.”

                      Again a mischaracterization. I think our big difference is that you are focused on teachers as the primary cause of student poor performance and think removing what you freely admit will be a small number of poor performing teachers will somehow substantially improve student performance. I disagree that it will have any material effect at all and we will soon see who was right as SB191 goes into implementation.

                      I think with the priority of focusing on “bad” teachers now in place, we will not do anything much else because it is not politically expedient to actually come up with comprehensive reforms which could fix our broken system. The extent of what legislators and school boards are really willing to do seems to be scapegoating teachers.

                      We have missed a golden opportunity to fix this, and it won’t soon come back. Instead of fixing our schools, we’ve dug ourselves just ever so slightly deeper by misdirecting the corrective action to the teachers.

                      But a progressive such as yourself needn’t worry. LB is right behind you, laughing all the way to eliminating public education. You’re at least on the winning team it seems.

                    3. I don’t think the big win will be removing the few teachers that are lousy. That’s a plus but not the big one. The giant wins I think will be:

                      1. Teachers given direct feedback in detail of where they are weak.

                      2. A system implemented to help teachers improve where they are weak. And it holds the districts accountable for providing that help.

                      3. A standard set that all teachers must perform well. For most that is a significant positive motivator.

                      4. Teachers no longer have the demotivation of carrying a bad teacher – a lousy teacher means more work for the others making up for it.

                      All of that will come out of SB-191 if implemented well.

                    4. a beer on this. Two years from now there will be no material impact felt as a result of SB-191. Care to make a wager?

                    5. my God! How many kids will have garduated by then with no help at all!

                      And why aren’t they starting to implement it immediately? Didn’t they think about this before they passed such momentous legislation?

                      And then, when we find out how little impact this really has, what then?

                      I wonder how many other people expected this to take an entire elementary school career to show results. I for one did not.

                    6. You propose an idea: let’s fire teachers.

                      The effect that will have is to make things worse for teachers. Now you may HOPE that it makes things better for students. I think it may make things worse for students. But you have no evidence for your point of view. Evidence matters. The fact that you wish your solution made things better for students doesn’t separate us.

                      The thing that separates us is that you are willing to lie in order to fuck over people you don’t know.

                      You may think your experience “slumming it” in a couple of classrooms makes you a great guy. It doesn’t. It makes you a dilettante.

                    7. And there is a ton of evidence to back up the fact that firing the bad teachers will significantly improve the schools. And I’ve posted links here numerous times that provide the studies with the evidence.

                      You take the view that no teacher should be fired and no matter how bad a teacher is, if we replace them with a better teacher, it will make no difference.

                      I ask you, can you provide any evidence that shows that a terrible teacher has no different impact on children than a competent one? Because as you say evidence matters.

                    8. The fundamental difference between us is that I am honest about my views, while you need to lie about other people’s views.

                      I have never taken the view that no teacher should be fired. How does it make you feel that you can’t justify your views without lying about mine? Does it make you feel like a jerk?

                      It’s kind of cute how you refuse to answer any serious question. “There is a ton of evidence” despite the fact that you have never provided a shred. Never. “I’ve posted links here” when I click on all the links you’ve provided, and there’s nothing there that says what you claim it does. Even when you have found newspaper articles (not a source, by the way, if you remember anything from school), you have completely misunderstood the entire point. You don’t read what you link to.

                      Sometimes getting rid of certain teachers has led to improvements. There are stories like this, but what they have in common is that they were part of a larger plan to get teachers involved in administration and get them invested in student performance. (This was the last article you posted, which you obviously didn’t bother to read except insofar as your attention was apparently caught by one or two keywords, thus missing the entire point.)

                      You’re not interested in kids. You’re interested in firing teachers, and the kids are the pawn you use to make that happen. That’s why the only time you’ve ever posted anything about schools is when teachers lost their jobs, even when the people who fired them said that wasn’t the main thing. Maybe a teacher made fun of you once when you did a poor job at substituting. And if that happened, I’m sorry.

                    9. I think, and have always thought (and said) that fixing the schools requires addressing a wide range of problems. I do think firing teachers like those in the NYC schools rubber room is an important part of it, but just a part of it.

                      Again, just a part of it.

                    10. if you would read what I write rather than trying to have an elaborate conversation with the sxp that lives in your head (the one who works for the teachers’ union and is apparently always twirling his mustache when you try to save the day).

                    11. I think the person who promoted this diary had hoped to avoid flame wars.

                      You’ve stepped over the line here, David. I challenge you to demonstrate that there is a single person here who really has taken the view that no teacher should be fired no matter how bad a teacher is.

                      You are arguing like a teabagger now — “If you are not 100% with me, you are therefore 100% against me.”  (I’ll admit, others can seem to be taking the same approach also, but none as explicit as what you just did.)

                      Frankly, I find the “solutions” that both you and LB are promoting to be laughably simplistic. The simplicity is a large component of why I find them unlikely to succeed.

                      Focusing on “fire all the bad teachers” sounds a bit like “first, kill all the lawyers.” Fun to say (kind of like waving a yellow flag with a snake on it) but it’s not a real approach to a solution.

                      As you provided in your example above, sometimes “bad” teachers result from bad administrative decisions (choosing to put an someone into a class they are not qualified to teach). Lot’s of teachers have some experience like this. I taught science and math many years ago. One term I had to help fill in and teach history. I sucked. I knew it. The students knew it. But the other option was no history being taught. If my job had depended on how well those students performed, should I have not volunteered to teach?

                      Think how easy it could be to give a teacher you don’t like a track record of being “bad.” Just assign that troublesome history teacher to teach math for a couple years …

                      I have a friend who recently retired from teaching. A few years before retiring she switched schools. Suddenly she was brilliant with all of her students performing at very high levels. Did she change? (Beyond having a shorter commute, no.) What changed was the socio-economic levels of her students.

                      There is more to improving education than “fire the bad teachers” can ever hope to accomplish. Would we all benefit from there being fewer bad teachers? Of course. Indeed, it is stupid to argue otherwise. On the other hand, it’s certainly not the first thing I would promote.  

                    12. When I read the teacher posts here, most of them come across to me that tenured teachers should not be fired.

                      I do believe, based on the research I have read, that tracking how well each teacher does compared to the others in their school with similar kids, is one of the most powerful tools we have to improve education.

                      I also think that measurement should be used to hold the administration and districts accountable too. And step one should be using that information to help the teachers improve or have them teach a different set of kids or subject.

                      I do think that the firing the poor teachers that can’t/won’t improve will lead to a much better school system. I hold this view because I think good teachers are professionals who provide great value.

                      Finally there is one big difference between LB and me. I believe we can fix the public school system and doing so is our best approach to education.

          3. But I still find it disappointing that you so readily believe that one factor (unions) can be blamed for so much of the world’s woes based on such flimsy evidence.

            But then, when presented with bucket loads of evidence that climate change is real and will have serious consequences, your complaint is that there is a little bit of flimsy evidence that it might cost too much to do the right thing.

            Oh … maybe there is consistency in your views of how the world works?

            Never mind.

          4. I don’t know anything about unions, a fair amount about education though.  So I can’t really say anything, just learn (how ironic).

            Seems like adding a random opinion that I pull out of my ass rather than form from research is bad taste.

            I can’t speak to everyone’s reason of course.  Anyway, how many times have you read a honest to God good discussion in 250 comments?  Just saying.  I don’t know why you’re offended.

              1. I didn’t think I could get involved with a discussion about unions with people who hate and want to pretty much dismantle unions without getting upset. Hence, I stayed away to keep the discussion clean.

                I have my gripes with the CEA, but I can’t blame them for promoting candidates who actually give a damn about teachers and don’t want to burn everything to the ground and start over from scratch.

                I now return you to your previously civil discussion.

          5. Schools can do better.

            Anything and everything we can do to make the schools do better works better with better teachers.

            There are problems -and the way we did tenure is one of them. And entrenched unions do good and bad.

            to be continued

            And it’s exactly this kind of issue, complex and nuanced, that cannot be the basis for a modern campaign.  It doesn’t fir in a tv or radio spot.

          6. Your diary, IMHO, is about hating unions, not about education. Same old, same old.

            I think American kids are just getting dumber because their mothers are working full-time during the formative early years and kids do not get the necessary attention for their little brains to grow, IMHO.

            Watch infant day care and then watch moms with their babies…key?  Eye contact. Day care workers count heads, moms engage.

            1. We can’t start changing education at high school, it has to start before these kids even set foot in a classroom. These educational problems are so systemic, we’re trying to treat the symptoms rather than the causes. Unions, as the diary explicitly states, are the symptoms.

              If we want to talk about education reform, we have to talk about economic inequalities inherent in the way that public education is administered. It’s not sexy (like bashing unions) and nobody wants to talk about it, but it’s the only way that real reform is ever going to come about.

            2. moms work because staying at home with babies seven days a week can suck the life out of someone. What a stifling existence.

              I encouraged my wife to go back to work as soon as she could so she could have adult engagement in her life too. (Notice I didn’t encourage her to start blogging…)

              There are many factors to our educational woes. As MADCO notes correctly above the problem is complex and nuanced. But don’t start this sexist shit and lay the blame on working mothers as the root of all evil when it comes to educating our kids.

                1. This is why it’s complex.

                  Take my sister (please) and her middle child.  Super bright, bit of a drama queen, a little rebellious, but a good kid.

                  She never learned a thing at her mom’s house.  Know why?  My sister doesn’t understand about repetition and follow through.  Having a toddler count to twenty was a party trick for her.  She did it once for the neighbors and never had my niece do it again.  At six the kid can’t count to ten.

                  Even worse, she decides (along with her sexist common law husband/inmate) that it’s improper for the mom not to stay home.  My sister is not a patient person.  All my sister does all day is yell at this poor girl.  Do you think that fixed whatever imaginary behavior problem the kid has?

                  Well, it didn’t.  But the once bright, well behaved kid is now a fight starting idiot in public school.  The rest of the family does what we can for her (she’s still my favorite niece, but lives so far away), but my sister doesn’t need the help.  She pushed the kid out, so she’s automatically a great mom!  Screw everyone!

                  Turns out not everyone is a natural born teacher.  Turns out not everyone is a natural born parent.  Turns out that your attitude is a wonderful way to continue a cycle of poverty.  Woo hoo!

                  Oh, and if you want eye contact, try child care, not day care.


                2. and raise you an asshole.

                  Spoken like a biblical literalist. A woman’s place must be in the home because that is why our socisety and schools are crumbling. Women just aren’t subservient enough.

                  I think you’ll fail with that argument, but please do try to run with it. I’d like people to really see what we’re talking about here.

                  1. You need to act to ensure her safety.  You’re describing a pathological situation.  Your sister has problems which prevent her from being a parent. That is not normal.

                    Do not assume that your sister is somehow typical of women who are poor. Do not for one god damm minute assume that women who are poor are not good mothers.

                    1. Thank God for stereotypes!

                      And now you’re somehow advocating for parents who aren’t built to be home 24/7 to have their children taken away.

                      I suppose government could take them away, house them, and teach them, but it’s seems a bit ironic.  For my taste.

                    2. You painted a really bleak picture, which going by your description alone could be borderline abuse.

                    3. And separated the two issues.

                      Unlike you did.

                      You can’t, right?  Source any of it?

                      Try looking at Iceland’s early childhood education programs.  Yeah, they expanded them!  But I know, Iceland has terrible, terrible education stats.  Ridiculous really.

                    4. youtube is not a source.

                      Usually it is not necessary to source information which is generally known.  

                      Source Iceland?  Source anything which contradicts my statement about universal health care and maternal/paternal

                      leave policies in the EU.

                      You are angry and hostile and evidently don’t like your sister and attribute her behavior to what???

                  2. I am emphatically not a biblical literalist.  Why don’t we look at how children are raised in those countries which are so far ahead of us???

                    Universal health care?  European countries, yes.  Long periods of governmental subsidized maternity (paternity in Scandinavian countries) for new mothers. Yes.  In India and Sinapore, I think that extended familes are the norm and children are cared for by people who love them.  That is the key, IMHO, to the kind of stimulation and engagement which allows infants and small children to develop, not skills as if they were trained animals, but neurological capacity to learn.

    1. that was the one piece of this posting that made no sense to me — I don’t know anyone who believes that. In fact, quite the contrary. We don’t pay teachers ENOUGH – and this is part of why we don’t have quality people in education. The private sector values their experience more, and shows it. Like LB mentioned elsewhere in the post, the salary grid is very restrictive.

      In other countries (I lived for a time in Europe and knew teachers personally there) – they pay teachers actual living wages that show them, monitarily, the respect that the society has for them.  

      1. Yes teachers bring home less than they could get in the private sector. On the flip side, they have the summer off, lots of days off during the school year, and they can (fortunately many do not) work under 8 hours/day.

        They also get ironclad job security and their performance has zero impact on their pay. The problem with these “benefits” is they attract poor performers as well as the risk adverse.

        So the question needs to be answered, what are these benefits worth. Or better, we eliminate the job security, tie performance to pay, and increase pay significantly for the good performers.

        1. Or are you just MSU?

          Good teachers work evenings and weekends and on their other days “off.” In addition, teachers attend workshops over the summer. They collect materials and ideas to make them better – whether in the evenings online or when they are traveling “on vacation.”

          Professionals, in any line of work, put in a considerable amount of effort when they are not “on the clock.”

          And you might as well agree with LB that Obama signed in a government take over of health care if you are going to repeat the lie that teachers have “ironclad job security.” (What they have is due process, and we sure don’t want to give people who start at less than $40,000 any thing like rights or some sense of security, do we?

          But, on the other hand, everyone has it easier than David & LB. You’d probably whine that Pvt. Larkin is now going to have an easier job than you – he sure doesn’t have to worry about a commute anymore.

          1. It is next to impossible to fire bad teachers.  Geez – Jay Bennish still has a job, for crying out loud.

            As I demonstrated, the L.A. Times faces a huge boycott for even daring to rate teachers on the basis of their students test scores.

            If we could get rid of the shitty ones and reward the great ones at no expense to the students, how is that a bad thing?

            1. If student test scores affected the salaries that their parents earned I would bet we would suddenly find that students scored better and that their teachers appeared to have suddenly increased their effectiveness.

              Or would parents be even more obnoxious in their whining over why darling Johnny (who we all know can do no wrong) is failing?

              What do you think?

              (My parents would be billionaires if this was how education and salary were linked. Of course, most of this would be due to my sister!)

              Look, I just think you are being too simplistic in your assessment of the nature of the problems and solutions. I agree we can and should do better. I don’t have solutions, only anecdotes related to the importance that my parents placed on education. Your knee jerk response to the existence of unions may contribute to your irrationality here.

          2. Good teachers work evenings and weekends and on their other days “off.” In addition, teachers attend workshops over the summer. They collect materials and ideas to make them better – whether in the evenings online or when they are traveling “on vacation.”

            And I think everyone here wants to increase the rewards for good teachers. It’s the lousy teachers where we part company.

            1. You’re a liar. Nobody in this state has seriously proposed increasing teacher salaries. And the only time you’ve ever done it is when (surprise!) you’re endorsing a bill that cuts teacher benefits without increasing salaries.

              Stop lying about this, it matters to some people.

              1. I want the standout teachers to be paid a lot more and have always supported that.

                With that said, I do agree that SB-191 reduced job protection with the only balancing plus that it will provide tools and feedback to help teachers improve (I assume most teachers will view that as a plus). SB-191 is like a lot of legislation, not exactly what I would like to see, but still an improvement.

                I am hopeful that once we see that we can accurately measure teacher impact and provide teachers the tools to improve, we’ll then get support for merit pay.

                1. Were you running for office? Were you writing legislation? Were you lobbying? Did you do anything at all to make something happen? Or did you just say from the sidelines, over and over again, how awesome things would be if someone just made you dictator of education?

                  I’ve been here for a while, and I know the answer.

                  When Republicans (with the help of conservative Democrats like you) get merit pay, it won’t raise anyone’s salary. It will be used punitively, to lower some teachers’ salaries, and $30,000 a year will be the Holy Grail salary that the best teachers are supposed to strive for.

                  We know how this works. And sometimes we wish you did, instead of constantly being surprised that all the awesome plans you and the Republicans support keep getting twisted into schemes to fuck over ALL teachers.

              1. My giant concern is the situation in schools with high dropout rates and where almost none of those who do graduate go to college. I’m concerned about others.

                With that said, even the best schools in Boulder have problems, it’s just we can usually work around them. One example, one daughter had a middle school math teacher who was incompetent. Most of the families in this case hired tutors and/or helped our kids nightly. But for any parent that was not on top of this or couldn’t afford a tutor – their kid was screwed.

                1. Did parents go to the principal? The school board?  I think there are avenues. I presume that most institutions have problems….it is a question of how can they be solved?

                  Now, how did the teachers’ union function in Boulder?

                  I don’t know Boulder.  I do know Denver.  Kids who graduate from DPS high schools, do go on to college…

                  I would be interested in knowing how you think DPS teachers’ union have opposed reform and how you think BVS differs from DPS in terms of how the teacher union acts.

                  1. His solution was that the following year he would have him teach another subject. And he did follow through on that moving him to subjects he is competent in.

                    The teacher involved is a motivated teacher and once he was given the right subject he did a good job. But for 1 year every kid in his 3 math classes suffered.

                    And to back up what others have said here, the core problem here was not the teacher but a principal and administration that was unwilling to make a change 1 month into the school year when it became obvious this guy was in the wrong place.

                    1. It definitely was a system/administration problem. If it turned out that the teacher sucked the next year in the new subject, then it would be a union problem.

                      I can also list cases where it was a teacher who never should have been put in the classroom – regardless of subject. Even the top ranked schools in Boulder have them.

                    2. It goes to the heart of how an evaluation system should work.  What is your suggestion of what objective factors should be used to identify “teachers who should not be in the classroom.”

                      One of the reasons we have teacher unions is to protect teachers from the onslaught of parents who are trying to get the best deal for their kids and who want special treatment for their kids from teachers. When they don’t get it, they try to retaliate against the teachers.

                      One of the real problems in Boulder, at least from what members of my extended family tell me, is that there are highly educated, ambitious, successful parents whose kids do not have the same level of intellectual ability.  The parents absolutely refused to accept that reality, they push the kids and blame the teachers.

                    3. Is where they measure how far the kids advance in a classroom vs how well they did with other teachers. When you take that number across all the kids in a school, you should get a good measure of how good a job each teacher is doing.

                      What I think is absolutely critical as the next step is they look at the subject the teacher is teaching, the level of the students they have, and how they teach. I think in a lot of cases the answer is changing the subject, grade level, or level of the children they have. Even superb teachers do better under different circumstances.

                      Next comes training on the specific areas a teacher is weak. But I think that should come second, because you want to find the good fit, then teach to improve in that fit.

                      And yes, they’re a ton of Boulder parents who want to believe their kids are super-stars. The schools here do a pretty good job of handling those parents, but I’m sure it’s a pain.

        2. I’m glad you followed your advice and are talking substance here…

          Once we eliminate job security, we will have handed the Rs another tool to use to make all our schools indoctrination centers for their political ideology. They have already tried to use the courts innumerable times to fire teachers because they teach things like science and facts and not religiously based ideology. Lets make that even easier. (strange too how much they like to avail themselves of our court system when it suits them too, all the while bemoaning what a litigious society we’ve become…)

          People who say these things have no sense of historical perspective at all. And you should be ashamed to call yourself a progressive and then spout nonsense like this.

      2. AJB was being a little snarky, but I agree with you.  I don’t think all teachers are overpaid.  Far from it.

        Wouldn’t it be great to fire all of the crappy teachers and reward the great teachers that remain with great salaries and benefits that would now be affordable because of the money you’d have freed up?

        Seriously, though, I think AJB really summed it up other than #7.

        1. I was trying to summarize your diary. Probably could have said “Money isn’t the issue. Teachers and schools are well funded.”

          I agree, though, with the sentiment of rewarding the best while firing the worst. In elementary school, my son went from having the best teacher in the school (3rd grade) to the worst (4th grade). That was an eye-opener. (Both teachers were about the same age and had about the same years teaching.) My son went from loving school to hating it. Now, in 7th grade, he’s finally liking school again. His teachers appreciate his energy instead of trying to squash him into a seat and keeping him quiet all day.

            1. so will lousy administration, so will lousy districts.

              but let’s blame the teachers. It’s a whole lot easier than really understanding the problem. Besides, scape goats are a time-honored tradition going back to old testament days. How little we’ve progressed.

              1. Rather than saying everyone else is a problem too to excuse inaction. It’s responses like this that get people legitimately upset with teacher’s unions – the fact that other problems exist too is no reason not to address lousy teachers.

                1. does not mean you can fix the system with simplistic solutions like get rid of all the bad teachers and everything will be rosy.

                  And why would anyone be upset with teachers unions from anything I say. I am not a teacher, not a member of any teacher’s union and have zero connection to any teachers organization at all. I don’t frequent their web-sites, I get no talking points from them. Nothing. Nada.

                  But I do challenge people like you who think they can lay the blame solely at teachers feet. You keep saying “let’s address all the problems” when challenged, but really you just want to scapegoat teachers. You should come out and admit it.

                  I contend that between districts that do extraordinarily well and those that do extraordinarily poorly the difference is not that the former are full of nothing but stellar teachers and the latter nothing but losers. The difference is in the district itself. And the single biggest differentiator is socio-economic strata, which is used to hire better administrators, buy better equipment, provide better instruction and curricula.

                  Great schools and great districts still have those bad apple teachers, they just do a better job raising everyone’s performance. And some are just fortunate enough to start with a higher baseline to begin with.

                  1. I want to address the major problems the schools have. One thing we need to address is poor teachers. And equally large problem is addressing lousy administrators and I equally want to see that addressed.

                    Where we seem to part company is you don’t want to address poor teachers until the other issues are solved. I see addressing poor teachers as the place where we get the most bang for the buck and want it to be one of the first things we address.

                    1. is that I don’t think poor teachers are the root of the problem. I think all districts have poor teachers and always will.

                      I think the problems are not the teachers, but a multitude of other factors. What I foresee, and I’ll say this now in the expectation that time will prove me out, is that SB-191 will be an epic failure and not because it can’t or won’t identify underperforming teachers. But rather that it will and they will be removed and then we will still have the same problems we have today. And we will have wasted a lot of time, enormous amounts of money, destroyed people’s lives, and all unnecessarily.

                      That is where we part company.

          1. Not even a full story about one case, just half an anecdote which we’re supposed to use to determine policy.

            Why did you think one teacher was the best in the school? Why was one the worst? What were you doing with your child in the meantime to make up for the flaws you perceived? And perhaps most important to me, how did other parents feel about the teacher you loved and the teacher you hated? Was there a general feeling (aside from you and a couple of your friends)?

            We keep hearing about good teachers and bad teachers without the slightest bit of qualification or justification or substantiation, and every time an otherwise serious person participates in this charade, it dumbs down the entire debate.  

            1. Give me a fucking break.

              First off, it’s a brief illustration in a political blog, not a treatise on school reform.

              Second, have I ever said that bad teachers are the ONLY problem that afflicts our schools? I don’t think so.

              We’ve worked with our kids on a number of levels throughout the years. Sometimes you make lemonade, other times you don’t have to. But there’s only so much that you can, or should, do. And I’m that, as a teacher, one of your pet peeves is the helicopter parent.

              and “otherwise serious person”?

              If you want to engage in some civil dialogue, I’m open to that. If you want to insult me, fuck you.

              1. because I find it frustrating that everyone keeps talking about what they perceive as a serious problem by beating around the bush and using euphemisms. You seem like a person who could provide details if you wanted, so I found it annoying that you didn’t in this situation. It didn’t seem like an insult when I wrote it.

  6. 1. One penalty for being instinctively “anti union” is that screeds about teachers’ unions tend to get written off as just another rant about unions.

    3. Inheritance from Lonesome Prairie Days: teachers were low paid young damsels with no special qualifications except availability and willingness to work for low wages until a better proposal came along. Teachers’ unions were a part of a process by which teachers raised their status to that of “professionals.” Same with specialized education as a measure of “qualifications” that could be quantified (60 credits over 4 years in How to Teach). It’s a pattern repeated across many other job categories, and generally for the same reason: to earn more money. On top of which is a certain flavor of anti-intellectualism that has very deep roots west of the Delaware Water Gap and east of Berkeley. “Those who can’t do, teach” being one example.

    12. Many of LB’s points (and/or those of the sources from which his diary comes, including the L.A. Times) strike me as quite obvious. Class size, for example. In the post-WW2 generation class sizes were regularly in the 30-35 range. Did the results suffer? OTOH, there is the rise of television, video games, and whatever other distractions. But as a stand-alone, class size is highly debatable, with the burden of proof lying on the smaller-is-better side.

    3.5 If the founder of the Centennial Institute were to exclaim: Watch out! There’s a fox in the henhouse! would you automatically discount that, or would you consider counting your chickens before the eggs hatched? Even Republican calendars are right once a decade. To the extent that this diary is a microcosm of this blog is a microcosm of public discussion circa 2010, the national education system is indeed a giant failure, and has been since some folks learned to twitchtype.

    69. Math education, starting in kindergarten, has long been a problem.

    1. but people develop a reputation for things, good or bad, and it gets taken into account in their future writings. So yes, LB or Centennial Man could write something true, and it wouldn’t become false just because they wrote it. But if I’m unsure and if the evidence isn’t overwhelming, I’m going to lean toward “probably totally made up.”

      My reputation is for being an asshole, yours is for being smug and condescending while complaining in a very meta way about the debate without actually contributing to it except obliquely and accidentally. Such is the position we find ourselves in.

      1. …let’s talk about the people, not the issues.

        Sorry that I thought the issue of how various occupations have, or tried to, achieve an aura of “professional” might be relevant. How meta of me! Please understand that my unionized math teacher did a poor job of explaining oblique angles.

        Apologies all ’round for mentioning it.

          1. you’re supposed to ignore them.  Never respond or read another.  Moron.  (I’m such a little time saver today!)

            I’d offer an opinion about which it was, but didn’t read the comment.  You know, on account of I’m not allowed.

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