(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?’
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.