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September 16, 2011 9:02 am

Case Study in Performance Pay for Teachers

  • by: cdsmith

( – promoted by ProgressiveCowgirl)

Advocates for school reform would do well to pay attention to what’s happening right now in Colorado Springs School District 2.

The Background

District 2 has jumped full speed ahead on the performance pay for teachers train, and it’s starting to look a lot less appealing a year in than it did up front.  In advance, it looked like the district did a lot of things right: they went out of their way to define a large number of different factors that go into evaluating teacher performance: improvement in student achievement, evaluation by peers and staff, and other factors.  They went out of their way to define student achievement in a way that takes into account different levels of parent support, economics, motivation, etc.  Far from being an excuse for cutting teacher pay, the district raised the top end of the salary range to $90,000.

A good overview of the way the system was designed can be found on Education News Colorado’s web site.  The summary is that the school completely replaces seniority with a 9-level ranking system, from Novice to Master.  At the end of each year, standards are set for moving up or down a level along that scale.  To move up from Novice just requires a satisfactory evaluation, but all levels above that include results-based goals as well.

The Situation

Today, things don’t look nearly so good.

The district immediately lost a large number of teachers.  You might expect these were teachers that were worried about their salaries in the new system.  You’d be wrong.  Overwhelmingly, the teachers that left over this were those that the new program should have rewarded most; the teachers that involved parents were most happy about.  The teachers that just got by?  A few of them lost their jobs, but a lot of them are still there, and still just getting by.

I personally know one of those teachers that left.  I still remember her excitement at the program when it first started.  I remember her increasing level of disappointment as it became clear that the evaluation process was not really rewarding proficient teachers at all.  I remember the number of times that the people supposedly evaluating her told her flat-out that everyone was very impressed by her teaching, but they were forced to go down the checklist and ask a fixed set of questions, and she didn’t follow the formula as well as less inspired teachers did.  Today she no longer teaches in the district, instead starting her own education reform project for a fraction of the income.

The Colorado Springs Gazette ran a story today covering the current goings-on in the district, which gives some more insight into things going on:

  • very high teacher turnover across the board

  • many classes taught entirely by substitutes as the district can’t even find enough full-time teachers for their existing classes

  • extremely large class sizes

  • student protests

  • angry, shouting parents outside school board meetings


It’s tempting to say this is the same old story about conservatives destroying public schools while claiming to be “reformers”.  But that would also be wrong.  The master architect of this whole plan?  Mike Miles.  Yes, that’s Mike “The Real Liberal Candidate for U.S. Senate” Miles.  This wasn’t conservative faux-reform sabotage.  It was an honest attempt to build the best teacher performance pay system they could… and it failed miserably.

This raises some very interesting questions about education reform:

  • Is performance pay for teachers fundamentally broken, or did the district do it wrong?

  • If they did it wrong, what exactly should have been done differently?

  • If this is happening here, what’s in store for other districts (or states) looking at teacher accountability as the silver bullet for improving schools?

Personally, I’ve always considered myself in general agreement with school reform but just deeply skeptical of the obviously anti-education groups and people that typically advocate it.  This is, therefore, an especially compelling cautionary tale for me.



73 thoughts on “Case Study in Performance Pay for Teachers

  1. The worker is free to take his labor where he/she finds the best condition and wages.

    Miles was superintendent in a small district south of the Springs and did very well.  He evidently employed some of this same techniques.  It would be interesting to see the difference between that system and this.  I don’t think he eliminated tenure.

    There are both psychological and philosophical issues that might be in play.

    The Westinghouse Effect was a study that attempted to determine what influenced productivity among workers.  Turned out that the very act of observation improved productivity.  Doesn’t appear to be in effect here…

    The Heisenberg Uncertainly Principle….the act of observation changes that which is being observed.

    1. Miles was superintendent in a small district south of the Springs and did very well.  He evidently employed some of this same techniques.  It would be interesting to see the difference between that system and this.  I don’t think he eliminated tenure.

      Again, I goofed and posted w/o reading the article first.  I apologize.  This is an excellent diary…thanks cdsmith and u2 PC for featuring it.

      What I would like to see, now, is commentary from teachers who left that would tell why they left.

    2. which state that let people do what they’re good at in their own way, with guidance if needed, and they will do better at their job.

      I’m not an educational policy expert, but in every teaching job I’ve had (four of them) when the supervisor/boss/administrator imposes strict guidance on how to teach, teachers lose patience, get pissed and leave.

      Allow the teachers room to create their own style without mandates and the teachers and the students thrive.

      IMHO, we have gone way too far in ‘defining’ how a teacher should teach. We don’t define CEO behaviors, even though they are apparently very important to our society. We allow quite a bit of latitude with sport/media/entertainment personalities even though they help define our society on a daily basis.

      Teachers are creative individuals who want to do their job. The best way of ensuring they are doing their job is to observe them through peer/admin monitoring and provide specific training where necessary. If the teachers use the training and are better teachers, they get more pay – if not, they don’t.

      Seems to work really well everywhere else, why do we make it so complicated when it comes to teachers?

      I’m simplifying the problem, I know – but many people complicate the issue needlessly.

      1. I suppose the thinking that goes into things like that is: if you only take feedback from other teachers into account, then you have a system where likability (or worse, informal “you help me; I help you” agreements) could count for a lot more than teaching skill.  So they try to build more structure into the evaluations.

        I’m not sure I agree that a more unstructured approach works so well in other places, especially for CEO behaviors.  And plenty of other professions have rather involved written bodies of work about evaluating performance.  They don’t tend to work so well there, either.  (Entertainment personalities are the exception here; they’re supposed to be quirky and over the top.)

  2. I have been one to think performance pay was one way to go to weed out some of the tenured “dead wood” and a step in the right direction.  If my thinking is wrong, it’s good to know. Thank you.

    1. Reading the linked article makes it clear how burdensome this is with something like 100 pages worth of micro managing. There seems to be very little room for teachers to use their own common sense in recognizing and employing techniques based on their own observations and experience with what works in their particular classrooms with their particular students.

      While we certainly don’t want our kids stuck with dead wood teachers who don’t feel a passion for their job but just hang in there because they can, there is little to no evidence that improved student performance results from what seems like a completely out of proportion emphasis and amount of time given to evaluation, testing and teacher time sucked up by conforming to paperwork connected with micro management.

      There must be a balance between letting unenthusiastic, low skill lifers with tenure continue to mark time in our schools on the one hand and, on the other, taking too much time away from learning and constricting good teachers to the point that they wind up leaving the system or the profession.


      1. My only experience being the mother of two and stepmother of four and any number of grandchildren.  I’m no expert but I’m more than willing to do what it takes to give good, solid teachers more opportunity.  

        What has always bothered me is when an excellent young teacher without tenure is the first to go when school budgets get tight and those with tenure, no matter their skill in teaching, continue on.  There has to be a better way.    

    2. if you thought performance pay worked (or charter schools, or high-stakes testing), you haven’t been reading the (quality) research. Start with reading people like Diane Ravitch–such as her recent work, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education”–who after drinking the “reform” Koolaid found that the research does not support those approaches. Also read the research of the late Gerald Bracey.

  3. It’s already known that performance pay doesn’t work, though there remain many people who keep advocating it in spite of that (in the same way that hardcore ideologues in any tradition say after failure that the experiment wasn’t “pure” enough).

  4. and it sounds like it was, they need to learn from this in figuring out how to improve our schools. I do think there’s a lot of data points that say using pay as the primary motivator doesn’t appear to have much effect.

    I do think that if you want something to improve you have to measure it. What you measure does pull people’s attention. But what you want to measure is the end result, not the means to get there – so that teachers can then use the most effective methods rather than the prescribed methods.

    But bottom line, I hope the SB-191 people take a close look at the results here and adapt.

    1. and I think that’s part of the problem here.  If teachers are evaluated on whether they, for example, consistently list educational objectives before teaching a topic, then you’ll get teachers that compulsively list educational objectives, but spend a lot less attention on whether their students are understanding.

      This program did put a lot into measuring results (if you call standardized testing the “results” of education, but that’s a whole other issue).  But that has it’s own pitfalls, and personal evaluation would make a great complement to that.  Except that in an effort to make the personal evaluation less subjective, they wrote rather detailed guidance on what the evaluators should look for, and we’re back to the start.

      My suspicion (and experience with the one teacher I know) is that the standardized test scores side of the performance evaluation was a lot less visible, whereas the personal evaluation was a much bigger deal in the ordinary course of the school year, so put on a lot of pressure to fit in all those details.  That’s saying nothing about how the two are weighted; but one certainly feels like a bigger deal.

      1. Most places I’ve worked the evaluation has been very much on results not process. But that is a hard item to define. The way it plays out where I’ve worked, and this may be too loose for a government system, is I have guidelines for what I should look at but fundamentally my review is I list what I see as each person’s strengths and weaknesses – and that’s their evaluation.

        I’m then evaluated on did we ship the code that was promised, is it compelling, and is it solid.

        It’s judgement calls across the entire system. (For sales it’s much easier – did you hit quota.) But there is a very strong motivator as each manager makes those judgement calls – if you don’t deliver, you will be fired.

        I don’t think the above system will work in the public sphere where they want all criteria well defined. But they do need to figure out what measures can be done that will improve outcomes.

        1. Evaluation on results only yields improvement (increases in productivity or efficiency)  when the results can be clearly defined, measured and usually quantified.

          I took over a sales team once – and with virtually no information, in a start up company in a new service industry,  made up sales quotas.  Some people exceeded them, one just made it and many did not get there.  No one got fired – because (3 months later) I agreed that we had no idea how to measure their success.  

          What we learned eventually was that most of out target market would have short information gathering cycles, but long decision cycles. And those who made the made up quota, were lucky and already near the end of the decision cycle.  Some of those who missed turned out to be my best because they knew they had to manage that relationship however long it took to get to the decision point.

          So the “weak” were those who were always closing, couldn’t wait and abraded the necessary relationship.

          The challenge becomes measuring (quantifiably and in a clearly defined way) when the teachers are teaching and when they’re teaching well.  I failed penmanship in 2d grade.  I know the teacher took some heat- really how hard can it be to get one naturally left handed kid to do everything rightie and write legibly?  But by the time I was in college, it turned out that bad penmanship moment was a good thing- it motivated me to be an early adopter of that great penmanship equalizer – the pc.

          So – the measurement in my case: whether or not I could write legibly – was the wrong measure.  A better measure would have been whether my right handed conversion worked well. ANd an even better measure would have been why bother converting my handedness at all.

          I teach.

          You want better outcomes from my students?

          Tell me what skill , subject or facts will be most useful to them in 10 or 20 years.  Tell me how to grade them now on progress to those goals.  And I’ll give them all the progress they can take in my class

          And I’ll save you some time – you can’t do it on purpose.  You know how I know? The best schools in the world can’t do it.  The Army, Air Force, and Navy can’t do it.  

          There are schools that have all the resources they need to do whatever it is needs doing. When it’s a memorizable, physical, skill – we can do it. The USA produces the bet military pilots, accountants, and plumbers in the world.  

          I know it’s just an anecdote, but read the blueberry story, solve the relevant problem with the “right” metric, then we can talk.

          1. But I think we need to look at it a little differently. The job of schools is to do the best job they can for every student that comes through those doors. While they should not mimic every practice that is successful in business, they should definitely make use of those that will improve the schools.

            Keep in mind business is not a monolith. There are many practices in large corporations that would spell death if start-ups followed them. And there are practices we have that would be death for large corporations. The trick is to use the ones that are worth the effort.

            But I do think we need to figure out what results we want and how to measure them. The fact that doing so is hard is not an argument against figuring it out, it’s an argument that it will take a lot of time and effort.

  5. This performance pay program seems like it really restricts a teacher’s ability to find creative and innovative ways to educate students. That is a disservice to those students and the education system as a whole.

    What I would advocate for is giving principals more authority to hire and fire teachers and determine the principal’s pay, and job, by how well the school performs as a whole. Teachers would be free to teach however they want so long as their students are learning. A principal would be responsible for evaluating teachers however he/she sees fit.

    It is a mistake to think we can create some uniform definition of what a “good” teacher is. Children are complex beings and every classroom, school, and district faces unique challenges. A top down approach will not work. I would argue that what makes a teacher effective is being able to adapt to the changing needs of students, not following some arbitrary checklist.  

    1. Several Districts are doing that now – the principal’s compensation is determined by a number of statistical measures. Cherry Creek has been doing it for awhile although I am not familiar with all the aspects of that one. Douglas County, despite all the turmoil over the vouchers, is implementing a performance evaluation model for principal’s this year. I also know that in both CCSD and DSCD principals have a great deal of autonomy in their hiring. The firing part can be done but it is difficult.

    2. I agree and your observation fits with my long time contention that one of the major problems with our education system is that we, as a society, have never debated or determined just what constitutes a “good education”or a “well-educated”individual.

      This lack of definition makes establishing standards in almost all areas of education more difficult. If we ever embark on that debate it would need to include the essential nature of our whole outlook which adopted an industrial model for education as we changed to an industrial society from an agrarian one.

      1. hooey.

        We debate it all the time.

        I agree that we need to re-evelaute the model (paradigm).

        What makes more sense:

        a) that in the 19th century, we adopted  the ideal one size fits all curriculum, calendar and best teaching practice for all time.


        b) we could benefit from radically redesigning schools as if there was no “installed base”, ie as if we were starting from scratch today.

  6. I am finding it hard to evaluate Mike Miles’s program.

    But, I think if one were really trying to evaluate teacher effectiveness and performance a better way would be to repeatedly observe the classroom and the teacher performance within it.

    1. though in a rather sarcastic tone… apparently a few of them are

      1. There should be a “demonstration of learning” activity in every class period

      2. Teachers should be teaching from the curriculum from the starting bell to the ending bell, with no down time.

      3. Students should be fully engaged throughout the class.

      These seem rather uncontroversial (except for the first one, which would really depend on the flow of the topic), and I don’t know if they get worse or not.  The comment brought them up only to mock Mike Miles for failing at them when he stopped in and taught a middle school math class.

      That said, I’m not so sure the content of the standards matters so much as the attitude toward them.  The complaint I hear most often is that peer evaluators aren’t given any freedom to observe whether the deviation was for a good educational reason, or because the teacher just didn’t care.  It’s all the same; you just go down the list of technical requirements.

      So, “stopped five minutes before the bell” is a dock on your evaluation, regardless of whether that was because a teacher is lazy, or because giving the students a short break to socialize after they’d worked hard for an hour was the right thing to do.  Indeed, there’s a lot of good evidence out there that people learn hard material best in 20 to 30 minute spurts of intense learning separated by recharging time.  The requirements there could be seen as encouraging a minimal level of student engagement and lowest-common-denominator educational goals, because people just can’t remain 100% engaged in learning a difficult topic for an hour.  As always, it depends on the subject, the students, and the flow of the class, and teachers need to be empowered to make good choices without worrying about how it will look on the evaluation spreadsheet.

      All my own opinions, of course.

      1. the notion that kids can remain focused for a full day with 5 minute passing periods is ludicrous.

        20 minutes of focus is about all you can expect.  Instruct allow time to absorb and repeat.

        Even as adults, we take breaks.  Pols wouldn’t exist if we didn’t

  7. I have yet to see in my thirty-five years of working (military, public, and corporate) any “pay for performance” plan that was administered in such a way so as to accurately measure, and properly reward, performance.  I have yet to ever see a proponent for “pay for performance” who is actually himself compensated on a “pay for performance” basis.

    At this point, “pay for performance” is simply another euphemism (like “job creators”) for “we’ve come up for this fantastic new way to reward screw you and save ourselves a buttload of money.”

    with apologies to Morgan Freeman

    Red:  Performance Evaluation?… Well, now, let me see. You know, I don’t have any idea what that means.

    Employer:  Well, it means that you’re ready to improve our organization, to-

    Red:  I know what you think it means, sonny.  To me it’s just a made-up word.  A politician’s word, so that young fellas like yourself can wear a suit and a tie and have a job.  What do you really wanna know? . . . Performance evaluation?  It’s just a bullshit word.  So go ahead and stamp your forms, sonny, and stop wasting my time.  Because to tell you the truth, I don’t give a shit.

    1. It depends on both the industry and the company culture. But in the high tech start-up world it does work well. And the people at the top find the vast majority of their compensation comes from performance.

      But I don’t think stock options will work for public schools 🙂

      1. that you so frequently overlook, David.

        Namely, that the outcomes and products in your unique industry are much easier to measure.

        Education is similarly unique.

        How does one measure “good citizen?” This really is the outcome of a good education, right? We’re not just looking to “produce” docile workers or savvy test-takers with our education programs. Right?

        Based on what I see about me, I’d say our education is producing much better citizens than what was produced 50-60 years ago.

        The college students I get to interact with are generally intelligent, thoughtful, hopeful, engaged, courteous, and respectful. I would not be able to describe very many GO(T)P’ers in this way.

        The most important insight may be that a “business model,” or a “government model,” or an “education model” can only imperfectly be applied to other areas of human endeavor.

        You remind me of many of my engineer friends who are unable to see that they don’t have the right model for some types of problems. Within their areas of expertise (and, more importantly, areas of experience) they are incredible problem solvers. But, take them out of that comfort zone (say, give them a social problem) and all they do is keep trying to fit their old models.  

      2. that the granting of stock options and they’re future value have all that much, if any, of a direct correlation to individual performance.  (Although it has been a really good method for incentivizing layoffs, off-shoring, and a whole host of other societally beneficial manipulations and machinations.)

        If they actually did, you’d think that they’d be offered much more universally to the rank and file, and not mainly to just a select, favored few, wouldn’t you?  (Oh, I forgot, the rank and file are expendable . . . )

        Just another word, sonny, Davey . . .

        1. I’ve worked for a grand total of two, so my sample size is limited, but both granted stock options to all employees, rank and file or no. I have been told this is fairly standard for high-tech startups; this is logical, since most can’t afford to actually pay in salary what big companies can, so they fill the gap with options.

          But, on your side of the argument, I agree that option grants appear rarely to be legitimately performance based. Most are determined on hire (in order to begin the vesting schedule) and are a loyalty incentive, not a performance incentive. If the employee stays until fully vested, I imagine management would consider an additional, performance-based grant, but a reward in the distant future is not a powerful performance incentive to improve today.

          On the general topic, I think that performance pay only works for people who are motivated most effectively by performance pay, even if the program is administered perfectly and performance is evaluated perfectly. Everyone likes money, but studies have shown that the percentage of employees who are best motivated by cash rewards is much smaller than most would guess. We all say that what we’d really like is a raise or a bonus, but day-to-day, a better boss is provably a greater performance incentive.

          I say take the money put into administering performance pay programs in schools and put it into training school administrators and principals to be better bosses and managers. As a student I went through five principals in six years and teacher performance was noticeably better under the two good than three bad.

          1. I said, “in general” and David responded with a resounding rebuttal from the “high tech start-up world” and “the people at the top” — (not dissimilar to my “favored few”).

            (. . . curiously small “world,” isn’t it? . . . must be that “world” just around the corner from the payday loan “industry.”)

            So, I guess what David is saying is that if every teacher was not-a-teacher-but-an-administrator, or one of the principals in the “high tech start-up world,” that this pay for performance thing would wourk out just peachy?  Makes sense . . . certainly difficult to argue against.

            1. I also said that I don’t think stock options is a workable model for teachers. Also as PCG said, in start-ups they do go to everyone. There are also additional options granted based on performance.

              With that said, outside of salespeople, most employees are not primarily driven by money. The big driver in my world for options is we want to get our fair share of the success we create. And we want to make enough that our parents stop complaining about the career path we took 🙂

            2. and business school jargon to pretty much everything doesn’t seem to be  going over very well in this discussion of educating children rather than producing widgets or the software for widgets.  

              1. What I have consistently said is use any practices from the business world that will help schools. Don’t use the ones that will hurt or have no impact.

                Not to mention the fact that there is no one business school model. What businesses do differs by industry, by size, by culture, by growth stage. What is common among well run businesses is they are constantly trying to improve.

                    1. but what I’m saying is that pretty much anything that is not, in fact, a business should not be run like a business of any kind with any business model.  The right has pretty much proved running government as a business with the President as CEO, or figure head CEO, is a disaster and it’s pretty clear that educating children is not the same as producing widgets or software. That’s why I think your business school jargon, especially when applied to K-12 education is almost always entirely irrelevant.

                      We all know how proud you are of your successful business and of being a good and successful private sector boss (how could we not?) and you deserve to be. Congrats.  Really.  No snark. But your constantly offering your wonderful self and wonderful business  practices up for our admiration but then doing all the admiring yourself (to save us the trouble?) gets tiresome. Maybe that’s one of things that make us grumpy?  

                1. Jetson style hovercraft.  That never seemed like a great idea. Where my mom lives in retiremenland Florida it would be a massacre evey day, in the air, on the ground, over the ocean and causeways. Ooof!

                  1. Those hovercraft are fabulous (and they won’t become a problem for about another 50 years anyway).

                    It’s those other “crazy (doggie treadmill) machines” that you want to remember to avoid at all costs (. . . especially at the age you and I are going to be in 2062.)

      3. Sure they would.

        Except the options would be based on the ownership of the school – that’s not what the teachers and staff are producing.  Instead they are producing educated people.

        So the way to give the teachers options would be  to give them an option on the earnings and contribution of their former students. Price the option at whatever the investment is in the person over their life.   Let it expire when that person no longer needs their education.

        Then the teachers who produce the former students who create the most value or make the most valuable contribution, can exercise their option. The rest of the options expire unexercised – just like all those options issued on those failed and BK start ups.

        But since even the idea is laughable or offensive, you have to rethink the pay for performance model as it could apply to teachers.  You have to collectively value the contributions of all those educated, net out the losses from same (Madoff, Ebers, Naccio, Skilling, et al went to  schools)  and pay the teachers accordingly.

        You also have to realize that in 19th and 20th c. USA, the teaching profession had an gigantic recruiting advantage that allowed them to pay lower than market wages: 1/2 the work force (women) or more depending on how you count nuns, had virtually no professional alternative except nursing.  

  8. Anyone else find it amusing that many of the same people lamenting that our current education system was based upon the industrial/factory model now want to base our education system on models that have only worked in high-tech startups?

    Since every business<->education analogy is always incredibly tortured, maybe the lesson is that education and business aren’t all that similar? MADCO’s “blueberry” link above is perhaps relevant.

    Most government services wouldn’t function very well if run like a business, since the point of government is to provide collective services without regard to ability to pay, which is precisely the opposite of every business model. So, um, they’re different.

    1. That, indeed is the lesson. Why in hell haven’t we learned it? “Reformers” just keep trying to pound triangular pegs into square holes, then, when that doesn’t work, they grab up a round peg to pound on.

      Back to the Finnish model: leave it up to educators, finance it, butt the hell out and watch the children blossom.

      1. Up until the early ’90s it was left to the educators. The politicians started butting in because the educators weren’t getting it done.

        The fact that performance pay doesn’t appear to be the magic solution is no reason to return to another failed approach.

        1. and a straitjacket to a floundering minnow (. . . or, is it a minnowing flounder?)

          Certainly seems to have helped, huh?

          The politicians started butting in because the educators weren’t getting it done.

          Nice narrative, though.

          I prefer to think that by the 90’s the Republicans realized that Reagan’s corporate-sponsored war on unions (which began with PATCO) wasn’t going to be opposed at any level by their weak-kneed opposition . . . public unions were simply the next obvious step.  

          1. But you also had a lot of us on the left that realized the system was failing and had to be fixed. Education remains one of the few places where you get strong bi-partisan agreement that it needs to be improved and that fixing it is important.

            As to what to do, opinions are all over the place because we don’t know what works. We know the student’s mother & teacher have the most impact on a student’s success. But that’s about the extent of what we know.

            I think it’s a good thing we are trying these different approaches and measuring their impact. It’s the only way to learn more. But that does mean some experiments fail and that hurts the kids involved. And those kids need to be helped.

            But we have to keep trying new approaches where existing research shows it may work well because otherwise we remain mired in failure.

            1. It contributes to this idea that everything about schools now is a disaster; an idea that leads otherwise reasonable people to conclude that doing some really, really awful things to kids is okay as an experiment because we don’t consider the quality education that we’re losing.  There are schools in Colorado today tossing valuable education money down the drain and doing practically nothing at all except paying a few certified teachers to make a one hour phone call once a week; and justifying their theft of public money with that tired old “the public schools were failing our students” line.

              I would agree, though, that we need to continue considering new ideas, and that we have a never-ending struggle on our hands to provide the best education we can to all children, despite some pretty crappy situations that schools and children both have to deal with: poverty, differing levels of parent involvement, lack of public support, politics, etc.

            2. But we have to keep trying new approaches….

              How about “Educators need to keep trying new approaches”? We–the rest of us–need to try new approaches for school financing and for our broken communities, our crippling economic disparity, our drug abuse and, particularly, our parenting. That should keep us busy for awhile. Meanwhile educators can work to improve their provenance. Our schools don’t exist in a vacuum. I’d bet the decline in our educational system parallels similar changes elsewhere in our society. (Rock and Roll excluded, of course.)

            3. We know the student’s mother & teacher have the most impact on a student’s success. But that’s about the extent of what we know.[emphasis mine]

              False. We know family income has a huge impact. Kids in poverty do not do well. Rich kids do. Any critic of education who does not acknowledge this fact can’t be taken seriously.

              That does not mean that educators don’t work like hell every day to overcome the obstacles, but it is reality. As the late educational researcher Gerald Bracey (whom everyone should read) said, poverty is like gravity. It exists. It affects us. It must be dealt with.

              On the international test comparisons that so many hold in reverence, our middle class and upper class students do quite well. It is our poverty kids who do not, and bring down our national average. Decrease poverty and we will raise scores. Bill Gates, for example, could do most for education in this country by concentrating on reducing income inequality (in contrast to the kind of monopolistic practices of Microsoft under his control that added to income inequality).

              1. And they may have missed something, find the correlation to be mothers educational level and how the child does in school. Us dads have no measurable impact. And the income level has a very strong correlation with mothers educational level but when you split between those two, it’s the mother’s educational level that counts.

                1. I suggested reading Ravitch because she cites recent studies that review all the scientifically valid research. And she concludes income matters. Have you read Ravitch? Or Bracey?

                  And I expect (no, I don’t have specific data on this) that mothers’ educational level correlates with income. So saying “it’s the mother’s educational level that counts” does not saying that income level does not matter. It is a bit of the chicken and the egg issue. Dealing with poverty will lead to higher educational levels of mothers.

                  Ignoring the effects of poverty is delusional.

        2. I want ONE PIECE OF EVIDENCE that there was little government involvement in education practices until the early 90s.

          ONE PIECE.



          You made that shit up. You know how I can tell? Because last week you said it was true up until 2000.

          You don’t know anything about education.

          1. I did a Google search but a lot of the stuff I found looks like it was written by Steve Harvey (ie it uses a lot of big words but doesn’t really say anything).

            It’s a gradual thing, it’s not like one day there was no interest and the next day students were taking CSAP tests. But the further back you go, the less you find. Sputnik went up and there were discussions that schools needed to focus more on science. But the reaction was to have the schools figure out what they should do to change the focus.

            As to not knowing anything about education – I went to school and I had 3 daughters go to school. I have a lot of experience with K-12 from the student side.

            1. Like an increase in regulations or laws that mandate teaching a certain way? I can’t imagine that it would be that hard to find a study or report showing a significant increase in the 90s.

              Of course, if it is so hard to prove a negative why make a blanket statement like that? You sound like libertad.

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