Since we’re treated to daily reports from education critics who haven’t spent a lot of time in the classroom, here’s a nice piece about the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in New York State, who also is long-time teacher and principal in Rochester schools:
My second year as a principal [at School 50], I got 90 percent of my fourth graders passing the math test. We were busting our butts. Back then, the only students who had to take the tests were in fourth grade and eighth grade. The very next year, the state instituted grades 3 to 8 testing, and when they did that, test scores across the state crumbled. And when the test scores crumbled, so did teacher morale.
It took me five years of steady gains to move the scores back up to the point of getting 68 percent to 69 percent passing the English language arts tests and 72 percent passing math.
And just at the point where we were getting to something acceptable, the state changed the scoring process again. Trying to motivate the instructional staff and help them believe that they really do make a difference was difficult.
I would say, “You’re really doing what you need to be doing.” And teachers would tell me, “But the test says I’m not.”
This is a school where the average child entering kindergarten has a vocabulary of 300 words, versus 3,000 words for kids in suburban schools. The whole thing is worth a read for what he notices about education and for a brave coming out story.
The first openly gay MAN to be ……..
We need more experts like him.
Yesterday, when everyone was whining about the site, everything was fine with mobile for me. Today, meh. Had to come to laptop to get any traction. As for schools, at least he’s in New York. We’re seriously forked by the plans of the monied to ensure perpetual serfdom. Friends who are teachers soldier on, but it’s ugly and getting uglier here in this bright red state.
Hey! My nym & such just reappeared… on Chrome, on a Chromebook.
I am always appalled when I am reminded of how crappy the public schools are doing academics since I graduated from high school in the late 70’s.
Mind you, I was in Florida, which has a very checkered record, but my principle was enlightened and I was on the “college prep” track. I took AP classes with the children of doctors and lawyers and local car dealerships.
And there were no African Americans in these classes. Though I’m sure many could have been.
The RTA contract makes a distinction that says I can’t move a teacher between primary and intermediate, between K-2 and 3-5. That’s something that the district allowed to get into the contract that they shouldn’t have, so it does create limitations.
He has some very good points but I really do not agree with him here. Trying to make a brilliant K teacher into a grade 5 teacher or vice versa is a recipe for disaster. Having people work at their best area of competence is much better than “flexibility” that puts them into situations where they are less adept.
Also, you might want to take a look under the hood of the blog. The site seems to be no longer remembering nyms and e-mail addresses for commenters. This has been happening since the outage a couple of nights ago.
c u n d gulag
Being a teacher was once a respected profession.
It still is in many countries, but not in the US.
Conservatives have long wanted to privatized education, and to do so, they had to undermine the teachers.
Needless to say, they have been very successful.
@Steeplejack: It’s still happening to me, and, on the iPhone, it seems to be switching randomly from the mobile site to the regular site to the iPad site and back. One gets dizzy.
I liked this part:
In my opinion, the business community in an area has something to contribute; they’ll be hiring some of the graduates of the local schools, and so they have an interest in those graduates being well-educated. But a lot of the news stories I read about businesspeople getting involved with schools seem to miss the point that typical business goals and strategies aren’t a great match for schooling. Education isn’t a product or service; you need to accommodate everyone, rather than targeting just one segment of “consumers”; for some categories of people in the system (i.e., students), firing them isn’t an option; good procedures for measuring quality are enormously expensive; profit is irrelevant. The business people I’ve talked with (though I don’t know many) don’t seem to think about their work in this way.
Villago Delenda Est
They do know how to count beans, though, especially the ones they set aside for themselves.
Villago Delenda Est
They do know how to count beans, though, especially the ones they set aside for themselves.
Villago Delenda Est
Sorry for the duplicate comment…I think this one was my fault, not FYWP, for a change.
Feel free to nuke the extra one, by all means
In the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, some years ago, they instituted MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System). When they started tracking it, they said, in effect, “We ONLY want to use this to get an idea of how well students are doing, year-to-year, etc. This will NOT be used to determine whether students will be allowed to graduate.” I think only grades 8 and 10 we’re tested, originally, although my memory is pretty hazy in that regard.
Some of the cynics didn’t believe they were being – what’s the expression? – “completely forthright” about their intentions.
As of 2012, Grades 3 through 8, and 10 are tested, with passing the Grade 10 testing being a graduation requirement. Funny how that turned out.
Now, actually, I don’t have a tremendous problem with the idea of testing for graduation. But the shift is reminiscent of Bush’s shifting reasons for invading Iraq. If they had been honest from the beginning, there could have been an actual debate, even if the outcome were not to the liking of the more liberal among us.
Villago Delenda Est
OT, but I’m seeing an ad on my page from the Australian Election Commission, offering to help overseas Aussies get their votes counted in the upcoming Australian elections.
Compare and contrast with the North Carolina legislature.
Hopefully Mistermix can get a handle on it. He’s the one who tweaked things after the outage: “Looks like we had some kind of database issue and some downtime overnight. I killed off a bunch of queries and blocked a couple of bots and it’s working now.” Might want to revisit the queries and the bots.
O/T. but anyone else having issues with the site? I’m getting a weird format on Chrome and Firefox for android. Can’t scroll, can’t comment. It’s happened on and off today. Obviously not this time.
Well sure, if you are interested in educating the kids. If you are interested in the taxpayer funding – specifically, if you are interested into getting some of that money into your hands, profit is very relevant.
Actually, the issue of profit in any public service is odd. The profit is that the service benefits the public. I am sick of everything being monetized. I could go on a multi-paragraph rant about this, but I haven’t had enough coffee yet.
Villago Delenda Est
The fucking Ferengi at work.
Wipe them out. All of them.
@Villago Delenda Est: Well that is shorter than the rant I was contemplating, but it gets to the heart of it. What child wanted to grow up to be a Ferengi?
Me, too. I agree that there’s the more general and useful idea of profit, that it’s good to have an educated citizenry.
Another thing: Teaching is a vocation for many teachers (true enough), which leads some to say that teachers don’t need to be paid a lot because they’ll do it anyway. This idea has always bugged me.
Heck, even the brighter Ferengis didn’t want to be Ferengi.
an educated populace is one that will challenge things…ask questions..
thus the impetus for the GOP to undermine education
plus, education is the way that ‘those people’ elevate themselves
@p.a.: What you described happened with me all morning (and on and off yesterday). Format on the page seems to be okay now, but I just noticed while typing this comment that I’m going to have to retype* my nym and email. Again.
*Autocorrect wants to turn “retype” into “fettle.” Um, okay.
@RSA: I bought into that idea for too many years — not judgmentally about teachers or anyone else with a vocation, but about me. I carried around a self-crippling belief that if I could do something easily or quickly, or worse, if I enjoyed it, I had no right to ask for decent compensation. So stupid, but all too common. Thank FSM for a good therapist and my own ability to change.
If they were serious about measuring teacher performance, they’d do testing on the first day of school, and again on the last day of school – and see how much progress the students made as the result of that teacher’s efforts. Otherwise, you’re only testing the school system’s overall performance – and punishing teachers for accepting jobs in underperforming schools.
(Test design is another matter – if you measure teacher performance by how well the students can take multiple-choice tests, don’t be shocked when teachers begin training their students to excel at taking standardized tests rather than using what they’ve learned in real life situations.)
Davis X. Machina
Let me try it on one leg.
All that is, can be bought and sold.
All that cannot be bought or sold, is not.
All that can be bought or sold, must be bought and sold, and at the highest price.
This is the whole of the new Law, and the new Prophets.
The rest is commentary.
Davis X. Machina
@rikyrah: But I thought the GOP was all about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps…apparently only white people have bootstraps in their world.
(but what the fuck is a bootstrap? Pretty sure very few people actually have one nowadays)
I think it goes much, much deeper than that. A lot of them are straight-up profiteers and privatizers, so that’s part of it. But the real missionaries, the Rhees and the Kopps and the Duncans, are much more personally invested in the idea that even bringing up how these kids start behind is an “excuse”. I think that if they admit these kids start behind, then they have to admit they started ahead, and that threatens their whole self-image as “merit based” success stories.
Understandably, the people who live in the communities they parachute into come to resent this, because it doesn’t acknowledge reality. We don’t, actually, all start at the same place. “Success” isn’t, actually, a simple matter of “not making excuses” and “managing what you measure” and blaming teachers for everything.
I was really struck by the first successful grass roots action to limit standardized testing in Texas, last year. Texas high school kids were taking 15 standardized tests over 4 years of high school. It was ridiculous. Teachers had become increasingly vocal over ten years about this, and people in poorer communities then complained, but both groups were completely ignored for a decade. The Texas legislature only acted when parents from wealthier districts organized and said “enough!”
Parental involvement isn’t even “merit-based”! Parents from wealthier districts are listened to. Would parents in a wealthy district allow the state to dissolve their elected school board and close their neighborhood school and allow “conversions” to privatized charter schools, like what’s happened in Chicago? Hell no, they wouldn’t.
Well, the Chicago parents didn’t either. They had massive protests in Chicago. School reformers claim they want involved parents. Those parents were involved. They fought like hell for a year to keep their neighborhood schools. The activists in Chicago are exactly the sort of parents reformers claim they want, school volunteers, etc. Yet. They were completely ignored.
@SFAW: You’re right, it was originally only grades 8 and 10. And the board who put MCAS in place? All (if I remember) had their own kids in private schools, where they naturally do not take the test….or teach to it…. And the (in)famous Abigail Thernstrom was Queen leader of the pack before she sold her big fancy house and moved off to do wingnut welfare full time, having contributed to the decimation of the MA state public schools.
Thanks for going into more depth, Kay. (Your writing about education is some of the most insightful I’ve come across on the Web.) Your explanation makes it clear why the problems we see are so ingrained and hard to change—they’re built into our society and politics.
I’m glad you were able to move beyond that. Writers and artists of all kinds face the same attitude, I think, as we see in public funding for the arts in the U.S. (“There will always be art—artists can’t help themselves.”)
I always thought the attitude had more to do with teaching being a woman’s job and it’s just something she’ll do until there’s a man to marry and provide for her, so why bother to invest in paying top dollar for a teacher.
Anyway, what doesn’t get acknowledged is the number of people who avoid teaching as a profession, because of the low pay and the number who drop out because of the low pay.
There’s a certain opportunity cost we as a society absorb because of the lack of entrants into education and the turnover of existing teachers.
It doesn’t have to. One should be able to recognize that one started on third base, or second or first for that matter and that one then did a lot with the natural talents one had while at the same time recognizing that others might have the same natural talents and but started behind. Christ, everyone who went to a “good” college knew people who got in because of who they were not what they had done; they know those people exist. I guess their self perception is wired around not being the people who coasted on wealth and privilege. So they didn’t coast, great. Doesn’t mean that they started from nothing.
Davis X. Machina
@gene108: When I worked in the Catholic schools, we used to say, “You know, it’s a good thing that teaching is one of the spiritual works of mercy, because as a job, it sucks.”
The biggest tragedy to me is, 95% of public school kids go to traditional district public schools, nation-wide. It varies, of course, across states. 40% of DC schools are privatized, and 80% of New Orleans schools are privatized, but those are “reform experiments” and not representative.
The biggest losers in “school reform” are those 95% of kids. There’s been a complete lack of interest in their schools and it has real consequences because they’re defunding the schools. The ENTIRE focus of “reform” is on “miracle” charters and “innovative” experiments. There’s no ordinary competent stewardship and advocacy for traditional public schools.
Duncan was shamed into speaking out for funding Philadelphia public schools the other day. Two advocates for public schools wrote him a (published) letter, and they’re high profile so he had to respond. He said we shouldn’t “abandon” public schools. Hah!
He should be lecturing his merry band of “reformers” because they have complete contempt for traditional public schools, and they run public school districts! I didn’t “abandon” anything. School reformers did, and they’re running the show and they’ve been running the show for a decade. We’re going to regret neglecting 95% of kids, while chasing “innovation”.
In my view, hiring a “reformer” means public schools will be neglected, and that’s where most of the kids are. I resent it, because we’re paying these people to improve public schools, not dismantle the system they were hired to run.
@Davis X. Machina:
I thought it was well known that teachers were poor. Not sure if that translates into people understanding that teachers are poor because they don’t get paid much. But pretty much everyone who hasn’t taught or doesn’t know a teacher well thinks that “teachers get the summers off”, as if there is absolutely nothing a teacher has to do during the summer. And people don’t have any concept of how much time teachers spend outside class doing their jobs–preparing lesson plans, grading papers, meeting with parents, etc. It’s infuriating. People seem to think teachers show up at 8:00, leave at 3:00, get tons of vacation time during the year and every summer off. It’s completely false.
Absolutely, and the nice part of doing that is it’s reality-based, so one doesn’t have to spend a whole lot of time and energy screaming “no excuses, peons! get those scores up!” Reformers are more politically savvy than that, so they don’t go after kids and parents, they go after teachers, which also bothers me, because if you’re looking for “personal responsibility and accountability” from kids, blaming their lazy union thug teachers for everything doesn’t seem like the way to go.
It’s a weirdly passive position to put kids in. 100% of your grade comes from without, depends on the teacher? Jesus. I didn’t tell my kids that. That’s a disaster in terms of “personal responsibility”. Surely the student has some role in this?
I think they’ve encouraged the worst sort of parents with this. I always had parents of juveniles who blamed public schools for everything, but now they have huge media and government support in blaming teachers! They didn’t want it to be about them or their kid, and come to find out, it isn’t! It’s all those lazy union thugs. Great message, reformers! Good work!
Good point. Richard Hofstadter has a nice pocket history of this in Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. He adds, “In the nineteenth century men had all too often entered schoolteaching either transiently… or as a final confession of failure in more worthwhile occupations.”
And when the idea of higher pay does come up, some people say, “But then we couldn’t avoid raising the pay of current bad teachers who don’t deserve it.” God forbid even a single person getting what they don’t deserve, even if there’d be a huge net benefit.
Also, I came across this open letter from an NC schoolteacher the other day. TL;DR: After six years of teaching her salary has gone from $30K to $31K; her kids qualify for and use Medicaid for medical insurance; she can’t even afford to carry her husband on her own insurance plan, at $600 per month. So she’s leaving.
That covers just about any government program. Unemployment, food stamps, Medicaid…. I don’t understand it. I would much rather a few people get something they don’t “deserve” than have deserving people suffer. I think most people around this blog feel the same way. This is, of course, why, pace Corner Stone, this is a liberal blog.
This, many times over. When my oldest son was going through Texas schools, he was tested once per year with either the California or Iowa test of basic skills. You could see progress or lack thereof in his skill levels and know exactly how the year had gone. You could also see how he measured up on a national level (really important for those who want to test well on the SAT). I fail to see how this current testing system is giving us the information that we need.
FIX YOUR DAMN BLOG JC!!! Oi.
Davis X. Machina
You’d be surprised how little information you need, and what low quality information you can tolerate, when you already know what the conclusion is supposed to be that you will draw from it.
The sign on the lawn may say “The First Church of Data”, but the dogma is what gets preached inside.
Yup. Going back to Reagan and doubtless further. I guess we all find anecdotes compelling, but they really shouldn’t drive policy. I recently looked around the Web at writing against Obamacare, trying to find an answer to the question, “But what if I get sick?” All I found were stories: “I have a friend who got sick, but he’d paid for his own private insurance…” blah blah blah.
And if they were really serious, they’d have professional evaluators in the classrooms, looking at the process of teaching as well as measuring outcomes. Of course, that would cost orders of magnitude more than standardized testing, and I don’t know that it’s even been tried on more than a tiny scale.
I call bullshit. The vast majority of folks get insured through their employer or a government program. I highly doubt there are so many rugged individualists who are out there braving the health insurance market on their own who suddenly get that sick and didn’t get kicked off. And paying the whole thing by themselves! Not passing the smell test.
Davis X. Machina
@RSA: Assessment is like a lot of things — you can have cheap (multiple choice) or you can have good (portfolios, outside assessors, exhibitions, etc) but you can’t have cheap-and-good.
Isn’t the testing just a way of making Neil Bush rich?
@WereBear: not a bug, a feature.
Wait a minute. Are you saying rightwingers might just make shit up to support their world view?
@Davis X. Machina: Cheap, good, fast. Pick two.
@RSA: Am I being uncivil again? WHERE’S MAH MOORE AWARD???
@Kay: I agree with you up to and including this statement:
I don’t agree with your last statement:
I think this is precisely the reason these so called “reformers” have been hired. It’s not overtly stated and they (the reformers) may not even be aware, but that is the overriding reason for their being hired. THEY ARE THERE TO DISMANTLE OUR SYSTEM OF “FREE” COMPULSORY PUBLIC EDUCATION!
Our system of public education is primarily funded by property taxes. The largest payers of property taxes are Big Business and the wealthy. They do not view payment of these taxes as contributing to the common good but rather as theft by the undeserving masses. AND THEY WANT IT TO STOP!
One of the major roadblocks in the way of this dismantling is the teacher’s union. So they bring in these reformers like Rhee etc. who they believe will be effective in eliminating this obstacle. These reforms along with the Charter School movement are well orchestrated, well funded, politically motivated and are very likely to be successful.
In my opinion, school reform is a crock of sh**t. If you look at the history of public education in this country, there has never been a time when one group or another didn’t think that the schools could be improved and they had the answer. Most of these reform movements never produced much useful. Our schools have improved mainly because of the hard work and dedication of teachers and good administrators over the course of many years.
Last week a state legislator in Utah introduced a bill to do away with compulsory, public education in that state. This is where we as a nation are headed unless common sense starts to prevail once again. I am not optimistic about that.
There’s signs of hope. Florida newspapers are xalling them out for dismantling and defunding public systems.
I think, like a lot of things, people are ahead of national media and leaders.
Refomers celebrated Kasich’s last budget. Public school parents know he”s gutting funding for public schools. We see it “on the ground”
The disconnect between reformer rhetoric and our reality is too wide.
Thanks for the help. I seem to remember John Silber having a hand in it, too, but there’s that fuzzy memory thing again.
@Kay: You are far more optimistic about all of this than I am. I am heartened by the rebellion in Texas over testing and the events in Florida. There have been some others — the specifics don’t come to mind without a little research.
However, the big money is on the “reformers” side. The religious right and the tea party have been very successful in gaining control of many local school boards. So parents and the general public can bitch about things all they want, but they have very little, if any, control. The control of local school boards and local politics by the extreme right has gone on under most peoples radar. It is almost never mentioned by the media and generally only spoken about in hushed tones anywhere. But it all comes down to the $$$.
Business wants our public schools to be vocational training schools not for the purpose of educating the populace but for training workers in the skills that they need in their business so they don’t have to provide the training themselves at their expense.
In my opinion, we are headed for a huge disaster and this train has gained so much momentum in the past few years that it will be very difficult to turn it around.
There is one thing in this story that squicks me:
“Me”? You did this all by yourself? How is that possible, you taught every class singlehandedly? How did you manage to be in all those classrooms at the same time?
No my friend. You mean “we”, and more likely you mean “they”.
He’s probably a great guy and what he’s saying is important, and I’m glad he’s out and proud, but that little slip bothered me.
The trend nowadays is for people to treat teamwork as teamwork, and to be reticent to take individual credit for big acheivements (the plane crew that landed in the Hudson, Seal Team Six, etc). I like that. I’m not so thrilled with an administrator saying “me” about something he had little direct personal control over.
Thou pickest at a nit.
@another Mildred: MCAS was part of the Massachusetts education reform act in 1993, which in addition to instituting standardized testing also included massive increases in state spending on K-12, to the tube of $2 billion over 10 years (which translated into annual increases of 8%)
Results today are 90% students passing MCAS and Massachusetts public schools ranking as #1 in the country on every major measure, as well as Massachusetts public schools competing near the top in math & science on INTERNATIONAL rankings.
I don’t think you know what the word decimated means.
@fuckwit: Actually most schools can spare having the principal absent indefinitely, but a couple of teachers out for a couple of days means chaos. I, too, suspect he really should have said “they”.
For a long time Democrats said they “drew the line” at vouchers. Of course they can’t do that, though. If your philosophy of reform is based on “free markets” and you’re constantly nattering on and on about “choice”, vouchers are inevitable. It’s silly to draw a line between public and private, when “public” means nothing more than “publicly-funded”, which is all charters mean. Democrats are now backing vouchers, in NC, in Arizona, in Philadelphia. They’re pushing “neovouchers” which are a voucher disguised as a tax break. Which was inevitable. When liberal reformers signed on with Jeb Bush, it was simply a matter of time before “free market” reform (but with liberal ideals!) gave way to a privatized voucher system.
@Villago Delenda Est: It’s hard to compare the two situations, since voting is compulsory in Australia for all citizens 18 and older and voter turnout averages around 95%. And, given that our friends Down Under put John Howard in the driver’s seat for four consecutive terms, they’ve probably got a little more in common with the American South than they’d like to admit. Kevin Rudd’s politically confusing, to say the least, but seems to have at least made white supremacy a less socially acceptable political platform for Australians.
Regarding standardized testing: I think there’s a place for it. Far too many kids graduate high school without basic reading and writing skills, and standardized testing is one tool in the box to make sure that minimum standards are being met. The problem is that legislators use standardized testing as a weapon to prove that a system they’ve never liked to begin with is broken. Not sure how to fix it beyond getting better legislators.
The reformers really showed their hand in Ohio, both the “liberal” reformers and the “conservative” reformers, although at this point there’s very little daylight between the two groups.
They’re celebrating Kasich’s budget because it’s a huge gift to the schools they prefer, “choice” schools; private schools and charters. They simply don’t give a shit that it cheats every kid in Ohio who attends a traditional public school, and MOST kids attend a traditional public school.
Ohio now has statewide vouchers. That’s what “reformers”, both Democrats and Republicans, gave us. What it means for my public school district is this: we’ll be subject to all the mandates and gimmicks and fads reformers impose, but we’ll have less funding for maintaining the system we have. It is ALL downside, unless you’re in a “choice” school or district. They haven’t done a thing for my district, and I’ve been watching them for more than a decade.
Villago Delenda Est
Neil Bush’s first attempt at making himself rich, by robbing banks, didn’t work out very well.
They’ve always done standardized testing in schools — I remember taking tests every few years when I was a schoolkid in the 1970s and 1980s.
The difference now seems to be that school funding hinges on those tests (which is why they refer to them as “high-stakes”) where it didn’t before. If we must have some kind of exit test for high school, it makes sense to me to have it in 10th grade so kids who are behind have a chance to catch up and re-take it, but that kid’s teachers and school shouldn’t be automatically penalized for his/her failure.
That isn’t the only difference. I had kids in one public school district over a period of 15 years now. My 25 year old son did not spend one quarter of his time in 4th grade either prepping for or taking standardized tests. My youngest son did that last year.
I watched it progress over a decade. Each year they add a new measure. The fad right now among reformers is “guarantees”. Ohio will have the 3rd grade reading “guarantee” which will be based completely on standardized test scores, and means the kids are left back if they don’t pass the test in 3rd grade. My son is going into 5th and HE’S worried. He’s worried for the 3nd graders! What if they fail the test!? This mania has just engulfed his whole school experience. What did they think was going to happen? Kids wouldn’t notice that their whole schedule revolves around testing and there are draconian punishments for failing a test, like, your school gets closed, or 3rd graders get left back?
@Villago Delenda Est: Well, the way to make a small fortune is to start with a large one. I doubt he is starving.